Former Spring Hill Elementary School principal Roger Vanderhye was a well-traveled, highly motivational educator who made a major difference in children’s lives, Fairfax County supervisors said Jan. 24.
“Roger lived life to the fullest,” said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), speaking during the remembrance segment that kicks off each meeting. “He started every day with a really, really positive outlook and boundless energy and he was a pleasure to be around. Just being around him got you excited for public education.”
Vanderhye was a “consummate family man, truly amazing father and loving husband,” Foust said. “He savored life and loved the outdoors, travel and adventure, most recently visiting Scandinavia and hiking in Patagonia, Chile.”
Vanderhye, who died Jan. 12 at age 60 of complications after heart surgery, had been principal at Walt Whitman Middle School in the Alexandria area since 2015. He was the husband of Belvedere Elementary School principal Cecilia Vanderhye and brother-in-law of former Del. Margi Vanderhye (D-34th).
Roger Dirk Vanderhye was born Aug. 9, 1956, in Flossmoor, Il., near Chicago and graduated from Homewood Flossmoor High School in 1974. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1978 from the University of Idaho, which he had attended on a baseball scholarship, and received a master’s in educational leadership from the University of Virginia.
Vanderhye began his education career as a middle-school science teacher in Charlottesville, then taught at the International School Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He subsequently took post-graduate courses and taught school in Fort Collins, Colo., and took his first job as an elementary-school principal in that state.
Vanderhye in 1987 began working at the International School Nido de Águilas in Santiago, Chile, and met his future wife, the former Cecilia Montoya.
Before becoming principal at Spring Hill Elementary in McLean in 2003, Vanderhye had been a principal for 18 years, serving at the International School of Brussels, the American Community School of Athens, Greece, and the Dhahran Academy in Saudi Arabia, as well as stints in Mesa, Ariz., and Cortez, Colo.
Vanderhye told the Sun Gazette in 2003 that he would continue Spring Hill Elementary’s character-education program and implement block scheduling so students could have more uninterrupted learning time.
“Every child must learn and every child must be a success,” he said. “We cannot stop until every kid has done that.”
Vanderhye also was a booster of the school’s friendship with Yabe Elementary School in Totsuka, Japan, which began in 2010 and led to several student exchanges.
He made a “remarkable difference” as Walt Whitman Middle School’s principal and helped improve students’ academic scores, said Supervisor Daniel Storck (D-Mount Vernon). The school achieved accreditation under Vanderhye’s tenure.
“Roger was truly a force of international significance,” Storck said. “He was a principal of schools around the world and he brought that perspective, that energy, that sense of the importance of education to all of our communities.”
In addition to his wife of 29 years, Cecilia, Vanderhye is survived by sons Nicolas and Alexander. In accordance with Vanderhye’s wishes, there will not be a funeral service, but there will be a celebration of his life in coming months.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the newly established non-profit Roger Vanderhye Education Foundation, 6830 Dean Drive, McLean, Va. 22101. Donations also may be made online at rogervanderhyefoundation.org. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.