Face to face: Tsjipke Okkema “Children in Special Education are very grateful”

“Visitors usually come from back here,” Tsjipke Okkema says with a laugh, while we had just pressed the bell at the front door. Walking in his wake, his sons Hidde and Jildert are somewhat ‘primitive’ about the fact that two newspaper ladies pass in front of them, a journalist and a photographer. They run one by one across the garden, through the living room and back across the garden through the utility room. It’s a happy sight, two of these blond males brimming with energy. Youngest son Hidde wants to show his skills on the slide. He jumps at once and misses his foot. Sobbing, he walks over to his father who comforts him softly. In the end, Chebeke’s wife Esther called the two brothers inside, where they joined their ten-month-old sister Gildau. “Well, talking about this is a little easier,” Tsjipke says, and sits down for a while.

farm care

“I was born in Harlingen, but lived in Eastern until I was 25,” he says. “I grew up with an older sister and two younger sisters. My mother was in education and that seemed to be a thing for me too. After Mavu at Wommels (Bagerman College, editor) I did CIOS in Heerenveen. I did a number of internships, including one at Piet Bakker School In Sneek, Special Education. However, I didn’t want to work with CIOS training; it wasn’t for me. That’s why I went to a teacher training college. For this training, I also had to do training courses in different schools. And that was so much fun! There was Lots of work in education – just like now – and I was able to work everywhere as a substitute. I especially liked the longer periods, because after that I had more certainty and also got to know other children and teachers better. In addition to my work as a teacher in schools, I used to spend three days a week at Zorgboerderij in Tzum aan de Slachtedyk.Here I supervised the young men who were between the beach and the ship, one to one.They worked a lot with their hands and looking after the animals, among other things.It was a great time and I really liked the combination of working at Schools and farm care.”

Dual function

Meanwhile, Tsjipke met Esther and together they had sons Yeldert and Hyde and a daughter Gildau. They replaced their shared rented home in Wommels with their current owner-occupied home in De Homeie. “Then the principal of the elementary school in Wommels asked me if I wanted to become a teacher in my village,” Tsjipke explains. “I wanted to, but with the caveat that if my oldest son went to elementary school, I would stop working there. I didn’t want to be a double job, major and dad. I enjoyed my job there for three years, usually in eighth grade.

At the end of that third year of school, Piet Bakkers School in Sneek came my way. I was able to become a teacher there for a group of 4-12 year old students. I thought it was exciting, but I took the lead. I find the target group of hard-to-learn children with various problems very interesting. Our students have mild to severe disabilities, and I find it fascinating when and why they exhibit challenging behaviour. In the “ordinary” primary schools where I worked, there was no time for children who needed more attention. What do you want with a class of thirty students! “

custom education

Tsjipke has now completed two full academic years and is very excited about his work. “I started in the time of Corona, it was very difficult. The work was very different from what I was used to. The kids would run away sometimes, and I really had to build a relationship with them. It was chaotic sometimes at first. Then I thought, ‘Help!’ But gradually it became Contact with my group of eight students (ages eleven and twelve, editor) is better and better. Pupils can stay in our school until the age of eighteen. It is a small school and a safe haven for them. We work with small groups, I have 11 children in my group and I work with a teacher assistant.Sometimes an intern is added too.We provide personalized education.ie: within my group of eleven students there are about three or four groups,students working at the same level.Each group has its own goals;it is up to me how we will achieve These goals. This gives me a lot of freedom. Within ‘regular’ primary schools there are established educational programs that provide little room for deviation from them.”


“I usually start the lesson with some short instructions,” Tsjipke continues. “Let’s say we have the topic ‘arithmetic’. Then we play games that have to do with arithmetic, it’s really fun. ‘Language’ works the same way. We work a lot with pictures and icons. Sign language is also a supportive medium, we use everything. Different, for example working in the garden or cooking. As long as they occupy their hands a lot. Variety is very important. They must be able to move freely; They must run out of energy. In addition, structure, calm and order are the motto. So vacations are not always pleasant. For some kids they then go out of their natural rhythm Kids in Special Education are so grateful They are actually always happy and come to school with a smile I think it’s great to see and that’s why this job suits me so well Children are unique They look for limits and it’s up to me to point them out. This ensures that I also have to stay on the right track.”

work together

In addition to his work, Tsjipke can also be found on his bike or on the football field. He started as a boy at SDS Football Club in Easterein and played in the first team until about five years old. “But it’s hard to combine football with a busy family with three young children,” he says. “I have also been a youth coach and will support the coach of the first team. I will also help with the team that my eldest son will play in soon. He is very excited about that and so am I. But I only play a game on Saturdays with my football friends. Some have stayed in the area, like me, And there are some that flew but came back anyway. It’s always good and comfortable to work out together and then just sit back and relax.”

keep learning

Tsjipke is happy and satisfied with his life and it’s good at first. But of course there are dreams: “There are still a lot of fun things to do in education. For example, teach in a practical school, or mentor young people in a small way. But that’s really for later. I want to continue learning and for now. I have not finished learning in my current position.”

Photo: Laura Keizer

Text: Amanda de Vries

Leave a Comment