It seems like a cliché adorned on many a teacher’s appreciation gift, but that doesn’t make it any less true—to teach is to touch a life forever. Teachers have a profound impact on our development and help shape the way we learn, reason, and act. Three Christian teachers share their experiences educating the next generation—and their passion for God.
Jessica Print, Public School
Every morning, Jessica Print, 25, drives into the city praying that she will have enough love to give each of her students. “So many of these kids don’t feel any love at home,” says Print. “They are dealing with abuse, neglect, and immigration issues. Even if they don’t realize that I am loving them through God’s love, they definitely notice that there’s a difference in me as a teacher.”
Print works as a Discipline Prevention Specialist at Academia Cesar Chavez, a tuition-free charter school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her students face various challenges. One-third of the school’s 300 students is English Language Learners, and ninety-two percent of the students qualify for a free or reduced lunch.
“Even if [my students] don’t realize that I am loving them through God’s love, they definitely notice that there’s a difference in me as a teacher.” – Jessica Print
“Some of the biggest challenges at the school are financial,” Print says. “Since we are an urban school, I have to buy all of the books in my classroom and all of the supplies. There is one computer lab in the school, and it only has 20 computers, so the students have to share.”
As she gives her time, energy, and money to these students, she isn’t just sacrificing her resources, but is being obedient to God’s call on her life. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” says Print. “My greater calling happened when I was being called to the city. Education is such a leveling factor. When students in the city get equal education, it removes a lot of poverty lines.”
However, Print is more than just an educator; she also tackles the roles of nurse, social worker, and even parent. Her philosophy towards her students is this: “If I am at school, I am available for the kids”. Print opens her classroom to be available early in the morning for students to talk to her, or just to have a quiet place to go. She also takes two or three students to eat lunch with her each day to get to know them better individually. Through her interactions with her students, she regularly faces the reality of her students being evicted from their homes, facing abuse, and getting caught up in immigration issues.
“I had a student who went back to Mexico over a break,” Print recalls. “Their family got stuck at the border and never came back. Other students will go back to Mexico for months at a time without enrolling in school. They come back far behind other students. There is just so much to deal with. I don’t know if I will ever figure out exactly how to deal with it all.”
Fortunately, she is not alone in dealing with these pressures. She and nine other teachers meet every Monday morning. They pray, seeking God for their students, knowing that God can work in the broken homes and work out problems like immigration issues far beyond their own abilities.
Print spent two years teaching fifth grade, but in her current role as Discipline Prevention Specialist, she works closely with students who have behavioral problems. In both roles, she has shown her students Jesus’s love, and taught them to do the same to each other. When she taught fifth grade, Print worked to create a sense of community by teaching her students basic social skills, spending the entire first month teaching about how the students could—and should—care for each other.
“The first year I tried this it was a disaster,” says Print. “There were lots of fights and not a lot of unity in the class. But last year was amazing. The students really cared for each other.” At the end of the year, she gave the students an opportunity to say any parting words to each other, and the entire class opened up. “It was so beautiful. Everyone in the circle was crying, trying to think of really encouraging things to say to one another. It was a really great way to end the year,” Print recalls.
In her current role, Print works with fifth and sixth grade girls, teaching them to find their identities. “I tell them they have all been created and made for a purpose, that they are special,” Print says. “I tell them what they should and shouldn’t focus on, especially not to find their identity in boys. I can never come out and say ‘[In Christ] is where your identity should be,’ but I point them toward the kingdom and not toward the world.”
Working in a public school has its challenges, and teaching about God or the Bible are typically prohibited. However, as Jessica Print demonstrates, actions can speak louder than words, and being a living example of Jesus’s love and compassion can plant seeds in students’ hearts. “We are called to go out into the world and bring the kingdom of God to wherever we are [God building His kingdom through us],” says Print. And she hopes to do that—even if it’s just two or three students at a time, every lunch hour.
Laura Christian, Christian School
Laura Christian, 24, knows the value of living among non-believers. She became a Christian when she was nine years old, on the way to the grocery store with her mother. Having attended public school from kindergarten through twelfth grade, a secular setting was her first choice when she decided to become a teacher. “I thought I should be at a public school. I thought it would be a privilege to be a Christian in the public school setting—seeing people come to know Christ,” says Christian.
After getting married last summer, Christian moved to the Midwest, where she taught in a suburban public school, to San Diego. Her prayers for a job in Southern California were answered, and she began teaching at Mira Mesa Christian School. “[California] had just cut hundreds of jobs in the public schools, so I felt lucky to have a job,” says Christian.
