The mission of Adventist education is to enable learners to develop a life of faith in God and to use their knowledge, skills and understandings to serve God and humanity. This past school year, 2,647 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 attended our 74 schools in Mid-America.
In our classrooms, teachers focus on the following goals: Learners will 1) choose to accept God as the Creator and Redeemer 2) grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s creation 3) creatively apply their spiritual, physical, intellectual and social-emotional knowledge 4) demonstrate their commitment to God through service to others.
For this special Adventist education issue, OUTLOOK editor Brenda Dickerson talked with LouAnn Howard, director of education for the Mid-America Union, about what’s happening in our territory.
What is one of the biggest challenges right now for Adventist pre-K-12 education in Mid-America?
There are really two challenges that rise to the top. The first is teachers. As our baby boomer era teachers reach retirement age, our colleges and universities are not graduating the number of teachers we need in the field. This is not an Adventist phenomenon, but is seen throughout public and non-public education.
The second challenge is commitment: parent, church and pastor. The pastor’s commitment is vital. When the pastor is not a stranger, but comes to the school and worships, prays and plays with the students, it sends a strong message of support to both the student and teacher.
This also has an impact on the church and parents who are making a decision about their child’s education. When pastors and teachers work together as a team to benefit both the church and school, it results in a positive church and school environment.
How are these challenges being addressed?
We have partnered with Union College trying to connect with potential teachers early in their college experience. Each fall, we host a pizza feed where we talk with any college student who has an interest in education about working in Adventist education. This allows them to become familiar with our conference superintendents and also get a feel for what working in Adventist education is like. However, this is a first step, and we must look at other ways in which we can encourage our young adults to consider a career in Adventist education.
Many of our schools in Mid-America have only one teacher and one classroom. How can small schools market themselves in an appealing way to their communities?
Many people think that a small school means an inferior education. However, there are so many benefits in small schools: spiritual focus, low student-teacher ratio, long-term academic achievement, a curriculum that is designed for small schools, community service opportunities, easier to incorporate differentiation in student learning, and a high number of students who not only attend college, but graduate. There are so many advantages!
I am a product of small schools. I remember fondly being able to listen in to other classes and begin to grasp a concept before it was formally taught. Our small schools do not need to be embarrassed—they can proudly tout their successes.
The North American Division has given us several ideas on how to market Adventist education to our churches and communities (see sidebar). We need to do more to make our school board, pastors and teachers aware of the need to market the school and give them tools they can adapt and use in their communities.
How can people who don’t have an Adventist school in their area still support education?
They can pray for our schools. They can support—financially and in other ways—the local academies in the conferences. Many churches choose to partner with a nearby school and provide financial support. And, most importantly, they can reach out and befriend the young people in their churches to encourage them and include them as vital members of the church, whether or not they attend Adventist schools.
What are you excited about for the coming year?
Curriculum always excites me. This year I’m incredibly excited to see the revision of our Language Arts curriculum, Pathways 2.0, introduced into our schools. To see the faith connections that have been embedded and to see a program specifically designed for Adventist schools that meets the North American Division English Language Arts standards excites me. I’m also looking forward to seeing what the second year of our Encounter Bible curriculum brings to our students.
Mostly, I’m looking forward to seeing young people changed and accepting Jesus into their lives.
North American Division Education Resources
The NAD Office of Education has a wealth of resources, some geared specifically toward educators employed at NAD-accredited institutions and some available to the general public. Here are a few.
For educators employed at NAD-accredited institutions
Online store (adventist-education.myshopify.com/): Great resources at NAD-negotiated prices [order before Sept. 16]
Britannica Digital Resources (adventisteducation.org/resources/britannica-school/): Three levels of online encyclopedia, images, eBooks [requires login]
Marketing your school (adventisteducation.org/pc.html): Church bulletin/inserts, customizable post card, and brochures
Technology Blog and website (adventisteducation.org): resources and recommendations
Resources for Sabbath school, homeschoolers, families and public educators
REACH (adventisteducation.org): Reaching to Educate All Children for Heaven [resources and training]
Be Like Jesus Companion (nadeducation.org/be-like-jesus-companion/): Early childhood activities and lessons, Bible stories, stories about Adventist pioneers
Music (finearts.adventisteducation.org/the-basics.html): Lesson content for recorder and Christian heritage hymns
Adventist Learning Community (adventistlearningcommunity.org): Professional development courses and resources for administrators, teachers, pastors, chaplains, members and seekers
Teacher Bulletin (teacherbulletin.org): Integrated teaching units, tips for administrators, Adventist history, Spirit of Prophecy resources
CIRCLE (adventist.org/): Curriculum and Instruction Resource Center [plus teacher blog]