“Teach Well”: Prof. Mulberry’s Address at Faculty Retreat

A week before the start of fall classes, Bethel’s faculty gathered yesterday morning for its annual retreat. The keynote speaker was our own Prof. Sam Mulberry ’99 — who was kind enough to let us post the text of his address. Not only will you learn a lot more about Sam’s story, but you’ll find plenty of connections to our department, as he reflected on his experience as a History major at Bethel who has returned to teach Bethel courses like GES130 Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) and HIS230L World War I.

August 27, 2019. When I was asked to give this talk and I saw the date, I immediately thought back to twenty years ago. Do you remember what you were doing on August 27, 1999? I do. I was sitting in a classroom a thousand miles from home in Mobile, Alabama. Everyone seemed triumphant and exhausted. It was a Friday morning and the night before we had all witnessed the greatest sporting event that I had ever seen.

It was my initiation into Alabama high school football and it was a doozy. As we were filing in to Ladd-Peebles Stadium, I was informed by a number of folks — all eager to teach a Northerner about “real” football — that this game was one of Alabama’s longest running football rivalries. Since 1935, the Murphy Panthers have batted their crosstown rivals — my school, the McGill-Toolen Yellow Jackets — for the right to paint the cannon on Mobile’s Government Street in their school colors. I was then told that I didn’t need to invest in any orange paint — somehow my Yellow Jacket’s official colors were orange and black (it’s a long story) — since McGill-Toolen hadn’t beaten Murphy in seven years, was coming off of a 1-9 record the season before, and was starting a junior quarterback named Michael Machen, who hadn’t even been on the team for his first two years of high school. Needless to say, my expectations were low.

The game started according to script. Murphy scored twice in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead, and I settled in to soak up the atmosphere. Then right before halftime, Michael Machen broke loose for a 61-yard touchdown run to keep the game within reach for the Yellow Jackets. Murphy came back on the first drive of the second half to push the score to 21-7 and remind everyone who was in charge. From there, however, a series of Murphy miscues let McGill-Toolen back in the game. The Yellow Jackets managed two late scores to tie the game at 21.

In the first overtime, McGill-Toolen was held scoreless from the 1-yard line. As Murphy was setting up for the game winning field goal, the Yellow Jacket coach sent Machen in on defense to try to make magic happen. When the ball was snapped, Machen managed to break straight up the middle and block the kick to keep our hopes alive. In the second overtime, Murphy scored to take at 28-21 lead. The Yellow Jackets found themselves down seven, fourth and goal from the 22-yard line. Machen scrambled in the backfield for what seemed like forever before finally hitting a receiver in the back of the end zone to tie the game 28-28.

The Yellow Jackets scored quickly in the third overtime to take a 35-28 lead. Murphy answered right away with a quick touchdown. As they were lining up to for the game-tying extra point, Michael Machen was again was sent out to join the defense. The snap, the kick, and another miraculous block by Machen sealed the Yellow Jacket win. Had you told me that Machen proceeded to tear off his jersey to reveal a big Superman “S” emblazoned on his chest, I think I would have believed it.

McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, AL – Wikimedia

I’m not the type of sports fan who cheers and yells much during moments like this. I’m more inclined to find the nearest person, stare them in the eyes, and declare, “We live in a world where this can happen.” And that night it did happen. The cannon in downtown Mobile was painted orange and adorned with the words: “McGill-Toolen 35, Murphy 34.” (Okay, if I’m being honest it actually said: “McGill-Tollen 35, Murphy 34.” Yes, the students at my school spelled the name of their own school wrong on the triumphant cannon. As the poet once said: “They may shine with the misinformation of the ages, but they shine.”)

I keep referring to McGill-Toolen as “my” school and that is because it was the school at which I was teaching. But in truth, it hadn’t been mine for very long. I had moved to Mobile just thirteen days earlier and I was at the end of my first week of teaching 9th and 10th grade art appreciation. I was twenty-two years old, living in a monastery with four elderly Catholic brothers, completely separated from everyone I knew and everyone who really knew me, teaching 14 and 15 year olds about art – a job I probably wasn’t qualified for in a field I was surely not qualified to teach. I know: this sounds like the set-up to a mediocre 1980s sitcom. But it was also my life. How did I end up here?

I guess that I had Bethel to thank for that. Earlier that April — with the end of my senior year closing in and no clear job opportunities on the horizon — I received a phone call out of the blue from a man in New Orleans named Brother Henry Gaither. He wanted to know if I was interested in coming down south to teach at one of his order’s schools. For some reason — let’s call it fear and desperation — I said, “Yes,” and he booked me a flight.

On the day I graduated, I hopped on a plane and flew south. The next day, I toured McGill-Toolen High School and met with their principal, Dr. Bill Lee. He asked me what I thought could teach, and I said, “Well, I majored in History, but I also took a lot of classes in in Literature, Philosophy, Art, Math, Religion, and Computer Science.” He responded, “We could use an Art teacher, sound good?” I said “Yes,” and my fate was sealed.

Let me just say this now: that is a weird story about getting a teaching job. I want to tell you that they did a thorough educational background check on me, or looked at my college transcripts, or asked me to draw or paint a picture for them, or even really asked me any follow up questions…but as far as I can remember, none of that ever happened. Now to be fair, they were hiring for a job that paid only $100 a month with room and board and a year of college loan deferment, but still.

At this point I can feel this talk veering towards becoming an indictment of late-90s Alabama secondary education hiring policy, but I want to gently steer away from that if I may.

Sam Mulberry addressing the Bethel faculty retreat on Aug. 27, 2019
Photo by Chris Gehrz

Instead, I want to think about the answer that I gave when Dr. Lee asked me what I thought I could teach. What was I thinking listing all of those things? If you asked me today whether I thought I could teach a History class my answer would probably be, “Ah…I don’t know…maybe.” But twenty years ago I rattled off a list of subjects without even blinking. It was a moment of supreme confidence coming from a fairly unconfident person. Perhaps we can chalk it up to the arrogance of youth coupled with desperation for employment. I’m sure that those things were in the mix, but I’m also pretty certain that there was something else going on. And that is where my experience as a student at Bethel and the work that all of you do comes into play.

When I have the opportunity to serve on panels at Bethel admissions events, there are two questions that inevitably get asked, and I think that my answers to these questions explain my response to Dr. Lee twenty years ago. The first question is some version of: Why did you come to Bethel, and why do you stay? There is no good reason why I came to Bethel as a student, and by that I mean there is no clear logical reason that I came.