“The kids don’t just see me as a model of character, but a model of godliness—a spiritual person. It makes me more mindful of anything I say or do. They are watching every move I make because I am not only teaching math, I am teaching how to be a better Christian.” – Laura Christian
Mira Mesa Christian School is a small private school, with ninety students in kindergarten through sixth grade. A typical day at school starts with the Bible. The students follow a curriculum, share verses and thoughts, and are assigned a verse to memorize each week. Afterwards, the school day unfolds just as it would in a public school, but with additional biblical perspectives, of course.
Laura Christian doesn’t claim Christian education as a calling, but she clearly understands that God led her to Mira Mesa, where she teaches fifth and sixth grade, as well as physical education. “When I moved out here, God put me here,” says Christian. “If I were to tell you about a spiritual turning point, this would be it.”
That spiritual turning point surprised Christian more than her new job. Teaching in a Christian school has exposed her to an entirely new educational perspective. “I had never really thought about education and biblical truth intertwining. It has really caused me to be a lot more aware when I am teaching and planning—how I can implement God’s Word, Truth, and the Bible into my lessons?” she says.
Christian often quotes 2 Timothy 3:16-17, reminding herself of the importance of using the Bible in all areas of study: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Equipping her students for every good work has changed the way she teaches. Christian no longer teaches wellness in her physical education classes for vanity’s sake. Instead, she teaches the students to have stewardship of their bodies, because their bodies are God’s temple. As her classroom studies symmetry, Christian points out God’s love of order and symmetry in creation, using trees and the human body as examples.
In addition to incorporating biblical truth into her curriculum, Christian also strives to set a good example. “Being at a Christian school, I really need to watch my actions—even more than at the public school. The kids don’t just see me as a model of character, but a model of godliness—a spiritual person. It makes me more mindful of anything I say or do. They are watching every move I make because I am not only teaching math, I am teaching how to be a better Christian,” she says.
As Christian strives to be an example of godliness in her students’ lives, she gets to experience watching her students come to know Christ. “I’ve seen kids accept Christ as their savior,” Christian says. “I don’t know if I had anything to do with it, but I trust that God is using what I say and my example.”
Jessica White, Home Schooling
The last career Jessica White, 29, ever thought she would have was a home school teacher. White, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, watched her cousins go through the home schooling process and thought they would never make it in the real world. “I made fun of people that were home schooled,” says White. “I thought they would never cope with life because they were never exposed to it.”
But as her cousins matured into adults, White saw that her presumptions were false. Her cousin Kelly is a typical college girl, peppy and joyful. Her social skills are developed, and she has integrated successfully into college life.
White herself doesn’t fit any home schooling stereotypes. She is young and doesn’t drive a minivan. Her children—Colin, 7, and Amaya, 5—are children from her and her husband Andre’s previous marriages. Most importantly, the mention of denim jumpers and long, braided hair activates her gag reflex.
But when White started taking ownership of her faith three years ago, she became intrigued by the lives of families at her church who home schooled. Now she has almost two years of teaching under her belt and is growing in love for the process. “I had to be won over,” White recalls. “My husband, Andre, is a very go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He had to hear that it was a good idea, but I was the one who had to do it.”
White and her husband made the decision to home school when Colin was entering kindergarten. White’s memories of her elementary years are traumatic. But she remembered an opportunity, one of her high school teachers gave her an opportunity to take a test audibly; she aced the test. The thought of teaching her children in a flexible way that met their needs was appealing.
However, White acknowledges that she is only able to teach through the strength of the Lord. Not having a formal degree in education, she is frequently challenged to think of new and creative ways to teach. This was such a tall order that she and her husband made the difficult decision to enroll Colin in public schools this year. “It was obviously a rough year. I felt inadequate, but now seeing him in public schools gives me confidence that he is at the right level,” says White.
[bctt tweet=”“With home schooling, I get to know where my kids are emotionally and educationally” – Jessica White”]
Unexpectedly, Colin’s switch to public schools has actually increased White’s desire to home school. “Home schooling allows you to build up your child’s character when they are young”, says White. “When that base is established, then you push education hard. The public schools try to get a lot of education in you when you are young, and then expect you to be good people. It just doesn’t work like that.”
School at the White household starts around 9:00 a.m., when the children help make breakfast. They spend time reading and discussing the Bible, then move on to the day’s lessons. All of their lessons are finished by noon, and afternoons are filled with various activities and play dates with other home schooled children.
Ultimately, it is White’s love for her children and her desire for them to know Christ that spurs her on to continue home schooling. She says the appeal of home school is “the safety and security of knowing where my kids are and what they are doing, and having a close relationship with my kids. With home schooling, I get to know where [they] are emotionally and educationally.”
Secular or sacred, at school or at home, these three women are all reflections of Christ to their students. Whether they are allowed to directly teach from the Bible, or can only demonstrate God’s goodness through their actions, they bring glory to God in their classrooms. Regardless of circumstance, God uses each of these teachers, and the various gifts He has blessed them with, to reach the next generation of hearts and minds.