A Teacher’s 30 Year Perspective on WCGS

I thought that as my last time ever doing devotions that I would share some thoughts and reflections about my time here at the Grammar School and hopefully encourage you as we finish out the year.

When I was hired in 1988 (probably before some of you were born), we were in the old building in Wheaton. I was hired to be the kindergarten aide for two half-day classes of 30 children each. Class sizes were bigger then, and there was a waiting list for many grades. Two years later I was hired to teach first grade. That was at a time when there was very little turnover in the staff, and teaching positions were not available every year.

I have seen many changes over the last 30 years. I guess the most obvious is the move to this beautiful new building. I remember praying together as a faculty that God would give us land and the resources to accomplish the task. I remember meeting with parents—some of whom were on board with the prospect of moving to a new location and some who were not. I remember the meetings with the architects who discussed with us our dreams for the building and then the reality of which things were and were not possible. But, in the end, here we are in a beautiful facility provided by God.

Technology has also changed in the time that I have been at WCGS. We have gone from chalkboards to whiteboards to SMART Boards. We have moved from mimeograph machines to copy machines. No more purple fingers! We started with filmstrip projectors and slide projectors. We had movie projectors with the reels of film that needed to be threaded through just the right way in order for it to work. Then we had TV carts with a VCR on the bottom shelf which hopefully was hooked up correctly to the TV. All of these were shared, and if you wanted to use any of these machines you needed to sign up and hope that the machine was available at the time that you needed it.

Then the computer lab arrived. That’s when things really started moving. One day two computers showed up in the teachers’ room for us to share. Not long after that, each teacher was told that a computer would be delivered to each classroom for our personal use. I remember saying that I didn’t think that I would need one, but I was told that, yes, I would be needing it. So it arrived along with a monitor, keyboard, and that big metal box which sat on the floor under my desk. Tech training began, and I moved into the 21st century.

There have been some changes in curriculum also. Gone are the days when teachers (at least in the lower grades) could write their own curriculum for certain subjects for which we had no formal curriculum and we could choose which topics should be taught. Now we have the WCGS Curriculum Guide which helps teachers navigate the curriculum as they plan. Some of us remember starting the G&V curriculum mapping in a classroom in the old school with the chart paper on the board and the walls. We brainstormed, discussed, and worked hard to document all that we were teaching, using the curriculum and standards for each subject. It is still a work in progress and is continually being updated.

There was a time when each teacher was the master of his/her own lesson plans. It was assumed that all teachers wrote lessons plans, but no one ever checked or asked to see them. Then came the year when we were required to hand in our lesson plans; no big deal right? But, then sometime later we were given a template to follow which included things like objectives, procedure, formative or summative assessment, and biblical worldview. Lesson planning would never be the same again.

I have also seen changes in the children and their families. In my early years of teaching, there were very few children from divorced families.  It was the rare exception to have a child of divorce in your classroom.  Now we are seeing more and more children from broken and troubled homes. This absolutely impacts the way we teach and the way we approach certain subjects and issues which may be sensitive for some children.

I think we all know that our children are much more influenced by the world today because they are more connected to it. Kids today are exposed to issues, images, and ideas that we knew little or nothing about when we were their age. Things like homosexuality, abortion, transgender issues, teenage suicide were not openly discussed at home or at school in the past. But now even in the primary grades, these issues come up and teachers must address them. There has always been a battle going on for the minds and hearts of our children, but it is intensifying and we, as Christian school teachers, are in the middle of it.

Over the last 30 years, I have learned a few things:

  • I have learned that turning off your computer and restarting it fixes most problems.
  • I have learned from my first graders that hugs and band-aids make everything feel better.
  • I have also had to come to terms with the fact that no one (especially me) is indispensable. Most of you know that I do not like to hand over my classroom to a substitute – not for one day and definitely not for more than one day. But there have been times over the last 30 years that God has put circumstances in my life that made it necessary for me to let go and to trust others with my children. And they were just fine.
  • I have learned that I need to be flexible, available, willing to learn new things, be a team player, and I have learned to adapt to new teaching methods and practices and to new first-grade teaching partners (10 to be exact—Knudsen, Bunch, Richard, Toedt, Tillotson, Martin, Burkitt, Lorentsen, Hravatic, King).

But, most of all, I have learned that in order to do the work that God has called me to do, I must be willing to trust and obey Him in all things, and I must follow Him one step at a time. I must depend on Him to give me the strength, patience, and love that is needed to work with the children that He has put in my care. Anything that I have accomplished is all because of God’s grace to me, and all the glory goes to Him.

Yes, there have been many changes in my 30 years at WCGS, but one thing that has not changed and remains constant is the mission of this school: “To educate, train, and nurture children for godliness and excellence, equipping them to engage and transform their world for Jesus Christ.”

We have been called to point these children to Jesus and to give them the foundation that they will need to live in a world that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. I feel so blessed that God has allowed me to serve Him here in this place for so many years. It has been a privilege to serve with so many wonderful friends and colleagues who have strengthened and encouraged me along the way. I will always treasure my time here and all of the ways that I have been blessed by my students, their families, and by all of you. I have prayed for the children and families of this school for many years, and I will continue to uphold WCGS and all of you in prayer even though I will not be here with you.

I want to just read a short devotional to encourage you as we finish up this year:

With a mind like yours, you could have landed almost any kind of job you wanted. The field was wide open. Your options seemed endless. But at the end of the day, you counted the cost, assessed your talents, and set your feet on the path of your heart.

Even now, even on the hardest days, you’re still glad you traveled down this road. You’ve chosen a career that embraces the lives of children, and if you stop to think about it, you’re in mighty good company. The Savior of the world was also a teacher. In fact, when it was all said and done, He did more teaching while He was here than anything else. And just like you, He had a soft spot for children.

Jesus got down on their level and related to children as a friend. He spoke their language, defended their innocence, and gathered them up in His arms. The disciples complained that children were a waste of time. After all, what did they have to offer? But also like you, Jesus knew better. He recognized the vast potential in each of those young lives. And when He looked into their eyes, what He saw must have spun His soul into orbit, for there in abundance was the quality that pleases God more than anything else. Faith.

As you journey down the path of teaching, take heart in the fact that Jesus Christ, the Teacher, has walked there before you, leaving His own large footprints as a guide. And go with the joy of knowing that He has graced with His glory the profession that you’ve chosen.

Then just a summary of thoughts from Romans 8:31, Ephesians 3:20, and Jeremiah 32:17:

“I am for you! Watch me multiply your efforts. Because of My power working in you, the outcome is far beyond all that you can ask or dream. Nothing is too difficult for Me.

Faithfully, Your God of Victory”

We would like to recognize Donna’s years of service at WCGS by providing her with notes, letters, e-mails, and a financial gift. These can be sent to the attention of Mrs. Joanne DeGroot (jdegroot@wheatonchristian.org). If you’d like to give towards the gift, make checks payable to WCGS.

You are also invited to join with us on Friday, June 1, in the WCGS Commons for a reception to honor Donna from 2:00-4:00 p.m. We are grateful for this faithful servant of the Lord who has touched so many of us over the past 30 years.


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