Why did you become a teacher?
When I was a kid, I trained our two old dogs new tricks. We also had an eighteen year-old pony that I taught to smile on command. I started working at a summer camp in the Adirondacks. I was too old to be a dish washer, so they made me the leader-trainer of the dish washers. I didn’t’ think I could lead a group, much less train a clean-up crew. It turned out I was good at motivating my team and I enjoyed it. Still, I did not see this leading to teaching. When I became interested in working in China, teaching was the most accessible way to earn a visa. I joined a company that provided the training, the library, and cross-cultural lessons for living and teaching in China. I was surprised to discover, again, that I related well to my class and I might be good at teaching.
What does a typical day in your classroom look like?
There is a lesson plan on the board. We start with a reading and a poem, but from there the questions and illustrations often lead to more questions and conversations. The students keep a notebook and we soon realize that the reasons we write and the forms it can take are many. We have a “point guard” to make sure we don’t miss the point of the lesson. It is also not unusual to see sign language in my class, as well as key verbal responses when we discuss literature.
What is your favorite Bible verse, why is it your favorite, and why do you like to share it with your students?
Mark 10: 21 “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
This is how Mark records Jesus’ reaction to the rich young ruler, who boasted that he had kept God’s laws faithfully from his youth. Jesus doesn’t respond in sarcasm, pride, or even flat out stating, “You’re wrong.” In these modern times, society seems loaded with politically loaded topics where we all feel so strongly that the one we are talking to is deceived, small minded, afraid, or just flat out wrong. If I had Jesus’ eyes, my first response should be to ask “What LOVE requires of me?”
What is the best part of being a teacher?
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing that lasts under the sun, but if you are a teacher, knowledge, experiences, wisdom, can be passed from one generation to another. I believe that education is central to changing the world. We can reach the hearts through the mind.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced while teaching and how did you conquer it?
I think the greatest challenge I have ever faced is myself. Self doubt and self confidence can both be devastating to one’s teaching. How did I overcome it? “Let no man think more highly of himself than he ought.” Pride can be broken by simply keeping both eyes open. The mirror (literally and metaphorically) can be enormously humbling. What is there to boast about? When fear and weakness tend to overwhelm with an almost crippling affect, I simplify. Socrates said, “All I need is a student and a stump.” Someone else has said, “The most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.”
What kind of lasting educational impact would you like to make on your students?
I hope to make disciples. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” So, I hope that students will see that if my life is happy and successful, it is only because I have held on to the best practices found in the Bible. I hope that I demonstrate that just because I have surrendered to Jesus, that does not mean that everything will always turn out rosy. Rather, in good times or bad, I can keep my sanity because the Creator of the universe knows me, He loves me, and He will give me guidance for any situation I find myself in. Most of all, I hope that my students will not fail to enter eternal life with Jesus.
What is your favorite activity outside of school?
If I had my perfect world, it would start and end with a good book. In between, I love to jog, take long bike rides, and go rock climbing. When given the choice of a mountain or the beach, I take the mountains, every time. I especially love to climb majestic mountains, sit alone and take in the view, then pull out a good book.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I recently jumped off a 45 foot cliff into Lake Tahoe.
Who is one of your biggest inspirations?
C. S. Lewis. I am astounded that this man could write to high intellectuals and still produce works that are excellent children’s literature. I also find that Lewis is a master at illustration. He often can take complex problems and make them understandable through illustration.