I grew up in southern Minnesota. I attended Catholic schools. My religious life was shaped largely by some dedicated teachers, a few of whom were fairly progressive, social justice-minded Dominican nuns. My main reason for even applying was that my best friend was Baptist and was committed to attending Bethel. In truth, I applied mostly as a favor to him. Early in the spring of my senior year of high school, I spent a Saturday morning determined to make my college decision. I had narrowed my choices down to Bethel and Notre Dame. I sat in my basement and read the course catalog for each school. Now admittedly the course catalog is kind of strange document to choose, but you have to remember that 1995 was pre-internet – at least for me – so there wasn’t much else to look to. I read both catalogs cover to cover and when I reached the end of the Bethel catalog I just somehow felt – in what I can only describe as “in my heart” – that I was supposed to go to Bethel. I know that it is not exactly John Wesley’s conversion experience at Aldersgate Street, but it really was probably the first real pietistic experience in my life.

The start of the History section in the Bethel catalog that Sam reviewed as a high school senior – Bethel University Digital Library

When I think about my four years as a student at Bethel, the overwhelming feeling that I had was the feeling that I was being invested in.

I found myself surrounded by professors who were investing in me — in my education and in the person that I was becoming. And let me say right now that I was not special. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating or falsely humble kind of way. What I mean by that is that while my specific experiences were unique to me, my experience of this community — this faculty — actively investing in me was not unique. This was a common component of the experience of being a student here.

There are so many people I could name who invested in me, but I want to point to a few. The first and probably most constant presence in my life as a Bethel student was a professor named Virginia Lettinga. It makes me feel very old when I realize that if your connection with Bethel began after 2003, you likely don’t know what a Lettinga is.

Let me give you some quick context. Virginia and her husband Neil both taught CWC. They were both integral to making CWC run, and Virginia was central to the day to day operations of the course. She also oversaw the CWC teaching assistants, was the co-director of the Academic Enrichment and Supporter Center (AESC), did academic counseling, directed the Fresh Start Program for a while, and co-taught an interim course on World War I.

(Does that sound familiar? As I read those sentences I realize that my whole career at Bethel walks the fine line between loving homage and identity theft.)

I worked as one of Virginia’s TAs for five semesters and in that time she was constantly finding new ways to invest in me. She gave me every opportunity to learn to be a teacher. She was always putting me in positions to teach whether it was one-on-one tutoring, working with a small group, or leading a workshop of eighty or more students. She believed in me as a student and as a TA. In 2001 it was Virginia who invited me back to Bethel to teach CWC. It was Virginia who asked me to help her with tutor training. It was Virginia who convinced me to do a few AESC counseling appointments per week. When she and Neil announced that they were leaving Bethel to begin ministry work in British Columbia, it occurred to me that Virginia had been preparing me to pick up her work ever since I started as her TA in 1996 — even though there was no way then that she could have known that that moment would ever come.

A 2018 reunion of former Bethel faculty and staff – from left to right: Neil Lettinga, Kevin Cragg, Carole Cragg, and Virginia Lettinga – Photo by Chris Gehrz

Another professor who deeply invested in me was Diana Magnuson. In my first semester as a History major, I found myself in two of her classes. I remember her asking me what I wanted to do after college. I said that I wanted to go to graduate school and eventually teach at a place like Bethel. And my big dream was to one day teach a course like CWC. She hired me as her TA and found me work that would prepare me for the job that I wanted. She had me lead exam reviews and tutor her students. She taught me how to write good quizzes and how to give helpful feedback when grading.

And when it came time to apply to graduate school, she was the person who got me in the door. I know, because I remember getting a letter of rejection from the U of MN, and then a few weeks later this was followed up by a letter of acceptance and a research assistantship. In the weeks between that first letter and the second, Diana had reached out to her colleagues at the U of MN and asked them to give me a second look. That act of kindness — that act of investment in me — fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life.

I know what it feels to be invested in. This is what you do when you reach out to a student. When you give them a little more of your time. You all do this every day, and I want you to know that it matters. It mattered for me.

And it wasn’t just those folks with whom I had a professor-TA relationship who were investing in me. Nearly every time I stepped into a Bethel classroom I encountered a teacher who was there to invest in me, if only I would let them. They offered me what they could teach me about their subject matter and they also gave me daily lessons about how to teach. They served as a constant example of how they teach. There is nothing quite like watching someone teaching their heart out. There is nothing that I find more inspiring.

The best academic advice that I ever received when I was a student came from Neil Lettinga, Bethel’s European history professor and the husband of Virginia. I had recently changed my major from a one with a lot of required credits, Computer Science, to a major with relatively few, History. This meant that all of the sudden I had a lot more elective credits than I had planned. I remember asking Neil what he thought I should do with those electives. Should I try to double-major or pick up a minor or two? Neil’s advice for me was that with what I wanted to do, a minor or even another major probably wasn’t going to matter that much. Instead, I should go out and talk to students that I respected from other departments and ask them who they thought were the best teachers at Bethel. Then just take classes from those teachers regardless of the subject matter.

Simply put, he told me to minor in the best teachers at Bethel. Watch them teach. Learn what you can from them. That was great advice it led me to classrooms, subjects, readings, ideas and professors that I might not have encountered otherwise.

Then more than twenty years later in spring of 2018, I was on sabbatical and returned to this advice and built my entire project around it. I spent my semester interviewing some of the best teachers at this school. And one of my favorite questions to ask them was: Who was your favorite teacher? It was so interesting to hear the wide array of stories that they told. I spent a long while trying to figure out what the thread running through all those stories was. I edited together each person’s story and used it as the opening to my film, Why We Teach. As I watched it, I realized what connected all these stories from people talking about their favorite teachers. As they were talking about their favorite teachers — the people who inspired them, the people who made them want to teach — they all, without knowing it, were kind of describing themselves as a teacher.

This really hit home for me when I was listening to one of my favorite profs: psychologist Kathy Nevins. Here is the story that she told:

It is a story about how a teacher managed to see past the syllabus and course requirements and find a student who was truly energized by the questions. He found a way to take the passions of that student and recreate the course for her on the fly. As she was telling that story, it dawned on me that if you asked me to tell stories about the most important teachers in my life, I’d have almost the exact same story to tell. But in my story, it is Kathy Nevins in the role of the professor who is seeing past the syllabus and requirements… and the student is me. In a single moment, sitting in a dank AC 3rd floor classroom, Kathy reoriented the way I thought about the class I was taking and really opened my eyes up to what was possible.

