Our students got the benefit of a nice "fall break" this week while our teaching staff spent a couple of days being students themselves at a professional development event sponsored by the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) at Aurora Christian School last Thursday and Friday. Teachers get to listen to keynote speakers and participate in small group discussions aimed at helping them get information to do a better job than they already do. They get the opportunity to fellowship and visit with other teachers from Christian schools all over the Midwestern region. Teachers came from schools across Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan and there were even a few from Ohio.
Spending time with other Christian school teachers is motivation and encouragement for our own staff. It is good to spend time with fellow Christians who make similar sacrifices to teach children. It helps "charge your battery" when you spend time with people who share the same commitment to teaching children in a school that places faith formation right alongside academic achievement. Christian school teachers see their job as a ministry vocation and a spiritual calling. It's about doing a a good job with academic achievement so that students are prepared for the future as they enter higher education and a career field. But it is also about faith formation, connecting everything students learn in the classroom to a Biblical perspective and teaching the soul from the point of leading students to Jesus and helping them grow in their faith. It is impossible for education to take place in a vacuum. Thanks to teachers who see the value of helping students connect the knowledge they learn in class to a spiritual source and who are willing to sacrifice to teach, your children can be in a school where excellent academics go hand in hand with spiritual growth and Christian discipleship.
A conference like the one we attended helps dispel common misconceptions about Christian schools. The qualifications and requirements to teach in a Christian school are rigorous. Not only must teachers have proper credentials, certification and experience but they must also have a strong, mature Christian faith. It takes a mature Christian to understand all that teaching in Christian school requires. Many of the people sitting in those conferences last week already have an advanced degree in their field and are willing to provide for additional education, most often at their own expense, since few Christian schools can afford to help much with the cost of additional education. In addition to educational requirements, most Christian school teachers have also taken Biblical studies courses at the college or graduate level in order to ensure their competence as a student's spiritual counselor.
Giving up personal time for students is also a requirement and a sacrifice your child's Christian school teachers make. As I write this, at 7 P.M. on a school holiday, no doubt your child's teachers are either preparing for tomorrow or have already taken time today to do it, or they're grading papers or entering grades or coming up with lesson plans or any of a dozen things to get ready for tomorrow. It's "off the clock" but it is expected and our teachers are willing to invest the time to get the results. No doubt many of the materials and items your child will use in the classroom tomorrow were provided out of the teacher's personal pocket.
Tuition and fees are always a big discussion item when parents get together. The salaries Christian school teachers are willing to accept in order to serve are sacrificial compared to the life that most of the students are living. Those salaries make it possible for you to afford to send your child to a Christian school. Every one of your child's teachers has personally made it possible for your child to attend by working for wages which allow the school to keep tuition costs affordable for most parents. In order to pay our teachers at MCA the average salary of a teacher in the Chicago public schools would require us to more than double the current tuition and fee structure. Every teacher at MCA is qualified and experienced enough to teach anywhere else, and many of them have come from jobs in the public school system to work here because they know they are making a difference, and they care.
So when you come back to school tomorrow, keep all of this in mind. Your child is getting a strong academic education paired with Christian faith formation because of the work that their teachers and the school staff is willing to sacrifice in order to do. We hope you enjoyed your time off as much as we enjoyed our time together with other Christian school teachers and staff.
God's blessings to you!