Van joined the faculty of the Santa Barbara High School District in 1958 and taught instrumental music for thirty-five years before retiring from La Colina Junior High School in 1993.
The La Colina Junior High music building has been renamed the J.B. Vander Ark Performing Arts Wing in his honor. Van also taught regularly at Vieja Valley Elementary School, a feeder to La Colina, as well as short stints at La Cumbre Junior High and Santa Barbara High.
All of Van’s programs were notable for their high levels of musicianship, and a remarkable number of his students went on to pursue professional careers of their own in music. Whether it was jazz band, marching band, or concert band, Van’s groups performed at the highest level, documented in depth by the many trophies they won. The 1968 La Colina school yearbook was dedicated to Van.