It is moments like these that often serve to sustain us as students and as teachers. But sometimes it feels like these moments are rare. This can be true, and there are many days — probably most days — where we don’t feel like what we are doing is really reaching our students. Sometimes the impact of your teaching and the investment that you are making takes a long time to take hold in a student. There are many cases where you will never see the fruits of your labor.

There was a class that I took during interim of my senior year that I would have described at the time as interesting, but ultimately frustrating. That is probably not the quote that you want to read your course evaluations. For all I know, I probably even wrote that on the IDEA form for the class. The course was Biblical Theology of Justice with Karen McKinney. As frustrated as I was while I was taking that class — a frustration born of my wanting to think that there were solutions to my problems, to America’s problems, to society’s problems and Karen constantly insisting to me that, “No, it’s more complicated than that and more important” — I can honestly say that the things we talked about in that class have stuck with me like none other. This has been especially true over the last five years. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about the issues we talked about in that class. I’m constantly thinking about the simulations that Karen had us work through in class and they help frame the way that I think about questions of justice. I am deeply sorry that I was a frustrating student, and I’m truly grateful that I was frustrated. I didn’t see it in the moment, but she was investing deeply in me and in all of us.

It is in these exact moments that we realize how much the acts of teaching and learning really are acts of faith. The purest articulation of this idea in the classroom that I’ve seen came this past January when I was teaching in Europe with another one of my favorite teachers and best friends: Chris Gehrz. We were on one of the last days of our World War I travel course. Our group had made it to Munich and had just spent some very somber time touring the concentration camp in Dachau. We began our time sending the students out to explore the museum and the grounds of the camp, and Chris had asked them to reconvene after a time in the Protestant chapel at one end of the camp. I took this photo of Chris addressing the students.

Prof. Chris Gehrz teaching Bethel students in the Protestant chapel at the Dachau concentration camp memorial site
Photo by Sam Mulberry

At one level, I think that this serves as a pretty good testament to the power of study abroad and learning history on location. Do you notice how the students are standing? This is a group of people who had been together for three solid weeks. We had traveled across Europe together studying World War I. We — in the most literal sense — had been in the trenches together. It’s as close to a family as a classroom can get. But after about ninety minutes of walking through Dachau — of being deeply impacted by learning about humanity’s potential for inhumanity in a really direct way — no one could bring themselves to stand within three feet of another person. Not even their closest friends.

As interesting as that is, however, the thing that really moved me at this moment was what Chris was saying to them. It is something that I had heard him say before. He talked about it when I interviewed him back in the spring of 2018. But it’s different when you hear it said in the classroom. It was one of those moments that I love when a teacher just puts all their cards on the table and opens up to their students. Here is the gist of what he said:

This leads naturally into the second question that inevitably gets asked at admissions events: What advice do you have for students as they enter into college? There are so many things that I want to tell them, but I always seem to find my way to the same answer: Whether you decide to go to Bethel or not, take your general education courses seriously.

Some students come to Bethel with an absolutely clear sense of what they want to major in, some come with no idea at all, and most come with what they think is a clear sense of what they want to major in… only to learn that they have no idea. In all of these cases, however, this advice rings true. If a student is willing to go into their gen ed courses with an open heart, and we’re willing to teach our hearts out, then those courses have the power to change lives.

That’s what happened to me. I came to Bethel as a Computer Science major. In my first semester I had Math and CS classes, but I was also enrolled in CWC to fulfill my gen ed requirements. A year later I had changed my major and was telling Diana Magnuson that my dream was to someday teach a class like CWC at a place like Bethel. Five years after that that’s exactly what I was doing. We live in a world where this can happen.

The cover of the CWC study guide during Sam’s first year as a CWCTA — Bethel University Digital Library

So what was it about CWC? Sure, I loved the subject matter, but that wasn’t entirely it. There was something more that drew me to it. There was something else, something deeper humming beneath the surface of the course. It was a humming that hinted at this being about something bigger and more important than a set of readings, or vocab terms, or theories, or tests and papers or even pathways to future careers.

Every once in a while that humming that I sensed under the course broke through and made itself known loud and clear. I want to share one of those moments with you. This clip comes from a CWC lecture from back in the fall of 2005. It features one of my favorite teachers. It is pulled from an old VHS tape and the quality is not the best, but it is pretty special to me. Let me set the stage. Bethel Philosophy professor David Williams was doing a pretty normal thing: lecturing on ancient Greek philosophy. He was talking to the students in CC 313 about Plato’s theory of the soul and his understanding of reality and the forms. Like I said, pretty common CWC fare. As he was wrapping up, David said this:

That’s it. That’s the hum underneath it all. We live in a world — we teach in a school — where that can happen. And I need to tell you this that was not “A very special episode of CWC.” That was just a regular B-Mod lecture in CC 313. Is there any wonder why — to me — that classroom is nothing less than holy ground?

And CWC is not special. Well, it’s special to me, but it’s not unique. That hum under the surface is not the sole domain of GES130. It ran through many of the classes that I had here at Bethel. It hummed while Dale Johnson did painting demonstrations. It hummed under discussions led by Kathy Nevins. It hummed through Karen McKinney’s in-class simulations. It hummed when Kevin Cragg told stories of the ancient world. It’s that hum that assures me that what we all do in these classrooms really is about the most important things. It is about real transformation. It hums under the classes that all of you teach, and it breaks through every time that you are really teaching your heart out. That’s why I’m inclined to think that your classrooms are holy ground, too.

I realize that I keep saying “teach your heart out.” What do I mean by that? It’s hard to say precisely. Most of me wants to say that you all know exactly what I mean. In truth I know that you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve been in classrooms as a student when someone is doing it. You know what it feels like to do it yourself. I have this little part of me that wants to try to explain exactly what I mean when I say “teach your heart out,” but I’m too skeptical about trying to explain those things that we know through feeling. It’s why I’m always nervous to talk too much about my own personal faith. Sometimes when I talk too much about the things that matter most to me — when I try to convert those things to words — they cease to be what they are. My faith — the thing that drives and shapes who I am — is turned into something that sounds like life advice or even worse a set of theological arguments. And in the same way saying anything I would say beyond “teach your heart out” might seem like it is getting dangerously close to being teaching advice. And I’m in no position to give any of you teaching advice.

