Van Dop is adjusting to the role of Dean of Student Life.
Worthington Christian School didn’t have to look far when hiring its first Dean of Student Life. The best candidate for the job was already in the building. Worthington Christian hired Dr. Erica Van Dop, who had previously been an assistant principal at the Upper School.
“I am really excited to start my new position,” Van Dop said. “I enjoyed my year as an assistant principal last year, but I saw we can continue to develop our student experience from an academic side and from a service perspective. I am grateful that I got to form some relationships with the teachers and students, and I look forward to having a more robust role with the students this year.”
Abby Palmer will take over Van Dop’s previous role as an assistant principal for grades nine to 12.
“I think she brings a fantastic intersection of skills and abilities. Her academic background and understanding of students is incredibly helpful, and her recent experience in the Upper School as the assistant principal is very helpful,” said Dr. Michael Hayes, the head of the school. “She understands students wholistically, and her character and leadership will be very beneficial in this role.”
Before working at Worthington Christian, Van Dop was an educator at Otterbein University for ten years. Van Dop, who lives in Marengo, Ohio with her husband Josh and her children Caleb (WC ’24), Aaron (WC ’25), and Taylor (WC ’29), has been involved with Worthington Christian as a parent, a teacher, and an assistant principal. While at Otterbein, Van Dop volunteered as a substitute teacher at Worthington Christian before becoming an assistant principal.
“My children were a little concerned when I had the opportunity to substitute teach for a couple of weeks before I took the position, and then they were on board,” Van Dop said. “(Their reaction to having me in the school) was a huge part of my decision to accept the position.
Hayes described the Dean of Student Life position as a person who ensures the school is “strategic and intentional” about students’ positive co-curricular and out-of-class experiences from kindergarten through high school.
“There were a couple of areas we felt we needed to focus on strategically,” Hayes said. “We wanted the look to have a broader focus of faith development from kindergarten to twelfth grade.”
“We have a lot of great programs and resources already in place. One of my big aims and prayers for this role is to create more synergy across the K through 12 space for our new and existing families,” Van Dop added. “(We want to have) programming across chapels that would give students a greater sense of who we are in Christ and extending that out into the community.”
As the Dean of Student Life, one of Van Dop’s goals is to take the head knowledge students receive in the classroom and the heart experience they learn by strengthening their faith and turning it into serving their community. When she was a teacher at Otterbein, each one of the courses she taught had a culminating service learning application project. This is something she would like to further develop at Worthington Christian.
“The goal is to be internal and external focused,” she said. “Most of the efforts will be focused on service learning, so taking what students are doing in the classroom and taking their thinking and learning to another level by applying it.
“It allows us to take the academic knowledge base but also serve the community and share the love of Christ with what we’re doing. It’s not just community service; it’s an academic-based service learning kind of curriculum.”
Van Dop said one of the first projects the students will host is a Lifeline Church meal-packing project at the Lower School in September. Students will also participate in a leadership curriculum started by Chick-fil-A, one of the fastest-growing chains in the United States. In 2022, Chick-fil-A earned over 18.8 billion dollars, finishing behind only Mcdonald’s ($48 billion) and Starbucks ($28.1 billion).
School safety also falls under the Dean of Student Life’s umbrella. Van Dop hopes to continue the safety measures of a threat assessment team from last year and “making sure the school has a positive culture in terms of bullying prevention and social and emotional learning.”
“Keeping our campuses safe is a concern for everyone,” she added. “We must continue to build the school’s overall culture. We’re trying to ensure that kids have opportunities to gain community and feel like they are being seen and heard.”