Why do you teach?
It goes back to my time at Milwaukee Lutheran High School. I was all about business until my senior theology teacher, Mr. Riggs, said he thought God gifted me with the ability to teach and that I should consider being a high school theology teacher. It was April of my senior year, I was already accepted to 3 colleges, but it clicked for me when he said that, like the fog lifted. I went to CU-Wisconsin then to CU-Seward. They told me I shouldn’t major in just one thing because Lutheran high schools don’t have that many kids so you need to teach more than one subject. I thought about English but that had too much reading and papers. So I thought I like history too (not realizing history has a lot of reading and papers too) and I went with that. It was kind of like pulling it out of a hat!
My first call was Baltimore Lutheran where I taught theology. I loved it and felt like I was doing good ministry there. But I also noticed how the other teachers had a wonderful ministry too. I could see what the biology and art teachers were doing in their classes. A survey at the school asked what class helped faith grow the most and it was actually the literature teacher, the way he integrated faith in his classroom. It really hit home for me that I don’t have to be a theology teacher to do ministry. Then Carl Eisman, the principal at Martin Luther and also from Baltimore, took a chance on me to teach history here because he appreciated my heart for ministry. So when I had the opportunity to come home to Wisconsin and teach something that I love, it felt like God was just dropping it in my lap.
I love the faculty here. There’s always been such wonderful people to work with, but I don’t think we’ve ever had such a great team of people who love the kids, love what they do, and minister to them. I love the kids too. They are so filled with energy, enthusiasm, humor, and idealism. I also see the need where they don’t know things and they lack certain skills. So coming in every day, I love working with them and teaching them something that’s really important to current times. I’m teaching thinking skills, how to find evidence, and being open to their ideas too, because I’m not right all the time either. It’s just a wonderful thing to do.
There’s always an intersection between that subject material and our beliefs. Like in history, a moral discussion on the atomic bomb, or wealth and the gospel. There are always these opportunities where you can bring ministry in.
What’s a discussion you look forward to in your class each year?
One of the things I love to do is talk about the civil rights movement. Kids know there’s been discrimination, but a lot of times they don’t understand how recent it is. We go through Jim Crow and sharecropping, but I also tell them how things have still lasted until my lifetime, 100 years after the civil war still. Whether talking about reconstruction or the civil rights movement in the 60s, it is always a necessary discussion. It’s hard to have though, because everyone is uncomfortable or worried they might say the wrong thing. I say to my students at the start of each year that we will all say stupid stuff, so we need to be kind and forgive each other. Because isn’t it better that our stupid thinking gets out in the classroom and we can learn things about it instead of keeping them in our heads affecting the way we think? In general, they’re good in class and good to me about those discussions.