Does Faith Exist in the Classroom?

In All Articles, COMMUNITY, Educationby Tori Santa Cruz

After taking a leap year, I’m about to continue my education as a college student. I’m nervous about this new season, and was in much need of encouragement. It’s a different environment, how do you engage your faith in the real world? As far as learning goes, does faith continue to exist in the classroom in ways that matter?

When I was a high school student, Coach Smith was an English teacher. These days she is a part of the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) and LEAP Academy at Midlothian ISD. As I walked into her new classroom my nostrils filled with the smell of fresh paint. Large, bright blue words had been painted on the wall to encourage students towards the core values of “Leadership, Excellence, Academics and Perseverance.”

Coach Smith works with students who are experiencing some degree of trouble, including kids who are in danger of failing or dropping out. I have no doubt that she will make a positive impact on this new generation, just like she did mine.

MEET COACH SMITH

 

What inspired you to become a teacher? I didn’t decide to become a teacher until I was home on Christmas break my freshman year of college and attended a basketball tournament at my alma mater. Watching the teams, it just suddenly struck me that I wanted to coach. I felt like it was something I could do well and pass my knowledge and skill on to others.

English was my favorite subject so became one of my teaching fields. I always made a huge effort to be a strong classroom teacher because I hated the stereotype of the coach who thought he/she couldn’t be bothered to do a good job academically. I had a few of those myself and grew to resent them after I was mature enough to see the harm done to my education.

Is it possible to have engage faith in the classroom? I have some personal items in my classroom that profess my beliefs, and I have told my classes that I believe in God and hope they have a foundation in faith. But it’s hard to not cross the line required legally. We aren’t allowed to proselytize at school. But I also believe I cannot deny my faith, so I try to find a balance.

I’ve prayed for students, and I’ve told classes and students that I will pray or have prayed for them. In sports, it was a little easier because my teams always prayed before games, and we often had discussions of religion or prayed for teammates or family when tough times came. And I sponsored Fellowship of Christian Athletes many years.

I also tried to at least make an appearance at See You at the Pole if for no other reason than to show support. I still have such a vivid memory of you [Tori] speaking at the MHS one your freshman year when I’d just recently met you in class. My, what an impact you had on me, young lady! From that moment I felt our kinship in Christ solidify. I know it would have evolved through the year anyway, but that was like a  jumper cable! Haha!

I guess I just hope that although I’m tough and strict – definitely a disciplinarian – that I also show through my actions that I am a Christian.

What advice do you have for other believers who are currently teaching? Be yourself and let your love for the students show every day.  Continue to pray for your students, especially those who challenge you the most.

What is your favorite thing about teaching? The students!!!  Amazing as it seems, I absolutely love teenagers.  They are going through such formative years and discovering themselves.  It’s rewarding to watch students mature from freshman year and then get to celebrate with them as seniors preparing to move on to the adult world.

How does your husband support you in the ministries you help with? Chris has always supported my involvement with Christian ministries and understands my passion for it.  

Does it ever scare you to be so open about your faith in the school? I have never been afraid to show my faith at work.  I am mindful of legal restrictions and don’t proselytize, but in my personal time and space, I feel comfortable showing my faith.  I also believe that I’ve been blessed to work with like-minded professionals throughout my career, and Christian love has always been evident in my schools.  I’m proud to say that students frequently impress me with their open displays of faith, and that is simply awesome to see.

 

Interview & Photography by Tori Santa Cruz

Tori Santa Cruz