But I also feel too strongly that I should say something more — if only just a little. Instead of avoiding teaching advice, I’ll steer right into it. I’ll try and say it in as few words as possible, and then we can move on. They’re not even my words. It’s the most important teaching advice I’ve ever received and it comes, once again, from Neil Lettinga.

Neil Lettinga in 1994
Neil Lettinga in the October 7, 1994 issue of The Clarion – Bethel Digital Library

The advice is simply this: “Teach well.”

Now to be fair to Neil, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t saying it to me as teaching advice exactly. It was more of his way of ending a conversation. As I walked away, he’d always send me off by saying, “Teach well.” Come to think of it, I’m pretty certain that he didn’t intend this to be any other than his way of saying goodbye. But as a new teacher who didn’t know what I was doing, I took my inspiration where I could get it. It took it as a kind of grand commission to be faithful to the example of every great teacher that I’d ever had. To take my student’s seriously. To really offer up myself — the thing that I had spent much of my life trying to hide — to the class. To be sincere even when sincerity didn’t feel cool. To challenge and support. To love and forgive. To realize that all of this can be sacred. To treat that classroom as holy ground.

So when Dr. Lee asked me twenty years ago what I thought I could teach, that is why I rattled off that list of subjects. I had spent four years listening to that hum in these classrooms. I followed it from room to room, class to class. I had spent four years surrounded by people who were investing in me and investing in everyone around me. They did this in ways that I could see and ways that I will never fully know. What else could I have told him?

And it was that investment and that hum resonating in my heart that brought me to that classroom twenty years ago today, tired and triumphant. It was those things that led me back to that classroom day after day for the whole year. In truth, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to teach. But all of my heroes were teachers, and I felt that I owed something to them and something to that hum. So I lashed together the experiences that I’d had — the teachers that I’d encountered, the classes I’d taken, the things the I’d read — and carried them with me into the classroom. There were a few successes and more failures. On most days I managed to survive. It was hard.

There were some mornings when I would sit alone in my room and wonder if I could muster up the courage to go back into the classroom. In moments like this, I would go to my shelf, grab a book, and hope for inspiration. There was one book that I found myself returning to again and again. I keep a copy of it in office to this day. I read it when times get tough – when after too many meetings and discussions about budget cuts and another round of prioritization leaves me feeling like I’m not sure I have anything more to give. One of my favorite questions to ask people is: If you could recommend one book which could be used to explain something about who you are and how you experience to the world, what book would it be?

For me it’s a novella by J.D. Salinger called Seymour: An Introduction. It is a digressive story in which the narrator — Buddy Glass, himself an English teacher at a women’s college in upstate New York — attempts to make an account of his older brother Seymour — another teacher/poet — who committed suicide about ten years earlier.  On the last pages of the story, Buddy writes:

Salinger, Nine StoriesI’m finished with this. Or, rather, it’s finished with me. Fundamentally, my mind has always balked at any kind of ending. How many stories have I torn up since I was a boy simply because they had what that old Checkov-baiting noise Somerset Maugham calls a Beginning, a Middle, and an End? Thirty-five? Fifty? One of the thousand reasons I quit going to the theatre when I was about twenty was that I resented like hell filing out of the theatre just because some playwright was forever slamming down his silly curtain. (Whatever happened to that stalwart bore Fortinbras? Who eventually fixed his wagon?) Nonetheless, I’m done here. There are one or two more fragmentary physical-type remarks I’d like to make, but I feel too strongly that my time is up. Also, it’s twenty to seven, and I have a nine-o’clock class. There’s just enough time for a half hour nap, a shave, and maybe a cool, refreshing blood bath. I have an impulse – more of an old urban reflex than an impulse, thank God – to say something mildly caustic about the twenty-four young ladies, just back from big weekends at Cambridge or Hanover or New Haven, who will be waiting for me in Room 307, but I can’t finish writing a description of Seymour – even a bad description, even one where my ego, my perpetual lust to share top billing with him, is all over the place – without being conscious of the good, the real. This is too grand a thing to be said (so I’m just the man to say it), but I can’t be my brother’s brother for nothing, and I know – not always, but I know – there is no single thing I do that is more important than going into that awful Room 307. There isn’t one girl in there, including the Terrible Miss Zabel, who is not as much my sister as Boo Boo or Franny. They may shine with the misinformation of the ages, but they shine. This thought manage to stun me: There’s no place I’d really rather go right now that into Room 307. Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. Is he never wrong? 

Teach Well.


Some Back-to-School Inspiration for Teachers

If you’re one of our many alumni working as a teacher or professor — or you’re teaching in other contexts — and you haven’t yet seen Prof. Mulberry’s Why We Teach documentary… I recommended it this morning in my weekly post at The Anxious Bench blog on Patheos.

Why We Teach titleBethel BTS alum Sara Misgen ’13 (now finishing a PhD in theology at Yale University) told me why she resonated so strongly with Why We Teach. Perhaps some of you would respond similarly:

I rarely find myself nostalgic for Bethel, but this film got at the heart of what I loved about that place, and what I still love about it. I loved that my professors took an interest in me as a person, that they make space in their busy days to listen to the stories of their students, as so many of the teachers of this film point out. I love that my life was changed through their courses, that I’m still in contact with so many of you five years after my graduation.

…Bethel’s distinctiveness isn’t in the campus, in the buildings, or even in some of its more obscure traditions. It’s in the relationships of faculty and students, and I’m so glad to see that was captured here.

If you don’t need convincing, skip my post and just go straight to Sam’s movie. It’ll only take an hour and a half of your time.

Happy preparations for the start of a new school year!

Recent Bethel Alumni Teaching History

Summer is winding down for our Social Studies Education alumni preparing to return to their teaching jobs this fall.  Joining the numerous veterans will be Andrew Fort ’18, who has a full-time position at Greenway Public Schools in Coleridge, Minnesota. Christina Sibileva ’18 has also recently accepted a teaching job at Highview Middle School (part of the Mounds View Public School District) where she will be teaching Minnesota history.

Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra, Sarah Sauer, Dr. Gehrz, Dr. Magnuson, and Andrew Fort
Spring 2018 Graduation, Dr. Kooistra and Christina Sibileva

Interacting with students in a traditional classroom, however, is not the only way Bethel graduates have been involved in teaching history.  As Dr. Gehrz has noted, one of our best resources for teaching (and learning) Minnesota history is the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).  In his post, Dr. Gehrz reviewed several of MNHS’s historic sites, including the Oliver Kelley Farm.  The farm features several “costumed staff,” one of whom is Mikalah Pruss ’17.  These individuals teach visitors about farming in the nineteenth century by way of “experiential” learning.  Just as our newest teachers join the ranks of other Bethel veterans, we also have veterans working in the field of public history.  Eve Burlingame ’08, for example, has spent the last several years working at the Eidem Homestead, a historical site maintained by the Brooklyn Park Recreation and Park’s Department.  My hope is that we continue to facilitate the training of ever more teachers of history–both in “traditional” and “non-traditional” classrooms. 

