“Something better” is the watchword of education, the law of all true living. Whatever Christ asks us to renounce, He offers in its stead something better. . . . Bring them (the youth) in contact with truer beauty, with loftier principles, and with nobler lives. Lead them to behold the One “altogether lovely.” When once the gaze is fixed upon Him, the life finds its center. . . . Duty becomes a delight and sacrifice a pleasure, to honor Christ, to become like Him, to work for Him, is the life’s highest ambition and its greatest joy. Education, p. 296
During the past quinquennium students, teachers, school boards, and school constituencies have said “Yes, Lord” to Adventist education even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We are excited to share what is happening in Adventist education in Mid-America.
Adventist education is learner-focused. It enables learners to develop a life of faith in God, and to use their knowledge, skills, and understandings to serve God and others. We believe in an integrated educational experience where learners encounter God throughout the day in all subjects.
In the past quinquennium, three exciting curriculums have been developed and implemented in the Adventist schools across North America. First, the Bible curriculum, Adventist Encounter, is intentional about using the classroom to help build a meaningful, lifelong relationship with Jesus, using the Bible as a source of truth with the goal of making a difference for eternity. It seeks to invite learners to be the disciples invited in Jesus’ Great Commission. Encounter supports teachers through a series of learning phases where learners use their Bibles to meet God and come to know His plan for them. Encounter seeks to build for eternity.
Learners and teachers have enthusiastically engaged with the Encounter curriculum and teachers share the positive results in the classroom. Teachers post on the Adventist Encounter Facebook Page Encounter Success stories. One teacher posted a bulletin board picture saying that while the bulletin board is somewhat busy, what’s behind it, the assignment, opened her students’ eyes. Another posted a picture of her students in a tree while studying the story of Zacchaeus. This Grades 1-12 curriculum has been enthusiastically adopted in Mid-America.
Pathways 2.0: Journey to Excellence through Literacy is the English Language Arts curriculum for Grades 1-8. English Language Arts is an integrated curriculum that includes Reading, Writing, Word Study, Grammar, Spelling, Handwriting, Speaking and Listening. It builds on the Adventist worldview and incorporates appropriately complex non-fiction texts that will engage learners while incorporating research-based skills and strategies that enable them to become life-long learners. Spiritual applications are intentionally included in the instruction.
Secondary developed a biology textbook in partnership with Kendall Hunt Publishing Co. This textbook includes a Biblical perspective in examining a variety of understandings of nature. It aligns with the North American Division Biology standards and is grounded in the faith-based beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Inquiry learning is a central instruction strategy and Scripture connects are made.
In the past five years, five schools have opened and ten have closed. Many school constituencies struggle with the decision to close as they have seen an enrollment decline. Most plan to reopen in a year or two. We are blessed to see that has happened and are aware of at least two schools planning to reopen this next year.
Enrollment in all of our Mid-America schools declined 10%. Some of the decline is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some is due to aging communities that do not have many school-age children. It is difficult to pinpoint exact reasons for the spikes or declines, but we are committed to growing healthy, vibrant school communities.
Our teachers and administrators are well prepared: 37% of our teachers hold a post-graduate degree, 68% hold either a Professional or Standard North American Division Teaching Certificate, and 71% of our administrators hold a North American Division Administrator Certificate.
Our teachers look for opportunities to grow professionally, too. The Mid-America Union is grateful for the support that allowed us to take all of our teachers, administrators, and many support staff to the North American Division Teachers’ Convention in Chicago. We look forward to the 2023 Convention in Phoenix. Mid-America also supports elementary and secondary teachers going to other national conventions. Ten elementary teachers attend the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development’s annual conference each year. Our secondary associate, Gerard Ban, continues the plan of hosting our teachers at two subject-specific national conferences annually. We are also very thankful for our partnership with LaSierra University that allows teachers to get a master’s degree in administration or curriculum tuition-free (to them).
During the past quinquennium, we have seen a decline in the pool of available teachers. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and beginning another chapter in their lives. Nationwide we see a definite decline in the number of college-age students who are choosing education as a career. Teachers are also choosing not to move, but to continue working in their school community. This has put added pressure on our schools and conferences when the need for teachers arise. However, we are appreciative of Union College whose Education Department trains sought-after teacher candidates who understand multi-grade classrooms and are well versed in the Adventist curriculum and best practices in education. Moreover, they ensure that Mid-America gets to interview teacher candidates before superintendents from other conferences.
Last year, when teachers and students were looking forward to Spring Break COVID-19 struck. Instead of relaxing or taking a trip, teachers quickly retooled into a different delivery mode. Our teachers said, “Yes, Lord” even though they had no idea how they would continue to minister to their students. Teachers learned to use Zoom, ensured that each student had access to technology, and generally within a two-week timeframe were ready to meet with their students virtually. Additional resources were sought and provided by the North American Division, union, and conferences. The emotional impact was great on both students and teachers, but a quality education was still provided.
Everyone thought that by the time school reopened the pandemic would be behind us. It became clear that additional protocols would need to be developed and implemented to get students back in the classroom. Classrooms were sanitized, partitions were created, and social distance, mask, temperature checks, and personal hygiene practices were implemented so that face-to-face instruction could begin. When a community, school, or classroom had a COVID outbreak, remote learning began immediately. Students, teachers, school boards, and conferences all showed great resilience throughout the year. One conference administrative
assistant shared, “All teachers in Mid-America went above and beyond to meet the needs of their students and their families through this incredibly challenging year. Philippians 4:13 comes to my mind when I think of what these teachers have accomplished this year. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Our teachers have been God’s servants especially this year and they have done what they have done because of His strength.” While we look forward to a more normal school year next year, we know that our schools, teachers, and students will be able to meet any challenge. God has demonstrated His love and leading these past two years and we know He will continue to in the future.
Educational planning has not been put on hold throughout this pandemic. We see exciting educational practices being implemented over the next five years. Our conferences, Mid-America, and the North American Division have collaborated in introducing standards-based learning. The North American Division developed standards in each subject-area that based on the Adventist worldview. Standards identify what learners should know and be able to do, serve as the framework for curriculum, instruction, and assessment. In an effort to fulfill our charge as Adventist educators, we are revising our grading practices to be aligned to the standards students must meet. That way, grades will be a clearer indication of what students have learned, not simply a measure of how much work they turn in or how hard they might try in class. Learning is the indicator of success. Mid-America has included our superintendents in the North American Division trainings. We have begun trainings with our Curriculum Committee who will assist us as we walk down this path. Each conference is planning trainings for our teachers. This will not be a quick implementation, we will take the time to ensure our teachers, students, and schools are ready.
Mental health is another challenge. Learners come with varying backgrounds and experiences. They face unique challenges. Anxiety is one of the leading mental health conditions facing our children. We also know that the pandemic has placed additional emotional strains on our learners and teachers. We need to provide strategies and assistance where feasible to help meet these challenges.
We are thankful for the way God has led in the education of His kids in Mid-America. His blessings are innumerable and we see His leading daily. We are blessed to know that there our Spirit-filled men and women in Mid-America who have dedicated their lives to bringing learners to the feet of Jesus and become lifelong learners. It is the goal of this department to see every learner excel in faith, learning, and service to honor God and bless others.