Everyday Disciple: Stephanie's Story

This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."

Steph and I first met the summer after I graduated from high school, when we worked as camp counselors for the summer. Little could we have dreamed that six years later, she'd be in my wedding...or that I'd be marrying her brother. 

When we gather for the holidays, Steph always has stories to share about her students. She cares deeply for the children in her classroom and is personally invested in seeing them thrive. It's a delight to see - and I'm excited to share her story with you today. 

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Initially, I chose to study nursing in college. I had aspirations of becoming a missionary, and I knew it would equip me with a practical skill to work internationally. After wrestling through my first year of nursing classes and not doing well with blood in labs, though, I dropped my major.  

It was a very difficult decision for me, but I decided to switch my major to elementary education. My hope was that I could serve and minister to children through this profession. I also saw how teaching could be a way to serve and enter countries that are otherwise closed to outreach. I now teach first graders at a public elementary school. 

One of my greatest joys in teaching is helping kids to appreciate reading and watch them fall in love with a certain author or series. We celebrate these authors, check out their websites, and practice making their styles of illustrations. I have repeatedly seen my students get hooked on a series that we are reading in class. 

My other greatest joy is teaching relational skills to first graders. I love doing role play, in which we act out situations so that the students can see how to handle a situation in a healthy way. The joy comes when I see a student, or even an entire class, embrace those behaviors. I often think that this is a missed opportunity at school.

Each morning, we stand for the pledge and have a moment of silence. Since my first year of teaching I have felt led to pray for my class silently during our moment of silence. I then choose one student that day to be encouraged. I remind the class that our words have power, and we can use our words to bring people down or build them up. I call on two or three kids who raise their hands, and they encourage the student of the day. They share things like “He is kind” or “She is honest.” My prayer is that they continue to use their words powerfully in a loving way! 

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My students aren’t the only ones being formed in my classroom—I am too. I am reminded of God’s character and am stretched as a follower of Jesus through my job as a teacher. 

As I see kids in need of consistent structure, affirmation, discipline, and love, I am reminded that we need the same things from God and of how He delivers in His steadfastness and loyalty toward us.

I am shaped more into His likeness as I learn to love all of my students, especially on the days when a student is very challenging. 

When my work environment is plagued by gossip, comparing, or power struggles, I learn to invest in and encourage others instead of complaining about these issues. This has led me to host a weekly devotion time before school.

As each new year brings its own different challenges, God refines my heart as I learn to handle situations that test me and to trust Him in the midst of them. 

One of the current struggles in education is the constant pressure that teachers and students feel to perform well on testing. That pressure can sometimes cause me to compare myself to other teachers and question my abilities as a teacher. 

My faith influences me in this struggle, reminding me that God has handcrafted each of my students. He has carefully designed them, and they are all different. I have to remind myself that my identity and my students’ identities are not found in test scores.  

My faith community also encourages me in moments of struggle like this, when I’m doubting my abilities, feeling discouraged, or worn down physically. I need them to be my cheering section from time to time and remind me why I teach: in order to be a source of encouragement, education, and love in a child’s life.

I used to only place value in work that showed immediate growth. I think that is part of why I liked missions trips so much. I could see a house being built or a person praying to God for the first time. I could see a room filled with powerful worship. 

In the classroom, day to day life can look a little mundane. I am learning, though, that God is still working powerfully through small moments. I can give love and encouragement to children every single day. I can give them my attention and have a patient heart. I can model for them healthy relationships and a diligent work ethic. I do not know the lasting effects, but I choose to believe that God is shaping their hearts and hopefully making a lasting impact.

If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.