Teachers Make a Difference!

August 04, 2015 | Featured
By Lydia Zuidema

Teachers Make a Difference!

A number of years ago my oldest son shared a story about an experience he had while working at a Quiznos in Sacramento, CA.  At the time, he was attending art classes at a local university and learning important lessons about paying the rent, affording food, and taking care of himself.
The Quiznos catered to government officials at the California State Capitol building by day; and by night, to the homeless.  He explained that during the lunchtime press he occasionally made mistakes counting back coins to patrons.  Once things settled down, he would walk into the eating area to return the coins.  He said the patrons were always surprised at his honesty.
I asked, “Why did you do that?”  He thought about it and answered, “I have always remembered how Abraham Lincoln was honest and walked miles to return a few cents.”  “Where did you learn that?” I asked.  He told me he had learned about Lincoln’s honesty in elementary school.  His mama remembered that in third grade at our local Christian school, her son had once dressed up like Abe Lincoln and given a report on him.  Of course, we remember Abraham Lincoln as Honest Abe.
Most of us know that Abraham Lincoln had very little formal education: perhaps totaling one full year.  Today we would call his family transient—they moved around a lot!  Lincoln’s father couldn’t read or write; could barely write his own name.  We would call his parent illiterate.  Lincoln’s mother died when he was a boy and his father married a widow with three children.  He was raised in a blended family.  Today, we would probably consider him “at risk”—and yet, Abraham Lincoln’s life still inspires people for good worldwide. 
Most of us don’t know the name of the teacher (James Swaney) that encouraged Lincoln to read and write.  My son doesn’t remember the name of his third grade teacher.  His mama does: Mrs. Kelly.  And yet, those teachers did their jobs; they inspired their students to pursue good things—great things—God’s things. 
Teachers make a difference—whether for good or for bad.  In the 1930s, my dad was a troubled kid.  In fifth grade, the teacher assigned memorizing the U.S. states and their capitals.  Interested for the first time in his life, Dad easily aced the test, only to have his teacher rip up his test in front of the class, accuse him of cheating, adding that he would surely end up in the federal penitentiary.  His teacher didn’t know or didn’t care about the horrible things that were going on in his home.  Seventy years later, near the end of his life, those comments still stung a little. 
It wasn’t until he discovered football in junior high school that things changed for my dad.  All of a sudden, the “bad boy” became the community “prize,” leading team after team to victory, and garnering a college football scholarship that gave that “at-risk” youth meaning and purpose.  Fast forward to finding a godly young wife (my mother) and a Billy Graham Crusade in 1956. There, at the foot of the cross, my dad found Jesus Christ.  And all those ugly, hurtful, negative voices were nailed there, too, as the love of God washed over His soul.  Daddy became a master teacher and preacher—a true student of the Word of God.  And the finest, most real Christian I have ever known.  He would be quick to name God’s grace through the mentoring of a godly college professor, Dr. Paul G. Horner, as having the most impact on his life.
My dad died in 2008.  Let me share with you the last thing he “said” (that’s a story all its own) to those of us gathered around his death bed.  I think it’s a fitting charge for school year 2015–2016: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be strong, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
Beloved NICS/Oasis teachers, be strong!  Be immovable about the things of God!  Always abound (thrive) in doing His work!  Your labor (hard work) will never be vain (without purpose) in the LORD Jesus Christ!
Lydia Zuidema
Director of Academic Development

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