Riverview Community School District says farewell to loyal employees

BILL BESON

Bill Beson grew up in Freeland, near Saginaw, and graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Education.  He later earned a Master of Arts Degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Mr. Beson’s first teaching job was in the Upper Peninsula in Menominee, where he taught music for four years. He came to Riverview in 1991, where he has taught music in all five schools. Mr. Beson has directed the RCHS Marching, Symphonic and Jazz Bands for 28 years, and he was also the Director of the Seitz Middle School Bands until 2016.

He has taught instrumental music at Forest, Huntington, and Memorial, and vocal music at Memorial and Forest Elementary Schools.  Mr. Beson has conducted the Marching Pirates, not only on the football field and in many parades, but also at many community events, such as City Hall Christmas Tree Lighting, the Memorial Day Ceremony in Young Patriots’ Park, SummerFest, and Riverview Baseball Opening Day, among others.

Mr. Beson’s bands have excelled in the annual Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association and Festival Competitions, where the Marching and Symphonic Bands have received numerous First and Second Division Ratings for outstanding performance throughout the years.  In addition, the Jazz Bands have performed each year during Arts, Beats, and Eats, a fundraiser to bolster the Riverview Faculty Scholarship Fund. 

Mr. Beson’s students have earned highest honors in Solo and Ensemble Festivals, both at the regional and state events, and many of his students have gone on to pursue professional careers in the field of music.  Mr. Beson has remained active in MSBOA and Downriver Music Guild, and he has sung with the St. Timothy and St. Cyprian Parish Choirs. Mr. Beson also served as President of the Riverview Education Association for nine years.  

He is married to Trish, who is a fellow Spartan and a music teacher in Southgate, and they have three children, Kate, who is an attorney, and Tim and Maggie, both of whom have pursued careers in dramatic performing arts.

LARRY PALCHAK

Larry Palchak, who grew up in Dearborn, graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with a major in math and minor in science.

He earned a Master of Arts Degree in educational leadership from EMU in 2000.  He began his career in Wyandotte as a paraprofessional and he received special training at the Michigan Dyslexic Institute, which certified him to work with dyslexic students during his first year in education.

Mr. Palchak came to Riverview as a Memorial sixth-grade teacher and then moved to teach second grade for twenty years before rounding out his career instructing third graders for his final three years, all at Memorial School.  While at Memorial, Mr. Palchak served on a number of committees, including Textbook Selection, Safe Schools, and PBiS, and he was the Chairperson of the School Improvement Team at Memorial for numerous years.

In 2005, he earned his specialist degree in school administration from Wayne State University and he served as a substitute principal at Memorial School.

Mr. Palchak has always enjoyed very amiable working relationships with his students and their parents, and often he often was present to cheer his students on in their extra-curricular sports, dance, and music performances.

Mr. Palchak is the father of Mackenzie, who is working on her master’s degree in counseling, Zachary, who works in the food service industry, and Colton, who is a security officer at the Woodhaven Stamping Plant. His daughter Jordyn is a freshman at West Bloomfield High School, and his two step-children, Audrey and A.J. are elementary students in Lincoln Park. 

While working in Riverview as a teacher, Mr. Palchak ran a painting business during the summers and on the side, and he plans to devote himself as the proprietor of that painting business full time during retirement.

 JERI VANECK

Jeri VanEck grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was a graduate of Western Michigan University in 1981 with a degree in elementary education. After college, she worked for the Kent County Health Department before accepting a job teaching first grade in Frederick, Maryland.

Jeri was a member of the vocal trio, “One Heart,” which was later renamed “Hope’s Call,” and she and the other two women with whom she sang earned a recording contract in Nashville, traveling throughout Eastern United States,  performing Christian music in a variety of venues.

After she left Hope’s Call in order to be able to spend more time at home with her two daughters, Emily and Kelli, Jeri worked at Baptist Park School for nine years as a teacher of kindergarten, computers, gym, and as a school librarian.

