Timeless Harry Meester
Harry Meester celebrates 35 Years at Hamilton District Christian High
Back in 1972 a young Student Council President and honorary member of the Short Student Club helped Hamilton District Christian High celebrate its 15th anniversary. Today, Harry Meester remains an integral member of the HDCH family. In fact, nobody knows Hamilton District Christian High better than he does. As a student, parent, teacher and director, Harry has seen some changes around here and this year we happily celebrate his 35th year.
When the Meester family emigrated to the Kingston area from the Netherlands, they heard about a new Christian school and soon moved to the Hamilton area to be a part of Hamilton District Christian High.
Harry’s high school class was the first to enjoy having an actual gymnasium. “We had a lot of great school parties in that gym, and watched many basketball and volleyball games from the gym balcony.”
The social landscape was changing rapidly during those years and Harry speaks about some of the teachers that particularly impacted him. “I remember several who helped us navigate the events of the time (Vietnam, race riots, protests) and helped us to understand how our faith was timeless. Teachers like Veldhuis, Hoytema, Nienhuis, DeVries and others allowed us to have risky discussions when we needed them. They shaped my thinking.”
After Hamilton District Christian High, Harry had no plans on becoming a teacher and originally wanted to go into law. After taking an aptitude test during his undergrad degree at McMaster University, he found he had the personal profile of a teacher.
Embracing his profile results, Harry Meester attended teachers college at McArthur College at Queens University. At that time, the baby boomers were all finishing high school and for the first time, boards of education were laying off teachers. Hiring had stopped but Harry was able to secure a teaching position at Toronto Christian High School.
Wanting to move closer to Hamilton, Harry applied to a new Smithville Christian School that was just being built. The only position that opened up was at HDCH. Harry moved back to Hamilton and taught geography full time from 1980 – 2006, remembering the great field trips in the Earth course. He developed new curriculum and introduced Economics to the grade 13 students.
As a teacher, helping kids to get excited about learning and to help them to discover the relevance of school to their lives was most rewarding. “I loved leading classroom devotions daily for years, sharing in students’ personal lives.” He smiles recalling teaching his own kids and their friends and being called “Dad” by a big crew.
“When Dave and I first moved to the Hamilton area to begin working at HDCH, we lived in a two-stall garage that was converted into an apartment on nearby Dickenson Road. Neither of us was familiar with the area, and we were not sure where to begin exploring and connecting with the community.
Soon after we moved in, Harry came walking down the driveway, knocked on our door, and introduced himself. He and his family lived just down the road at the time. As is their nature, they warmly welcomed us to the HDCH community and invited us to their home and to their church. Throughout our years of collegiality and friendship, Harry has remained one of those steadfast people in our circles who graciously and willingly shares support, compassion, and wisdom.”
Over the years, Harry seemed to revel in his profession, being deliberate in messier collaborative learning, more risk-taking, and more fun in education. He is happy to see the evolution where students are getting out of the building, into the city, into the world to apply the learning and notes “the breaking down of silos at school allows students to catch the relevance more easily. Project-based learning encourages kids to take ownership of their learning.”
One of the biggest changes that Harry Meester has seen over the years has been the transition from curriculum-centred teaching to student-centred learning where the teacher facilitates the learning instead of being the master of the curriculum. “School is more about learning than teaching. That’s a big mind-shift, and it puts a focus on building trusting relationships, empathy, and understanding.”
Given his natural connection with youth it’s no wonder that they enjoy working together collaboratively.
““While working with Mr. Meester as leader of the Student Ambassador Team (SAT), it was immediately clear that he goes above and beyond the duties of an Ambassador of HDCH. Mr. Meester works hard to create the environment of community in HDCH.
This is demonstrated by his genuine interest in the well-being of his students. Each week, when meeting to plan SAT’s activities for that week, Mr. Meester would sit down and sincerely ask me how I was doing. He quickly became a strong mentor for me. He wasn’t afraid to hear how I really felt – whether it was a difficult biology test or an essay I had no motivation to do, he wanted to know how everyday life at Hamilton District Christian High was going.
This is such a great example of Mr. Meester’s character. His passion for creating a community of love and support is evident and is a huge asset to the HDCH. His care and kindness towards others is a perfect example of what Hamilton District Christian High School strives to be. HDCH has become a better place thanks to him..”
Katie Bosveld (‘15)
As Director of Recruitment and Advancement, Harry is an exceptional ambassador, representing Hamilton District Christian High at numerous public functions, sharing the story of the HDCH and bringing the school into the City’s educational fabric. “I love this gritty and vibrant city of Hamilton. It’s been my home for half a century and the school is a great fit for the people of Hamilton. Our once-isolated school is now a widely respected strand of Hamilton’s educational fabric.”
Harry is proud to have helped set the stage for the school’s renewal. Going forward, he is excited about the increasing diversity in the Hamilton District Christian High community with the transition from a Reformed Dutch school to a multi-denominational and multi-racial school He is proud of the ability of HDCH to provide excellent learning experiences for a wide variety of students, complemented by a robust bursary support. Harry notes, “HDCH is authentic and unpretentious”
“The good news of Jesus Christ makes a difference in every part of life and it’s clear that this is God’s school. There is a lot of love for the school among Alumni, families and friends and a powerful sense of community within the school through staff and students. The school is a happier place now than ever.” Harry Meester
Top 5 Things you Didn’t Know about Harry
- Is a dual citizen
- Was pretty good with the submachine gun in the RHLI
- Says that he can’t get lost anywhere
- Likes refurbishing old toys
- Grandchildren call him Poppa
Hamilton District Christian High