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iWhyWhy I Want to be
a Lutheran Educator

Then and Now

Editor’s note: This special feature of iWhy is three stories in one, telling the “Why I Want to Teach in a Lutheran School” from the perspectives of a retired teacher—who had his reasons—and two future teachers. All are gifts of God to the Church and to Lutheran schools. Just like you.

carl Thies and familyCarl Thies

as told to Lance and Anne Thies

 

With a tear in his eye, he says, “What I can tell you is that Bethlehem has been faithful to me for over 50 years.” In 1964, Carl Thies accepted his first and only call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church and School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1969, he married Cynthia Springer who grew up at Bethlehem. He officially served for 42 years. If you ask Carl, he will tell you he continues to serve at Bethlehem in his retirement because he believes Bethlehem is a part of who he is along with Cindy—people and servants of Christ.

In eighth grade, the students in Carl’s class at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, were asked what they might want to do as an adult. Carl had worked on his uncles’ farms and watched his father work at the local woolen mill. He thought he might follow one of those paths, but his parents wanted him to become a pastor. But that was not where he felt a calling. Instead, Carl felt led to teach in a Lutheran school, and his journey into church work started.

Neither his parents nor he had ever traveled outside Wisconsin, so when he was dropped off on Augusta Street, Carl felt as if he had literally arrived in a whole new world.In 1960, Carl enrolled at Sauk County Teachers’ College in his hometown. After two years, he transferred to “RF” or Concordia University Chicago, as we know it today. He had just enough money to pay for his first semester! Neither his parents nor he had ever traveled outside Wisconsin, so when he was dropped off on Augusta Street, Carl felt as if he had literally arrived in a whole new world.

After graduation, he traveled to Fort Wayne to begin performing the duties of his divine call. He arrived not knowing anyone, not unlike so many who accept calls into our Lutheran schools. His early years were spent teaching fifth and sixth grades. Over the next 30 years, Carl coached football, track, and basketball; led the youth group; became the school’s handyman; drove the school bus, and even mowed the grass. Carl retired in 2006, spending the last 12 years of his career as director of facilities for the church and school.

From 1964 to the present, Carl has seen many changes in education. Some changes are consistent with his own experiences, others are dramatically different. He continues to believe that strong families, active church membership, and an engaged school community are good indicators for student success. Carl is proud of his students and enjoys keeping up with their accomplishments as adults. He is one of those teachers students always remember, and, somehow, after teaching more than 1,000 of them, he always remembers them, too. For such service, let it be said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23)

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Hannah Thompson

hannah thompsonI recently found myself seated on the floor in front of my old childhood bookshelf, sifting through the worn covers and watching as familiar titles jumped out at me. I was home on spring break from Concordia University Chicago, searching for a book that I could use in a lesson plan for an elementary literacy course. The more I looked, the more I realized how strongly my family’s Christian faith had been integrated into my childhood. Many of the picture books that I grew up reading focused explicitly on God’s love for me. As I sat in front of the books and considered my future as a Lutheran educator, I suddenly felt thankful for the freedom I will be granted to share Jesus’ love in any and every aspect of the school day.

As I sat in front of the books and considered my future as a Lutheran educator, I suddenly felt thankful for the freedom I will be granted to share Jesus’ love in any and every aspect of the school day.My decision to become a Lutheran educator was a relatively unremarkable process. Becoming a teacher was simply something that I knew I wanted to do. I loved to play “school” as a child, first with my brothers as my pupils and, when they lost interest, with my imaginary friends instead. Much of the credit in my early desire to become a teacher belongs to my mother, who is also a Lutheran educator. Although she stayed at home with my brothers and me when we were children, her old teaching resources served as the makeshift curriculum for my imaginary students.

I owe a great deal of credit to my parents for my desire to work as a Lutheran educator. Their early fostering of my faith, including their decision to send me to a Lutheran grade school, is something for which I will never suitably be able to express my gratitude. The Christian picture books that I grew up with are just one example of how faith played an integral role in my upbringing.

I look forward to being able to share my favorite childhood books with my students, spending extra time on the Christian ones, rather than censoring them out. I hope to be a positive role model to my students by demonstrating the joy that comes from receiving the love of Christ and the resulting freedom this gives to serve others. I want to create an environment that instills a desire to learn and prepares my students to identify how God is calling them to serve in their own lives. Most important, I want my future students to leave my classroom feeling sure of their salvation and confident in the knowledge that they are redeemed children of God—the most important knowledge of all.

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Faith Korte

“Do you have to leave?”

faith korteMy heart almost burst when the wide-eyed, six-year-old girl from Eek, Alaska, asked me at the end of a short-term mission trip if we could stay longer than the week we had been there for. At that moment, I knew that I had to continue serving and working with children. Consequently, I ended up going to Alaska for a total of three short-term mission trips and once to Guatemala to run a vacation Bible school with other high school students. I found my calling from God and a passion for teaching from the children I helped serve.

I cannot wait to see how He will continue to lead me and see how He will change the lives of my future students.Although I said I wanted to be a teacher since I was in fourth grade, I had some doubts until God worked through these children and the mission trips. I grew up in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod my whole life, with my father’s influence of being a Lutheran pastor. Caring church workers surrounded me at my Lutheran grade school and then high school impacted me and my love for God and for learning. I knew from watching my father and learning from my teachers how hard church work can be, but also how incredible it is to serve. When high school approached, I “knew” I wanted to be a teacher, but asked God to help show me His plan for my life.

Spending time in the summers during high school leading VBS on short-term mission trips confirmed my call from God to teach. I saw God and His love in the hearts of those children. From teaching arts and crafts to leading puppet shows, I could not get enough of seeing the children learn more about their Savior and Redeemer. Then, during my senior year of high school, God opened up doors for me to go to school at Concordia University Chicago, a university with an incredible Lutheran Teacher Education program. God has been guiding me, showing me His plan for my life all along.

Now, as a junior at CUC, I cannot wait to have my own classroom in a Lutheran school. From the observations and teaching experiences I have had already, God has shown me how much our students need love and a passion for learning. When I had the opportunity to teach my first lesson to students—a religion lesson to first graders—I was so excited and terrified. Could I do this? Working with the students and seeing their faith confirmed what I knew to be true. God could use me to teach these students about His sacrifice and enduring love. I cannot wait to see how He will continue to lead me and see how He will change the lives of my future students.


Lutheran schools have been in good hands and will continue to be in good hands. Thank God for the stories of teachers, retired and future, in Lutheran schools.

If you want to share an iWhy, send the story of how you became a Lutheran school teacher to ed.grube@lea.org with the subject line iWhy. (Try to keep it to 600 words or so, if you can.)—the editor