“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8 ESV).
I am a Lutheran School Teacher. I capitalize that. It is one of my names, like Mom, or Carol Beth, or Mrs. Stathakis. It is as much “who I am” as “what I do,” and I am incredibly blessed. I am a redeemed child of God, called into His holy family through Baptism, called to a life sanctified through the power of the Holy Spirit, and called into service in His Church. I am a student teacher under the Master Teacher.
My family greatly admired Lutheran School Teachers because theirs is a high calling of utmost importance. That respect touched me, and already as a little girl I was aware of the desire to enter full-time church work. My life after that was all about getting ready. Now I get to be a Lutheran School Teacher, too, and I cannot thank God enough. I get to serve my Savior by being an encouragement in His congregation, by guiding His beloved children, by sharing in their faith development, by supporting their loving parents, and by showing them the miracles of God’s world and the wonders of the human intellect. I get to help children love Jesus, love the Bible, and love the Church. I get to help them understand the mighty power of God and His great mercy and goodness in sending Jesus to be the Savior whom we so desperately need. I get to know that my students pray for me, and I get to be delighted by their expressions of faith.
I get to participate in the excellent education that is the hallmark of the Lutheran School system, and bask in its reputation. Through my teachers came academic excellence and many other lessons of great value as well. Mrs. Holstein, in Kindergarten, kept a chicken as a class pet, scuttling up a flurry of excitement, and she read to us a lot. Miss Muller in 1st grade listened to us read and understood the character of each child. Mrs. Bierlein in 2nd grade modeled a lovely, graceful spirit, and Miss Wittenback in 3rd was a whirlwind of activity and music. Mr. Wolfrom and Mrs. Thompson in 4th through 6th encouraged creativity and community learning, and Mr. Eichert, Mrs. Danner, and Mr. Bierlein in 7th and 8th filled our minds with useful stuff and helped us see ourselves as God sees us in Christ. Lutheran High School Teachers and college professors at Concordia University NE inspired a love of learning and a devotion to Jesus. Those dear saints deeply affected my life, and I hope to be for my students what my teachers were for me.
When I was a student at Walther Lutheran High School, I sang in a choir called the Christian Minstrels. On many Sundays, we had the privilege of visiting area association churches for worship services. We carried with us our praises to God and the theme from our school, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 ESV). Those words took root in my core. I knew who I am, and whose I am, because of my faithful family and the witness of Lutheran Schools.
Now, I’m all grown up and living the dream in which “going to work” doesn’t really feel all that much like working. Every day at school has its own activities and surprises but follows a regular rhythm that leads to the grand finale, the successful completion of the course that has been entrusted to me for the precious children with whom I share my days. It’s a joyful experience and a happy place where teachers nurture, kids grow, and God is glorified (1 Peter 4:11).
One teacher friend likes to say, “We work together, we play together, and we live together (not exactly, but pretty close).” I have been blessed with colleagues who share my belief in the importance of our life’s work. We have fun together, trust each other, and lift up one another in prayer. We share in a larger fellowship of brothers and sisters in the faith and in our calling as professional church workers, connecting us to colleagues around the country and the world, friends we know and friends we don’t know, saints before and after us, carrying on the ministry to which Christ has called us.
Perhaps you have seen, in a collection of “favorite teacher” treasures, a mug or an ornament with this inscription: “Teaching is the profession that creates all others.” In a very real sense, that is true. I get to teach the lessons that provide facts and a body of knowledge needed to grow a student into a proficient professional. I get to spread the joy of science, math, and grammar, the bases of the professions my students will choose. I get to spark the idea that inspires a life calling, and in that way prepare the next generation to lead the way into the future for God’s purposes. A few of my students will answer the call to be professional church workers who will take their turn bringing people to Jesus, and the knowledge that He may have used me as an influence is both humbling and thrilling.
I get to prepare little lambs for eternity with the Good Shepherd, and that is why I am excited about being a Lutheran School Teacher.
Happy National Lutheran Schools Week! Go with God.
(Line art by Jeff Carnehl)