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Probing the Heart
of Adventist Education
Keynote Speaker calls teachers to excellence (Posted Aug. 6, 2012)
BY SANDRA BLACKMER
If the 6,000-plus educators who poured into the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center on opening night of the NAD Teachers Convention were looking for a keynote speaker who would probe the heart of Adventist educational ministry, University Church senior pastor Carlton P. Byrd did not disappoint.
A product of Adventist education himself—he holds two undergraduate degrees from Oakwood University and a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry degree from the Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University—Bryd challenged teachers to “never forget that the mission of our schools is evangelism, and the children must see Jesus in you. . . . [The teacher’s] job is more than reading and writing; it’s promoting the salvation of the students.”
A CALL FOR EXCELLENCE: Opening night keynote speaker Carlton P. Byrd says God expects academic excellence. PHOTOS: [Marvin Lowman]
He added, “If you don’t believe in the Adventist message, you shouldn’t be teaching in the Adventist school system.” He also noted that support from parents and other church members is vital to a school’s success, and that “praise for Adventist education should be on the lips of every church member.” Byrd’s own two daughters attend Adventist schools, he said, because he “want[s] them to be lifelong Adventists.”
Bryd underscored the need for excellence in teaching and its importance to God. Describing the teacher’s work as set apart for the Lord, he said, “God is our boss and the motivation for our service and excellence.”
Bryd also affirmed the teachers’ calling, saying that “it’s not by happenstance that you are a church school teacher; it’s all part of God’s plan. . . . You’re working for God.”
Hundreds of educators pressed to the front of the auditorium when Bryd called forward those who wanted to be prayed for if their schools were facing daunting challenges or if they needed the Holy Spirit to revive their passion for teaching. In his prayer he encouraged the teachers to recommit themselves to their sacred calling and to their students.
Casting the Vision
In his welcome and opening remarks, North American Division vice president for education Larry Blackmer described the goal of the convention as twofold: that the teachers become infused with God’s spirit so they can return to the classroom better able to share the love of Jesus with their students, and to say thank you to them for their commitment and their love for young people and Adventist education.
“You are the physical representation of Jesus to the students in your classroom,” Blackmer said. “Spirituality is caught and not taught, so you personally need a spirit-filled life in order to impart that to your students.”
The Isaacs—a Christian country gospel music group—jumpstarted the event with upbeat gospel selections and personal testimonies of God’s leading and blessings in their lives. The Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy choir then set a spiritual tone of reflection and grace with their rendition of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
Rosalind Aaron, first-year principal of Berea Adventist Academy in Boston, depicted the keynote message as heartwarming, spirit-filled, and powerful.
RECOMMITMENT: Hundreds of educators responded to Byrd’s call to recommit their hearts and lives to their teaching ministry.
“I served as a school principal for 12 years in the Caribbean, but this is the first teachers convention I’ve attended in the U.S.,” she said. “I’m very glad I came.”
Although Sue Bosenberry is into her fifth year of teaching first grade at Sligo Adventist School in Takoma Park, Maryland, and has attended all three NAD teachers conventions held every six years since 2000, she still found Byrd’s message to be “very inspiring. It fires you up,” she said.
Samanatha Dingman of Greaves Adventist Academy in Montreal describes being part of such a large educational gathering as encouraging. “Teachers in small schools sometimes feel very isolated, like we’re the only ones dealing with problems. Here there are so many other teachers from all over who are challenged by similar things, so it’s very encouraging to know I’m not alone.”
Texas Conference associate superintendent of education Raul Aguilar echoed Dingman’s thoughts, and added that “you get to see people here that you knew many years ago. I met a former student that I taught in a different country. It’s just a great blessing to be among so many Adventists from numerous cultures. Diversity makes our church strong,” he said.
Educators from the nine NAD unions, the newest NAD territory of Guam-Micronesia, and regions as far as South Africa, China, and Europe registered for the event.
To learn more about the convention, go to www.2012teachersconvention.com