It was early in the spring of 1995, and I was actively involved in the process of drafting résumés and cover letters in an attempt to get my first job as a teacher. It was exciting. Where would I end up, and what would my first classroom in my first school be like? As I think about it, those are pretty much the same kind of questions that many parents ask when considering where to send their children to school. And in the nearly 23 years since I entered the profession of being an Adventist educator, I have come to know many teachers and have seen firsthand who they are and the kinds of classrooms they have.
Adventist educators are people with a passion for their students. This passion reveals itself in classrooms that are full of unique, innovative, and creative learning that draws in both students and their families. I see classrooms filled with real plants and animals that students interact with on a daily basis. I see teachers who turn their classrooms into model towns where students become productive members of society and learn what it means to be a citizen. I see tremendously creative places where stories are written, illustrated, and shared on a daily basis, and then celebrated for the masterpieces they truly are. These are classrooms where the dreams for a new generation are first formed, fostered, and encouraged to grow.
The kind of teachers that nurture the development of these classrooms are as unique and varied as the classrooms they inhabit. And yet, each of these educators possess the same kind of characteristics. These traits may blend together in different ways, and each individual will add to them specific nuances that make their version one of a kind, but the basics will invariably be found.
The first trait can be seen in how a teacher will spend time ensuring that each student receives what they need. They will be carefully observed, and plans will be made so that by the end of a learning cycle that child will have been given the opportunity to truly learn. This may mean that more time has been given, real encouragement has been carefully applied, or that parents have been involved. More time will be spent examining student work, and adjustments will be made so that as new learning takes place, that child will continue to grow. This process takes patience, and that is one thing our teachers have.
The second characteristic we see in our teachers is revealed when they wake early to spend time in their classrooms and leave late when all the grading has been done, and the last stray article has been put back into its place. It can also be seen by that same teacher attending and being an active part in church activities. Many Adventist teachers can be seen filling active roles as Sabbath School teachers, Pathfinder directors, choir members, pianists and choristers, greeters, and volunteers at the local community service center. This comes from an inner drive to make a positive difference in the world they live in, and a love for service. And we call this characteristic selflessness.
The final trait is one that encompasses all the other traits. It is one that empowers every word, action, and thought that makes up the educator’s person. This can be seen in the way they reach out to pupils in need. It can be felt in the kindly looks and heard in the tone of voice. This trait is love, and it, above all, describes who we are as Adventist educators.
Jere Clayburn is principal of Union Springs Academy in Union Springs, New York.