Mikalah Pruss at the Oliver Kelley Farm (Summer 2018). I found this photograph on the Oliver Kelley Farm’s website under its “social media” section featuring twitter and instagram photographs from visitors to the site.  This photo came from “amayzingbailey.”

Why We Teach

Last night Bethel hosted the premiere of Prof. Sam Mulberry’s documentary film, Why We Teach, featuring interviews with fifteen recipients of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award for Teaching (including Prof. Chris Gehrz). If you couldn’t be there, the full film is now available to stream:

Filmed and edited over the course of Prof. Mulberry’s spring sabbatical, Why We Teach is available at his CWC Radio Films website. In addition, there you’ll find the original faculty interviews and a searchable database of topical clips. For example, here’s Prof. Gehrz trying out some metaphors for teaching the liberal arts, including a moving story from HIS231L World War II that made the cut for the final draft of the film.

Save the Date: The Premiere of Prof. Mulberry’s Sabbatical Film on Teaching at Bethel

While he’s technically on sabbatical from Bethel, Prof. Sam Mulberry has actually spent most of his spring thinking and talking about Bethel.

Sam MulberryFor his primary sabbatical project, Sam has been filming interviews with fifteen winners of the Bethel Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching — including 2009 recepient Chris Gehrz. (Sam won the excellence award for service this past August.)

Eventually, those interviews will be available in an online archive, but Sam has also edited them into a documentary film, Why We Teach. If you’d like to see the film’s premiere, come to CC 313 at 7pm on Wednesday, May 23rd. (Earlier that day, Sam will talk about the larger sabbatical project as part of our annual West by Midwest forum on innovation in teaching — 1:30pm in the Bethel Maker Space.)

Meanwhile, enjoy the trailer for Why We Teach, featuring Sara Shady (Philosophy), Dan Ritchie and Joey Horstman (English), Carole Young (Psychology), Ken Steinbach (Art), Leta Frazier (Communication Studies), and Dick Peterson (Physics).

Alumni Teaching Roundtable: Grad School and Final Advice

Today we wrap up our three-part alumni conversation on teaching in middle and high school. Thanks once more to our outstanding panelists: Micayla Moore ’16, Kelly Van Wyk ’15, Daniel Rimmereid ’15, Zach Haskins ’14, and Joe Held ’13.

Have you started work on a master’s degree? How did you pick the school and program? At what point in the career would you recommend that teachers go back to school?

JH: Teaching provides financial compensation with attaining a master’s degree. I chose to begin my M.A. rather quickly after starting teaching so as to move along the “Steps and Lanes” as soon as possible. I got my Master’s in Educational Leadership from Concordia University Saint Paul (CSP). I had considered Bethel for a master’s degree, but there is benefit to getting an education from a different school. Multiple perspectives and schools can enrich personal growth.

MM: I just started my master’s in instructional design from Western Governor’s University (WGU). It’s an all online, flexible way to get your master’s. WGU is known for its progressive model of competency-based instead of credit-based education, which means if you can show you’re competent in a topic within the program, you can essentially demonstrate that and move on in the coursework so you don’t waste time and money on
information/skills that you’ve already mastered.

Middle schoolers in Micayla Moore's cultures elective course
Some of Micayla’s Spanish immersion middle schoolers in action, designing class flags for a cultures elective

ZH: I started my master’s in educational leadership at St. Mary’s University in the Fall of 2017. I picked the program because it was one that many of my co-workers have gone through, and it is available entirely online. This makes it much easier as a teacher and a coach to be able to get that education.

JH: I chose Concordia’s program for a few reasons. The first being cost. CSP was markedly more affordable than some of the neighboring universities with the same program. The second being the CSP has a reputation for offering pretty rigorous master’s programs. I have many colleagues who received master’s degrees from other universities, and they talk about how they barely had any work. You get out of learning what you put into it. I absolutely love research and paper writing — I know, I’m strange that way — so I wanted a difficult program that would challenge me.

ZH: I would recommend starting your master’s as soon as you feel settled where you are working. I wanted to be at least in my second year at a building before starting. This allows you to adjust to a new school and then tackle your master’s later.

MM: I don’t know that I’d recommend doing it your first year of full-time teaching like I am. (It’s a little stressful!) But I would say do it when you’re younger if you can. I’m only a month or so into it, and it’s already provided immediate benefits to my teaching.

JH: Having completed my M.A. in Educational Leadership, I am now in the middle of getting my Educational Specialist Degree (again, at CSP). This is essentially a step in between a master’s and a doctoral degree (Ed.D). Once I complete this program, I will receive my administration license from the state of Minnesota. This will allow me to pursue becoming a principal down the road if and when I choose.

Any closing advice for current or prospective students thinking about teaching social studies?

MM:  Get involved with youth now in whatever capacity possible. Whether that’s tutoring, volunteering with youth groups, after school programs, etc. Spend time with kids. Get to know them. Spend time in different communities with people of different cultures. You can be so solid in content knowledge and your passion for social studies, but if you can’t connect to your students it means nothing.

ZH: Pursue what you love. Everyone knows that teachers do not make the most money, but you can do something that you really enjoy. Take courses that you find interesting and that will challenge you to make yourself a better teacher.

DR: I would say commit to a school for at least three years. That may seem like a long time but I think that after that you will really know if you want to teach and you will give yourself time to grow as a teacher. The third year really is so much better than the previous two. And get a mentor ASAP. Having someone observe me and give feedback bimonthly changed my teaching so much. It truly made me a much better teacher.

KVW: Think about teaching middle school if you can see yourself working with kids who are beginning to develop self-reliance but also are young and highly impressionable. It takes a lot of patience, clear communication, creativity, problem-solving, flexibility, stability, and humor. Most of all, you must be comfortable with teaching students in all areas: academically, socially, emotionally, etc. Do not go into middle school education if you are only comfortable with the academic side of teaching, or you will be miserable and your students will be miserable.

