“Why are you traveling all the way back to the Midwest?” “A teachers’ conference at the beginning of the school year?” “There are only fifty teachers at a national conference?”
These are some of the questions I hear from incoming parents as we present the school calendar. At times I find it difficult to explain how encouraging and beneficial our teachers’ conference is, and how anxiously I await this fellowship every year. But after three wonderful days of spiritual and professional encouragement, the benefits of this conference are once more brought sharply into focus.
The 2000 CLC Teachers’ Conference began on Wednesday, October 11, at Gethsemane Lutheran School in Saginaw, Michigan. Chaplain Quinn Sprengeler introduced a series of devotions based on favorite Bible accounts and explained their application to us. We as teachers spend a large portion of our time applying these Bible stories to students, and so it was an edifying experience to focus on their relevance to a teacher’s life.
Mr. Sprengeler began with the description of Jacob’s journey and dream as found in Genesis 28:10-17. He reminded us that as Jacob found himself on an unexpected and difficult journey so we often discover ourselves in similar places. And like Jacob, who was comforted with the Lord’s promises in his dream, we too treasure the Lord’s promises as found in Scripture.
The second day found the teachers focusing on the parable of the sower and the seed (Matt. 13). Mr. Sprengeler reminded us of the warnings of a loving God and the promise that His Word will accomplish its purposes! What an encouragement for His “earthen vessels,” as we daily share God’s Word with His lambs.
Finally, we enjoyed the retelling of 1 Kings chapter 19, where we heard of Elijah and the still, small voice. The law won’t convert and bring back sinners; this will be done only with that still, small voice of the gospel–the voice of comfort and encouragement as found in Jesus Christ.
The spiritual benefits continued in the Wednesday evening service, as we joined in the unique fellowship found in the Lord’s Supper. We heard the encouraging words of Mark 9:30-37, as Pastor Mark Bernthal shared the fact that true greatness in the kingdom of God entails suffering and service. The benefits of hearing this beautiful Gospel message with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and then partaking of the gospel in sacrament with the same family, were truly of boundless benefit. We also enjoyed edifying music by the conference choir, the Gethsemane choirs, and the handbell choirs.
The spiritual benefits of our conference by no means ended there but were found throughout the papers and presentations that we heard. However, we also enjoyed three days of professional development.
The results and conclusions of a survey were presented in Robert Snell’s paper, “Combating Materialistic Attitudes in our Students (and Ourselves).” A thought-provoking discussion followed, punctuated with scriptural support. We also enjoyed an interactive presentation on “Keeping Christ as Focus in our Schools,” with many practical applications. David Bernthal did an excellent job of offering suggestions on keeping the Gospel as the center of our teaching and discipline.
Tina Stelter provided us with “Practical Ideas for Teaching Language Skills,” including journals and writing workshops. Some excellent resources (especially for us Friday morning punters) were presented by Karen Strike in “Teaching Art Appreciation along with Art Projects.” We also learned of useful ways to incorporate “Oral Language Activities” in primary, middle, and upper levels as presented by the Mankato faculty.
Seth Schaller and the Eau Claire faculty did much research on “Volunteer Programs,” a topic that is of benefit to small and large schools alike. The teachers also received many practical ideas for “Fun Night Activities” from Lane Fischer and Barb Mueller. Candice Ohlmann’s paper, “Using Children’s Literature as a Teaching Tool,” presented many wonderful ideas for the busy teacher.
We heard a review of the book Raising Faithful Kids in a Fast-Paced World, given by Ann Sprengeler. Lane Fischer and Dan Barthels presented a hands-on tone chime/handbell workshop, where we learned some of the techniques used to make the beautiful music heard Wednesday evening.
During the course of the conference much business was discussed and decided upon. This included an update of the CLC Sunday School curriculum.
One of the intangible benefits of our conference is Christian fellowship. The warm welcome and hospitality of the Gethsemane congregation was evident and appreciated. It was a privilege to spend time with our brothers and sisters in Saginaw (and enjoy their delicious meals)!
Some of the most enjoyable times during the conference come in quiet conversation with fellow teachers, sharing “moments” experienced with students, discussing difficulties and blessings that we share due to our callings, or just relaxing (?) during a game of volleyball. The camaraderie and friendship formed on the foundation of the gospel ministry are special ones, and something that I relish and look forward to renewing each year.
Above all, Christ was present working in and through every aspect of our conference, encouraging and strengthening our hearts. For this reason we were able to return to our schools refreshed and rejuvenated, and to share these benefits with our students. The Lord has granted us yet another week of benefits–spiritual, professional, and the exercise of our common fellowship.
We thank Him for this wonderful opportunity, and pray that He would bless the efforts of His workers everywhere.
–Submitted by Sara Pfeiffer