I recently read a Pew Research study stating that in 1970 education was the most common degree conferred, with 21 percent of all college students choosing a degree in teaching. According to the most recent year with available data, colleges and universities had conferred only 4 percent of bachelor’s degrees in education. 

In the tapestry of life, education weaves the threads that shape character, instill values, and illuminate the path toward a purposeful future. Seventh-day Adventist schools stand as beacons of light, offering education and a ministry that calls for collective support, prayers, financial assistance, time, and above all, encouragement for the teachers who dedicate their lives to the students and families within their classrooms.

Union College has only four education majors graduating in the spring of 2024. Tallya Waller, one of the seniors, exemplifies the unwavering dedication that fuels the Adventist educational ministry. Opting for a less-trodden path, Tallya shares, “I love working with children and sharing the love of God with them. I love to see their faces when they understand a concept or skill that we have been working on.” Her decision to pursue education is a testament to the divine calling she feels and the joy she finds in the God-given talent to teach.

As I think about Tallya and other students preparing to begin their teaching career, I can’t help but wish I could connect them with the experience of so many educators who have given their lives to the children and families in their communities. I have the privilege of working with Betty Soper (board chair), whose 40 years of service in Delta, Colorado, reflect a commitment to character building in a classroom. Her words of advice are timeless and resonate not just with educators but with all of us on the path of positively influencing lives.

7 tips for educational success

Betty’s first piece of wisdom is a cornerstone for any ministry: “It’s important to get to know your students and let them get to know you.” In a world where personal connections are often overlooked, Betty emphasizes the transformative power of relationships.

Next, “You do not have to be perfect,” Betty insists, reminding us that vulnerability and humility are powerful tools in any form of service. Embracing imperfections fosters an environment where both students and mentors can learn and grow together.

Betty’s third nugget of wisdom is a simple yet profound practice: “Call or text parents when students do something positive.” Acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of our youth can have a lasting impact on their self-esteem and motivation.

Maintaining a sense of humor is Betty’s fourth piece of advice, a reminder that joy is a vital ingredient in the recipe of effective education and ministry. Laughter can bridge gaps, diffuse tension, and create an atmosphere where learning becomes a joyful exploration.

Betty’s one rule (Keep your hands, feet, and unkind words to yourself) encapsulates the essence of respect and kindness. Teaching young minds the value of treating others with dignity is a lifelong gift.

“Write your lesson plans in pencil,” Betty advises, recognizing the dynamic nature of education. Flexibility ensures that educators can adapt to the needs of their students, fostering an environment that encourages growth and exploration.

Her final piece of wisdom is “Take time for yourself and your family.” Self-care is not selfish; it is a prerequisite for sustained, impactful ministry.

A common thread

In the inspiring words of Tallya and Betty, we find a common thread that links us all—because everyone has the opportunity to positively influence the lives of those around us. The beauty lies not just in the immediate blessings but in the ripple effect that continues for decades.

As we rally behind the ministry of Seventh-day Adventist education, let us remember the words of Betty Soper and the passion of Tallya Waller. Let us sow seeds of encouragement, support, and prayer, recognizing that the impact of our collective efforts extends far beyond the confines of a classroom. Together, let us nurture minds and build characters, fostering a generation grounded in faith, wisdom and love so that Adventist education may continue to be a beacon of light in shaping not only academic minds but also nurturing souls for a meaningful future.