Teacher Appreciation: Reflections on Education and Ministry
By Carl Stagner
Few students delight in seeing red ink on their papers; just the thought of crimson marks peppered across a term paper, math worksheet, or chemistry test sends a chilling shockwave of anxiety up the spine. But for this writer, such marks would prove encouraging and rather prophetic. Teacher Appreciation Week comes every first full week of May in the United States, sometimes without proper acknowledgement. Conversation with a few educators in the Church of God, though, reveals that the best in the business know—regardless of recognition—they’re called to the craft.
I was an undergrad at Anderson University, uncertain of my path forward; after all, my dream from childhood to pursue a career in weather forecasting had seen sunnier days. Mass communication remained a viable option in consideration of the courses I’d already taken, yet clarity seemed most elusive. My lightbulb moment came in class one pivotal day when my professor, Holly Miller—highly regarded senior editor of the Saturday Evening Post—returned one of my submissions. Instead of pen marks calling out my mistakes, I received a short note calling out the talent within: “You’ll make a good editor someday, Carl.”
Cheryl Turner’s husband Mark serves as pastor of Granby First Church of God in Missouri. But hers, too, is a sacred calling. “One thing that blesses my soul about being a teacher is how children allow me to be a part of their lives,” she explains. “I have to prove I can be trusted first. As librarian I see all the students and have opportunities all day long to care for them and model for them respect and kindness. I affirm for them that there are adults that will not give up on them. I encourage them to always leave spaces better than they found them, and to instill in them that it’s okay to just answer an adult with “yes ma’am or sir,” even when they disagree with them.”
Because good teachers don’t just teach academics; they impart good values, and they live those values out as an example day after day.
Emily Kearney, who served Church of God Ministries for a season as a contributing author for CHOGnews, is currently teaching English to seventh and eighth grade students at Cincinnati Christian Schools in Ohio. “I feel so completely blessed to be a teacher because I get to play a small role in guiding future generations to become the people who God created them to be. For a couple years of their lives, I get to laugh with them, cry with them, and encourage them. I am who I am today because I had great teachers who believed in me and who encouraged me to pursue the gifts that God gave me. If I can love just one student in my life and be that mentor for them, then I feel like I’ve fulfilled a challenging, but rewarding calling.”
Like Emily, most people today can look back and recall one or more teachers who made an indelible mark on their character, career, or calling. The influence of teachers cannot be overstated; Lisa Huff, ordained minister in the Church of God and elementary school principal at Liberty Christian in Anderson, Indiana, knows this firsthand. That’s why she does what she does today.
“Teachers are the heart of education,” she reflects. “To teach is to touch a life forever…. Who else is given seven hours of interrupted time each day to impact young lives? Our teachers deserve our devoted prayer and support as they nurture and train the future! I am blessed to live out my divine calling each day. Ministry in the school goes beyond students to faculty, staff, parents, and families. I have the opportunity each day to lead and influence everyone in my path to a deeper walk with Christ. My five-year stint in church ministry gives me a unique perspective on how all of God’s people—in the church, the school, and the family must come together for the benefit of the next generation.”
Jason Johnson serves Prestonsburg Church of God in Kentucky as senior pastor. The bivocational arrangement is challenging at times, but always rewarding. “Being a pastor and educator helps bring Jesus into our society,” Jason explains, “in a place where we have diversity and knowledge. Being a pastor in the education setting helps bring healing, compassion, and understanding to students who may feel forgotten or unloved. Many students need a pastor, yet don’t go to church, so I can bring Jesus to them. Too often churches become isolated from culture, but being a teacher helps immerse me in current discussions and dialogue that brings understanding to our mission field.”
Thank you, teachers. We appreciate you.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Stock image from Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.