Kelly Van Wyk and some MOC-Floyd Valley middle schoolers
Kelly and some of her middle school students from Alton, Iowa

DR: I always want more Bethel grads to try teaching in Minneapolis or St. Paul. We could always use more Christians, and those schools are often short on teachers. There are some awesome staff who have really made their life mission teaching here, and I love my colleagues who have given their life to these kids. They are an inspiration to me daily.

JH: The most challenging aspect of being a teacher is planning for the unexpected. Let me tell you a quick story. A few weeks ago, I went to bed at night expecting to teach the next day about the historical importance of the Berlin Wall. I had a killer lesson plan ready and was feeling good about the next day. When I got to school, the following happened:

Period 1) Found out one of my student’s siblings committed suicide; that student had a breakdown/seizure in class.

Period 2) Unexpected school lock down because a student made a threat to the school on social media.

Period 3) One of my students had the stomach flu and threw up in my garbage can during my lesson.

Period 4) Blessedly, nothing happened so I spent that hour trying to get the smell of vomit out of my room.

Period 5) Caught a student vaping in the back of my class and had to get security to come down because he would leave to go to the office.

Each of these things happened in the middle of my super awesome and killer lesson plan. In fact, none of my classes finished what I was hoping to get done. They were completely distracted and had very little interest in the Berlin Wall. Weird, right?

The perspective I would pass along is to remember three things: 1) You must have a sense of humor to be a teacher. Do not take yourself too seriously. 2) Plan to be flexible. Something unexpected will always happen. The sooner you can find peace with that, the less emotionally traumatic teaching will be for you. 3) Finally, remember why you love to teach. It is, and must be, always about the students. These students are with you everyday for a semester. What impact do you want to have? Remember that some things in life are more important than any lesson plan that you made. Build relationships and continue to cultivate those relationships throughout the year. If you show them that you care for them as individuals, I guarantee that they will begin to find excitement in that content that you are going to be teaching them.

MM: Teaching and learning social studies with young people is worth it. There is such a need for kind, compassionate educators in today’s schools. Students need to be known, loved, nurtured, and challenged, and that’s what you get to do as a teacher.

KVW: Just throwing this out there: you can major in history and find a job outside of social studies education. Don’t feel like education is your only option if you major in the humanities!

<<Read the previous post in this series

Alumni Teaching Roundtable: From Bethel to the Workforce

Part two of our roundtable conversation on teaching with five recent Bethel Social Studies Ed/History grads. Thanks again to our panelists: Joe Held ’13 (Centennial High School in Lino Lakes); Zach Haskins ’14 (Shakopee High School); Kelly Van Wyk ’15 (MOC-Floyd Valley Schools in Alton, IA); Daniel Rimmereid ’15 (Franklin Middle School in North Minneapolis); and Micayla Moore ’16 (Minnetonka Middle School West in Excelsior).

What’s the most important thing about teaching that you learned at Bethel (whether from an Ed class or in the History department)? What have you had to learn on the job?

MM: First, from Amy Poppinga’s course History and the Human Environment I learned how to engage learners using a variety of instructional strategies. I always say I learned as much (or more) about how to teach just from being Poppinga’s student than I did in most of my education classes. Second, from AnneMarie Kooistra I learned how to support and challenge students. As her TA, I had the privilege of watching her build meaningful relationships with a wide open door policy. She has an amazing ability to make you feel valued and heard, no matter if you’re a business major just trying to pass American Civ. or a history nerd who wants to be her someday. She is so good at caring for her students and giving them what they need, whether that’s a challenge or accommodation.

DR: I have left deeply valuing my history professors’ and classes’ impact on my view of the world and, specific to my job, how I view and think about race. I work in a predominantly black school and the other portions are also students of color. History opened up my eyes to the history of race in America and how that impacts so much of life today. I cannot begin to teach if I first do not learn from my students and I think studying history has really helped me start there.

Joe Held '13
Joe currently teaches AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, and U.S. History at Centennial High School

JH: The most important thing that I learned about teaching was to view students holistically. Many teachers take students’ actions (or even a poorly written assignment) as a personal attack. This type of understanding will burn you out quickly as an educator. Remember that in a class of 35+, you will have some students with no home, some who have been abused, some who are incredibly smart, and some who have special needs. Bethel taught me that I need to keep my students’ mental, physical, and emotional health in mind just as much as I do academic achievements.

ZH: The most important thing I learned was to be prepared to be a diverse educator. I mean this in the sense that you will never know what type of school you will work in and you need to make sure that you are effectively teaching students from all backgrounds and walks of life. I have worked in three districts that are very different from each other. The diversity of those schools can make a difference in how you teach. An educator must be prepared in how to effectively work with students from various backgrounds.

DR: Education classes did not prepare me for teaching in such a diverse setting. I did not have the classroom management tools; I was in culture shock and had to fight really hard in college to get diverse placements. Once I got here I asked lots of questions, especially to my colleagues of color. I asked many people to observe me, and I really did observe others. This helped to raise me expectations for my students. I think the most helpful thing I have learned after three years is that you cannot have high academic expectations without high behavior expectations for your students.

KVW: The thing I have had to learn on the job is that you will be bad when you start teaching. You will be an objectively terrible teacher. So collaborate with the pros: experience teachers who have been through the same things you are experiencing now. Listen before jumping in to speak. And take each day at a time with this goal in mind: what am I going to improve for tomorrow?

ZH: One thing that I have had to learn on the job is that, as a new teacher, you will always feel like you have more to do to be prepared. Being a new teacher is difficult and there never seems to be enough time. As long as you have the students interest at heart, you will be effective. Know that the profession will get easier in time!

How (and how quickly) did you get your current position? Was it difficult finding a full-time teaching job? (If you’re not teaching social studies, how/why did you switch?)

ZH: The job market is difficult for social studies. I applied to countless jobs the first three summers out of college. My first year out I got a long-term sub job, my second year out I was a part time teacher. Finally, by the third year I was able to get hired full-time at Shakopee High School. There are so many people that apply to every social studies teaching position listed that it gets very difficult to even get an interview.

JH: I student taught at Centennial High School during my senior year at Bethel. I treated this experience as 4-month “interview/audition.” Even though it didn’t appear that there would be any openings at CHS, I wanted to put in 110%. Following graduation, I taught for one year at Minnesota Virtual High School as an online teacher. Fortunately, I got a call from the SS Department Chair at Centennial saying that they would like me to apply for a job. I’ve never looked back.