Mrs. VanEck came to Riverview as a paraprofessional at Seitz in for a year, and then, after renewing her teaching certificate, Mrs. VanEck was hired by the district as a morning kindergarten teacher at Forest and afternoon music teacher at St. Cyprian School. 

The following year, Jeri became a full-time kindergarten teacher at Memorial School.  In 2010, Jeri was recognized as the Wayne County Elementary Teacher of the Year.  The next year, she transferred back to Forest Elementary School, where she completed her career as a kindergarten teacher.

Jeri is very active at her church, North Ridge Grosse Ile, where her son-in-law serves as campus pastor. Colson and Emily are parents of Hadley, age 6 and Willow, age 4, and Kelli and her husband, who is also a pastor in Irvine, California, are parents of eight-month-old Holland, making Jeri and her husband Tom, a corporate pilot with Masco, the proud grandparents of two little girls and one baby boy.

CAROLE VETTRUS

Carole Vettrus graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in special education. She started her career in 1989 at Riverview at Riverview Community High School, where she taught special education for three years before moving to Seitz as an English, special education and study skills teacher.

Carole taught five years at Seitz and Huntington before moving to Memorial Elementary as a full-time special education teacher, a position she held for four years. Mrs. Vettrus put the finishing touch on her career with a seventeen-year stint teaching computers and special Education at Seitz Middle School.

There, she served as Co-Chair of the School Improvement Team for many years.  Carole is married to Jerry, a computer technician with Riverview, and they have three children.  Samantha works backstage for a professional Performing Arts Troupe, traveling the country setting everything except lights on stage. Jessica is a server, and Jeremy is a cabinet-maker.  

Carole and Jerry have a home 9000 feet above sea level in northeast Colorado, and they have spent summers there every year since 1994. 

DAN WATKINS

Dan Watkins is a 1977 graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in elementary education.

In 1983, he earned a Master of Arts Degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University. He began his career at Temple Christian Academy, which later became North Ridge Christian Academy, serving as an Elementary Administrator for five years.

He moved to Baptist Park School, where he was an Administrator and Athletic Director for 21 years, before spending one year at Plymouth Christian School. He spent two years as Principal at Agape Christian School in Canton before he was hired as a part-time music teacher in Riverview, teaching at St. Cyprian and Forest Elementary, in addition to instructing a couple of physical education classes at Seitz Middle School.

He joined the Huntington faculty the next year as a fourth grade teacher and he remained in that position for 10 years, before closing out his educational career as a gym teacher at Huntington.

For the past couple of years, Mr. Watkins has been a featured personality on the “Fridays with Mr. Ls” weekly videos, delivering a variety of interesting statistics to elementary students as part of the popular You Tube series. 

Mr. Watkins and his wife Marcia are very involved in Life Bridge Church in Taylor, where Dan serves as the Director of Global Missions.  He has completed two trips to Guatemala to perform missionary work, and will be leaving in less than a month for the third work trip in the Central American nation.

Dan has three sons:  Mark works for World Help Humanitarian Services in Virginia, Jim is a gym teacher in Airport, and David is an ironworker.  Although he has no grandchildren, he is the proud grandpa of “grand-dogs!”

 DANIELLE WEST

Danielle West graduated from Central Michigan University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and an Early Childhood Education Endorsement.  In 2002, she joined the Riverview faculty as a kindergarten teacher at Forest Elementary School, and then she transferred to Memorial the following year, where she taught kindergarten and third grade for six years.  

Ten years ago, Mrs. West moved over to Huntington School to resume teaching kindergarten, and that is where she spent the final part of her career in this district.  Danielle served on a number of School Committees, including the Assessment Committee, Writing Committee, and the School Improvement Committee. 

Danielle is married to Travis, and they are parents of three children, John Mason, who is 13, Ginny, age 12, and Nora, who is 9.   Mrs. West is active in the Grosse Ile Rotary Club, and she and her family have always enjoyed outdoor activities.  With that in mind, Mrs. West recently established a non-profit organization known as Community Grown Garden.  The organization has created an urban farming educational center on the island, and she and former Riverview teacher Susan Mesler teach schoolchildren who visit the center about sustainable gardening and farming experiences.

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