HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — On game day in Hudsonville, the players aren’t the only ones wearing their jerseys in school.
“Years ago, I coached wrestling here at Hudsonville,” said now second-year Hudsonville football head coach Brent Sandee. “Mike Rottier, the varsity head coach, and I kind of started to do teacher impact night for our wrestling program. So last year when I stepped in as varsity coach of the football program, I wanted to do something to honor the teachers.”
That’s when the Eagles created a pair of player programs to honor their classroom coaches.
“Just as a way to recognize the importance that they are in these young men’s lives,” Sandee said.
As part of the Honorary Eagle Program, each player picked a high school teacher who impacted them the most. The player then presented that teacher with his jersey to wear every Friday on game day.
“Just being able to say, ‘Hey, you’ve made an amazing impact on my life,’ that you’ve changed my life is a cool thing,’” said senior running back and linebacker Josh Hoekstra. “I don’t think a lot of teachers get that.”
“I absolutely love being a teacher,” said history teacher Julie Tuuk. “This was just the perfect example as to why I teach. I hope that students leave my classroom with the feeling of I enjoyed that class. You’re actually impacting other lives. You get to see it when sometimes you might not know that.”
The players also invite all the honorary Eagle teachers to join the team for a pregame meal.
“It’s very rewarding,” said math teacher Mike Signore. “You feel like you’re doing things right and you’re really influencing the next generation of kids. I know a lot of teachers who work really hard.”
Before every pregame meal and immediately after school ends on game day, the players also take part in Eagle Football Fridays.
“We take it upon ourselves to go visit these kids,” said senior running back and defensive back Davyon Lesure. “We take it upon ourselves to go make the initiative to go see our teachers and let them know that we appreciate them in the community.”
Each elementary school teacher and their entire class are invited to come see the players at the game.
“Whatever teacher you’re going to, a lot of time they’re one of our favorite teachers,” said senior defensive end and tight end Trevor Poisson. “We all love going in there and they love having us. It’s a good time.”
Together, the two programs thank the teachers who have helped shape a generation of Hudsonville students.
“It’s been a lot of fun for the kids and an opportunity for them to learn a bit too, I believe,” Sandee said.
“All teachers have a goal,” Raychel Figurski added. “Yes, as a math teacher I want them to do well in math, but you want to help them succeed in life. If you get this letter from a student or you get an email, saying this student has really been impacted by you, I think it reassures you that you did your job. It makes everything worth it in the end.”