ZH: The key is to make connections to schools and districts and stay in contact with them. Every interview I received was because I had made a connection with another person within the district. It was a challenging process, but you just have to keep with it and keep your head up. Talk to administrators of schools when you do your student teaching or observations, coach at schools, help out, and do anything to get yourself noticed. This can definitely help you in the job search.

KVW: I really had to work hard to find connections with the school districts to which I applied. The teaching market was flooded with applicants when I graduated, so I had to expand my search beyond the Twin Cities to find an opening. I got my job in June after I graduated, and I felt very lucky to have found a full-time position.

MM: Minnetonka recruited me right out of college and offered me a job in spring 2016. Instead, I said yes to a charter school in Minneapolis. That charter school ended up unexpectedly closing a week before school started in 2016-2017, so I was suddenly unemployed. But the Lord is so so faithful and knows exactly what He’s doing even when we are clueless. So I spent last year subbing all over the metro and then working in Costa Rica for three months at an orphanage. I decided to apply with Minnetonka again. I reached out to some people I had met the year before, had my interview, and accepted the job two days after I returned from Costa Rica in June. The second time around, it was the right fit.

KVW: The entire search took a lot more patience and persistence than I anticipated for sure, which was a really valuable lesson for me right out of college.

DR: Cast your nets wide. That may look like another state, abroad, or even a district you didn’t plan on teaching at. I would recommend really thinking about teaching abroad. Some countries have awesome programs that pay more than teaching in the US.

What’s the best part of your current job?

DR: I love seeing students grow and building relationships with them. I would also say I have learned so much about North Minneapolis, poverty, and the challenges that come with being a person of color in America.

KVW: The relationships that I have with my students and athletes are definitely the best part of my job. Research shows that one of the best indicators of student success is the presence of a caring, supportive adult in their lives. I love that I get to do that for my kids, and I wake up every day feeling like my efforts matter and make a difference in the lives of those I teach. I help kids feel heard, develop confidence and grit, and show them opportunities and ways of life that they are experiencing for the very first time. That sort of thing doesn’t get old.

MM: The best part of my job are undoubtedly my students. They are hilarious and teach me so much every single day. They’re patient and kind and I’m so proud of who they’re becoming.

JH: The best part of teaching senior classes (many of them being AP students) is when they stay in touch as they go off to college. I have many students go on to get business/economic degrees and will email/visit me to get help on their college assignments. It is incredibly rewarding when students want to keep you a part of their life as they move on. I take it as an honor to be a part of their learning process and their journey.

ZH: The best and most surprising aspects of my current job has been the ability to design new courses. I was asked to design a Criminal Justice course for Shakopee High School, and then teach that course this year. It has been a really cool process of building a course from the ground up and then watching it get implemented where you work.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

ZH: The most challenging aspect of the job has been the first year at the new building. Whenever you are in your first year at a new building, you feel like you are swamped. Getting adjusted to new curriculum, a new school and new co-workers is difficult. As you get more experience in a building and with the curriculum, it gets easier and manageable. You can switch from survival mode to design and enjoy mode!

JH: A challenging aspect is learning to balance your life and your job. Teaching can be emotionally all-consuming. It took a few years for me to finally be able to not spend hours (unpaid, of course) every night and weekend preparing for the next lesson and unit. Eventually you learn to triage your work life. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to becoming efficient in your teaching career.

DR: I would say the hardest part of teaching where I teach is teaching students in poverty, high concentrations of underperforming students and underfunded districts and schools that service these students.

MM: The most challenging aspect in my job is the immersion context and writing quality curriculum for a developing program. Finding primary sources in Spanish to use for a 7th grade U.S. history course can be challenging!

KVW: On the other side of the coin, there are a lot of challenges in education. Being a social studies teacher, my subject tends to draw out a lot of the controversial issues in current affairs. As both a Christian and a professional educator, I am constantly seeking wisdom in how to broach these hard topics in a balanced manner: one that seeks truth and integrity yet compassionately considers the variety of perspectives involved.

DR: I will also be honest, the behavior will take a while to learn how to manage.

KVW: Not to mention that there are some days when no matter how hard you try, your students are just not that excited to receive an education. That’s why it’s so important to have a co-worker you can share your struggles with from time to time. And I can also attest to the power of having a chocolate stash somewhere in your desk for bad days.

<<Read part one of the conversation                Read the conclusion of this series>>

Alumni Teaching Roundtable: Picking a Major (or Two)

One of the historic strengths of our department has been preparing middle and high school social studies teachers — both through the multidisciplinary Social Studies Ed 5-12 major that we coordinate with the Education department and through our own History programs. (Here’s a current map of teaching placements.) To get an inside view of that kind of career, we asked five recent grads teaching in middle and high schools (urban, rural, and suburban) to reflect on their time at Bethel and their path to the classroom. This is the first in a three-part series.

Why did you major in Social Studies Education 5-12? Is that what you planned to do when you came to Bethel?

Micayla Moore ’16 (Minnetonka Middle School West – Excelsior, MN): I came into Bethel planning on the Social Studies Ed major, but I always say I finished my teaching degree for different reasons than I started it. My mom was a social studies teacher and I had always loved the subject and teaching others. (They had me pegged when my classmates voted me most likely to return to Hutchinson High School as a teacher.) But I really decided to stick with social studies ed when I realized, around my sophomore year, the impact of education as a vehicle for social change. I saw the power that solid education and good teachers can have in improving individual lives, families, and communities.

Kelly Van Wyk ’15 (MOC-Floyd Valley Community Schools – Alton, IA): When I first came to Bethel, I definitely had not planned on majoring in education, but the Lord has a sense of humor. When psychology and sociology proved to be ill-fitting, I switched to history simply because I had always loved the material and figured that it would be at least an interesting use of my time. Eventually, I picked up a few education courses to try out the major and after my first few field experiences with middle schoolers, my course was set.

Daniel Rimmereid ’15 (Franklin Middle School – Minneapolis, MN): Halfway through my college experience I realized that I cared deeply about education and believed in its power to impact and effect change. I also loved the humanities and wanted to continue talking about them with students and passing that love onto them.

For those of you who have worked in middle schools… what drew you to that age?
Kelly Van Wyk teaching
In addition to teaching 6th grade social studies and 8th grade American history, Kelly coaches high school volleyball and softball

KVW: The students were what hooked me. One of my passions is mentoring youth and the fact that middle level education is all about developing the whole person showed me that I absolutely love working with middle-schoolers. Many of my field experiences were with middle schoolers and I always enjoyed their enthusiasm and genuineness. Most high schoolers develop an edge and guardedness which makes them really skeptical of anything “over the top” in their book. My sixth-graders look at something that is “over the top” (e.g. dunking their social studies teacher in a dunk tank) and still think it’s socially acceptable to enjoy it. Emphatically.

