A couple of years ago, a former co-worker recommended a book to me that one of our past students had written. I began reading it, and in one of the chapters, the student talked about a bad accident where he had fallen off a roof which resulted in major breaks, head trauma, and other injuries. As he was being evaluated and trying to recover, one of the drills that the doctor had him do every morning in the hospital was to recite the names of all his elementary teachers. And he could do it.
As I sat there thinking about this, I began reciting my elementary teachers and seeing if I could do it...just like many of you are doing right now. My point is that, I am not a doctor, but for some reason the doctor must have thought that the status of a teacher’s impact on their students’ lives is so significant that they chose this form of evaluation for his brain injury. A teacher’s influence on children’s lives is important!
So, why do I teach at WCGS?
As I began thinking about this, I wondered how my story is different from many of our other faculty and staff members. I agree with many of them who have mentioned in the past that we teach because it is God’s calling in our lives, the partnership we have with parents, the wonderful families we work with, the great leadership, the sweet kids we teach, and the best co-workers ever. But, how is my story different?
It’s my story.
I begin my story by mentioning two very important people that have had the greatest impact on my journey to teaching at WCGS, my mom and my dad. Both of my parents grew up in homes that were without strong Christian faith and values. Both of my parents began their walk with Christ because of friends, which then led them to a Christian college. This is where they met.
They married right after they graduated and moved to Dallas where my father went to seminary. After finishing school and taking a position as a pastor at a small church in San Antonio, they decided to start a family, having three girls within 4 years (My poor dad)! As we grew and were soon going to be school age, they made a decision. A very important decision. A decision that would impact the rest of our lives, the rest of my life - where to send us to school.
Now it wasn’t because the public schools were necessarily bad, but as my parents told me the other day when I asked them "Why a Christian school?" they responded with no hesitation...they knew us girls and they needed all the help they could get! All joking aside, they strongly agreed that they wanted us to go to a school that supported their biblical values and beliefs that they taught us at home.
So, with much prayer and sacrifice, they decided on Christian education, a school that taught us truth - God’s Truth. With no Christian schools close by, they, along with a few other Christian parents, decided to start a Christian school called Ft. Wayne Christian School. My older sister started her kindergarten year at a church we rented, carrying most of her school books and supplies around with her and taking tests in the sanctuary. I began my journey going to the same school which has led me here to WCGS.
As a child, I loved my school. I loved my teachers and my classmates. We did life together. It was about relationships.
I remember Mrs. Warner, my kindergarten teacher, trying so desperately to help me read so that I could get to page 50 in my reader and receive the special Bible from our school. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen until 2nd grade, but Mrs. Warner never gave up on me.
First grade was probably my favorite year. I had a young teacher named Miss Coles who played the accordion. Guess what I wanted for Christmas that year? An accordion. I wanted to be just like her! She made me feel safe and happy and SHE PLAYED THE ACCORDION… and to this day I hang the ornament that she made for me on my Christmas tree every year. I looked up to her.
Second grade was the year when my teacher, Miss Wines, asked us to write down our testimonies one day in class. I can still remember it to this day, sitting at my little desk with my privacy folder up with an immature understanding of salvation. I was under the impression that being saved was something I received every day and my personal invitation was a daily occurrence for me. Miss Wines explained to me that it was a one-time decision. That was the day that I came to an understanding of Christ’s forgiveness of my sins.
Then came Mrs. Mishler who I had for 3rd and 4th grade. For some reason, she had an unusual way of talking. She talked out of the side of her mouth and soon I began talking out of the side of my mouth. Of course, my mother was quick to correct me. I wanted to be like Mrs. Mishler. She was the teacher who at parent/teacher conferences told my parents that the class didn’t need the Holy Spirit, they had Brenda. It was her kind way of saying that I tattled too much. Thus began a new incentive chart and a new lifestyle change for me by the true Holy Spirit. She helped me to be the best person that God created me to be.
Mr. Shumacher was my first male teacher in school. He was my 5th grade teacher. He showed us he cared for his students by always coming outside to play kickball at recess with us. I looked forward to recess every day because I knew he was going to be there.
And the list goes on with many more memories and stories.
I loved my teachers. I wanted to be like them. Even though I may not remember specific concepts, details, and lessons that they taught me, I knew I was valued, treasured, and I was loved. They taught me truth - God’s Truth by being strong role models and taking an interest in my life.
So, why WCGS?
I was first introduced to the school when I was in middle school. We would come here from Indiana to play basketball tournaments, a lot of times even staying overnight in the classrooms. I remember really liking the school.
Then, after moving to Wheaton my sophomore year of high school, my mother (who went back to school later in life to get an elementary degree) had to finish her student teaching before graduating and was allowed to do it here at WCGS. She was with Miss Hiatt-who was a 3rd grade teacher at the school. The next year, after my mom completed her degree, she heard that Julie Clum was pregnant and after applying and interviewing, my mom was offered her 5th grade position here at WCGS where she stayed for 18 years. (And little did I know that the little baby girl that Julie and Steve Clum had would someday be the flower girl at my wedding)
I remember many nights watching my mom grading papers, reading teacher manuals, having my dad read students’ grades to her, and telling so many funny stories about her students! I loved that kind of thing! I wanted to be that person.
After graduating from Taylor University with an elementary degree, I began my search for a teaching position. I wanted so badly to teach at WCGS and so I applied. I soon received a letter back from Dr. Roth, the principal at the time, thanking me for my inquiry but they wanted someone with more experience. I was disappointed. Fortunately, one week later, another letter came in the mail from him asking me to come in for an interview. I was nervous and excited, and apparently, it went well! I was offered the 2nd grade position, teaching alongside our beloved Mrs. Landrum! My dream come true! Thus, began my career at WCGS.
I teach here because here at WCGS we all have the privilege, the opportunity, and the responsibility to be a part of a child’s journey in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Teaching is all about relationships...my relationship with my students and their relationship with Jesus. Helping children take the next step in their faith, whatever that may be…from searching, to acceptance, to growing in their love and understanding of the Gospel.
So…to Mrs. Warner, Miss Coles, Miss Wines, Mrs. Mishler, Mr. Shumacher, Miss Kruse, Mr. Mosher, Mr. Kephart, Mr. Placeway, Mrs. Kent, Mrs. Pippin, Mom, and Dad…Thank you for investing and teaching me God’s Truth! You have impacted my life for God’s kingdom.
So why do I teach at WCGS?
Most of all,
I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children (my students) are following the truth.
3 John 1:4
A few more fun facts…
- I taught for 6 years with my mother and with my husband for 3 years. Yes, I met my husband in the halls of WCGS! We announced our engagement to the faculty by him ending his devotional prayer by saying, "And Lord, thank you that Miss Widder said yes! Amen."
- It was during this time that two small boys came to our school and little did I know that someday they would be my bosses; Marc Painter and Jeff Brooke. Wow! God is so good!
- I was interviewed for my teaching jobs by four out of the six administrators over the years. Yes, I said jobs. I have taught here three different times after being home with my kids for 13 years and aiding for three.
- My mother-in-law also did her student teaching here at WCGS in the little house where the school began.
- I am now entering my 20th year in 2020 here at WCGS.