MM: I always saw myself in a high school setting. I remember distinctly praying in my Intro to Education course, “Lord, please don’t send me to a middle school” for my placement, and I of course went to middle schools for every placement until student teaching. So I didn’t see myself in middle school, but I slowly warmed up to the idea. Now, I enjoy it and see it as a great fit for my personality and life stage.

Zach Haskins ’14 (Shakopee High School – Shakopee, MN): I taught middle school the first two years out of college. The funny part is that while at Bethel I told myself I would never teach at a middle school. However, I really enjoyed teaching middle school students. You should think about teaching middle school if you are quirky and like to nerd out about history stuff in class. Middle school students have an appreciation for quirkiness and they can be more enthusiastic than high schoolers about things they learn. Yes, they do have more energy, but when it is channeled the right way it can make for an awesome job.

MM: You should think about teaching middle school if you’re energetic, creative, and like a challenge.

DR: You should think about teaching middle school if you want to laugh everyday, have a thick skin, and are really sarcastic. They are funny and you will be very entertained. I am also frequently blown away by how they think about the world and how smart they are. I did not expect it, but enjoy parts of it.

All of you added a second major in History. What’s proven to be the most important benefit of double-majoring? Why should Social Studies Ed students do the extra work to complete the History major?

Joe Held ’13 (Centennial High School – Lino Lakes, MN): I have had colleagues who teach history and only had one or two intro-level courses in college. By majoring in history you are building your content repertoire. This will be beneficial to your students and you will need to spend less time relearning things when you get hired.

ZH: A major in history sets a social studies teacher up well to be knowledgeable in their content areas. In my first year at Shakopee High School I was assigned to teach AP US History, which is a tough course to teach. I felt much more comfortable because I had taken 21 credits worth of US History courses during my time at Bethel. If you are just a Social Studies Education major you get introduced to the various topics in social studies, but you will not dive in to the topics as much as you will when you have that second major. It also was a big help when I took the MTLE tests that allow graduates to get their teaching licenses. The MTLE tests that focus on content are difficult to pass, but the History major definitely made it more manageable. I would definitely encourage anyone to double major because it is not take that many more credits and it will help you to stand out when applying to jobs.

Micayla Moore
Micayla teaches Spanish immersion social studies at Minnetonka Middle School West

MM: The reading, writing, and research skills I learned in my history major, as well as the added content knowledge of U.S. history, have proven to be invaluable in my work as a teacher. I am a better investigator of sources and quality curriculum to use in my class. I am a better reading and writing coach. I am better at facilitating critical conversation around history and students’ perceptions.

KVW: My history major was invaluable. I honestly believe I would not be able to do my job without the critical thinking skills I fostered through studying history. Abilities such as recognizing various historical perspectives, wrestling with complexity on issues you wish were black and white, close-reading strategies of various sources, and taking informed action based on textual evidence (just to name a few) are all skills that serve me as an educator; especially now that Iowa has just recently re-written our social studies standards at all levels with an emphasis on these very skills.

JH: More importantly, majoring in History makes you more marketable. If you are applying for a Global Politics or World History position, schools are far more excited about an applicant who can say they took numerous courses on Middle East/Islamic history. It sets you apart from other candidates.

ZH: Definitely get a second major (like History) to make yourself more marketable in the job search.

JH: But for my part, the most beneficial aspect of majoring in History was in shaping my perception of the importance of history. Teaching is so much more than conveying information. It is about igniting an interest in learning itself. My History major, more than anything else, taught me that history gives you power to understand how world events were, are, and will be connected.

MM: Most importantly, my history degree informed my worldview and helped me realize the importance of considering historical narratives and using a variety of sources and perspectives when studying history. These two concepts are fundamental in each course that I teach.

KVW: Not only does this education benefit me professionally, but also on a more personal level. I feel like studying history has equipped me to be a better American citizen, a better informed contributor to the community in which I live, and a more studious Christian. Yes, I would definitely major in both history and social studies education again in a heartbeat.

Read part two>>

Prof. Poppinga on Teaching and Interfaith Engagement

Prof. Amy Poppinga recently published an article with Interfaith Youth Core’s INTER site. It starts with her taking Bethel students to a local mosque to observe worship and then share a meal. While the evening provoked some difficult conversation about theological differences, she found that the awkwardness actually led to considerable learning among her students:

Logo of Interfaith Youth CoreThere was agreement that the last hour of the evening had, indeed, been uncomfortable. While they were certainly taking that discomfort seriously, a few days of distance allowed them to laugh about the awkwardness of the encounter and consider it from different angles.

Students spoke about the need to not be defensive but rather to be okay with operating from a posture of learning. One commented that he could only imagine what it would be like to have the tables turned, and to be a Muslim listening to a Christian defend their theology in contrast to Islam. “I’m sure that happens a whole lot more often than what happened to us,” he remarked. A few students then began to discuss their own struggles with aspects of Christian theology, and an almost confessional atmosphere was created as some expressed the difficulty of articulating faith and truth claims.

Read the full article here.

History Teachers at the 2018 Conference on Faith and History

This fall the Conference and Faith and History (CFH) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as it holds its biennial conference (Calvin College, Oct. 4-6). One of the oldest Christian academic societies in North America, CFH describes itself as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history” and primarily aspires “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.” Bethel has long had faculty participate in CFH, with Prof. Gehrz currently serving on the group’s executive board.

Conference on Faith and History logo

While most CFH members are college and university professors and graduate students, we want to echo program chair John Fea’s invitation for middle and high school teachers to consider attending the conference. The schedule is still taking shape, but John reports that there will be a special session just on the role of secondary school teachers in CFH, and that several such educators have already proposed papers. Plus it’s a chance to engage in some continuing education as you hear papers and talks from leading scholars in a variety of fields (not just church/religious history). We’ll share the full schedule once it’s set, but the list of plenary speakers includes Margaret Bendroth (author of The Spiritual Practice of Remembering) and Robert Orsi (History and Presence).

Oh, and you’d have the chance to spend a few days with Bethel faculty: Profs. Gehrz, Goldberg, and Poppinga have all proposed papers or sessions for this year’s meeting.

Hope to see you at CFH 2018!