“Undoubtedly, teaching in the twenty-first century is challenging,” says Corban alum David Holcomb (‘12). “However, teaching is also incredibly rewarding because of the visible and invisible impact we have on the lives of our students.”
For so many Corban educators like Holcomb, a social studies teacher at McNary High School in Keizer, their classrooms have become some of the most significant mission fields in the world. With the rising tension between what many would call “sacred and secular” transforming the way the Western world understands social interactions, politics, and daily life, Corban educators are uniquely positioned in our communities, and globally, to be more than just teachers, but to be examples to the next generation of the true transformative power of love and acceptance seasoned with truth.
“As I look at the current state of education, it’s important that we understand why students are valuable as part of God’s creation and accept all who are placed in our sphere of influence, to show them love and acceptance,” says Principal of Sprague High School and Corban alum, Chad Barkes (‘99).
With the success of Corban’s education program, local communities have been filled with teachers, counselors, support staff, and administrators who are committed to making a tangible impact on what many consider to be the front lines of emerging cultural ideologies and emotional development. With each graduating class, the distinction of what a Corban graduate brings to the teaching profession has become more pronounced in the local Salem-Keizer community.
“Administrators know that the training and teaching that occurs at Corban prepares future teachers with skills they will use right away,” says Barkes. “Corban graduates are considered a quality hire, especially when you consider the needs of many schools and wanting to have staff members who are team players, who are committed to treating students and families well, and who understand that learning takes place when you have trusted adults in students’ lives.”
As more Corban education majors graduate and are hired at an exceptional rate, with 99% of education graduates who pursue a teaching job finding a position within six months of graduation, the result has begun to have a profound, if often unrecognized, impact on our communities.
“The first thing that comes to mind is their approach to education,” says Dustin Purnell (‘03), Principal of Parrish Middle School. “The Corban educators that I’ve had the opportunity to hire or work with have a sense of pride in their work and a deep desire to do things well, learn, and continually improve their trade.”
Ask a Corban educator where they believe their unique desire to make an impact first began, and many will point to their education classes at Corban, where educational theory is not only taught, but modelled daily, with an added emphasis on the integration of faith and how it informs the teaching profession.
“Corban professors impressed on me the importance of meeting students where they are at academically, socially, and emotionally,” says Holcomb. “Students are willing to take academic risks when they feel safe, comfortable, and confident. They are empowered and grow in agency via a strong student-teacher bond.”
Fellow high school history teacher, Chris Trammell (‘11), agrees. “How I see my students frames all of my interactions with them,” he says, “from the preparation of lessons, to differentiating instruction, to trying to create space for them to interact with me on a personal level.”
For Holcomb and Trammell, their impact is felt right here in the Salem-Keizer community. But Corban educators are making a similar impact and investment into the lives of students all across the nation, and globally.
For Jenae Daniels (Dawson ‘12), an English and Bible teacher at SPH Kemang Village in Indonesia, Corban’s education classes gave her more than just a heart for her students, but also equipped her with the practical skills she would need to address even the challenge of teaching advanced concepts to non-native English speakers. “Corban did an excellent job preparing us with the most updated, research-based practices in education,” she says. “Standards-based grading and backward planning are a few examples of what I now realize were not the norm in traditional education ten years ago. As I started teaching at SPH in 2013, these were just being introduced to the teaching staff. I feel that I had a pedagogical head start, thanks to Corban.”
That head start is further emphasized by Corban’s program structure, which prioritizes classroom experience from year one, while many programs don’t begin this core component until students’ junior year. “That made a huge difference for me,” Daniels says. “I had the opportunity to work in five different schools and grade levels, which gave me a glimpse into a wide variety of teaching styles, age levels, and school cultures.”
The end result is an education professional who is prepared to make a difference in the world through their character and competence, meeting students’ needs emotionally, spiritually, and academically. And the community they built during their time at Corban has staying power. “I still keep in contact with many of my classmates, and I love to see them in action, or cross paths and share stories and experiences,” says Karisa Legg (Calderon ’13), an Instructional Mentor and Reading Specialist at Miller Elementary School. “I built lifelong friendships and connections, and the same applies for my relationships with my professors. When I have questions or need support, I don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for ideas or resources. The community and the connections have been critical to my growth and development as an educator.”
While the difference might be difficult to pinpoint at times to an external audience, for Corban educators, it is their faith that drives them. “Corban educators graduate and jump into their careers with a different goal in mind than others around them,” says Chelsea Petersen (’16), a physical education teacher, and cross-country and track coach at Judson Middle School. “Corban educators not only set out to teach and love their students, but they see their job as a ministry. We can spread God’s contagious love and compassion by modeling how we talk, interact with others, and live out our lives. I try to keep the mindset that every conversation with a student is important, and so is my response.”
The community is alive with testimonies of the impact of the gospel on students’ lives, shared by Corban educators. It manifests in the extra attention paid to a disruptive student with a difficult home life, in the hours spent after practice talking about self-worth and confidence, the time sacrificed, tears shed, and years spent giving to students with a sense of service that goes far beyond the job description, touching the core of the gospel.
Even though, for many, direct displays of faith are discouraged, Corban educators continue to find ways to share the love of God through the relationships they build with their students and the dedication they commit to their craft. “In my history classes, the common theme that runs through each class is human value,” says Trammell. “We analyze how human value changed from ancient Greece through the post-industrial world. As students wrestle with the cost of putting an ‘if’ in front of human value, they have to engage in the deeper question of where does value come from? These worldview questions allow for great discussion around the concept of truth, value, and purpose. While I cannot directly teach about Jesus, I can use questions to guide them to deeper thought about truth, purpose, and value.”
While teaching is often a thankless job—one where the success of every student is the expectation, and attention to the difficult realities of working with so many students and their myriad of unique circumstances is often ignored—Corban educators continue to display a resolve that is rooted in more than recognition by the communities they serve. “The best compliment I have received as an educator was when a student pointed out that they knew I was a Christian because of the way I speak and act,” Holcomb says.
Behind the scenes, Corban teachers and administrators find a multitude of ways to involve their faith in their profession. “It’s great to have the opportunity to work with so many Corban grads because of our shared faith and experience,” says Purnell. “It’s almost a mini-network within the school district.” With Corban grads at almost every school in the Salem-Keizer district, our community is full of faith-based educators committed to making a difference in the world for Jesus Christ. “Tuesday mornings, a group of 12 or so teachers get together before school to pray over our students and staff,” says Petersen.
For Karisa Legg, opportunities to share the gospel are not limited to student interaction. “I believe this also bleeds into the relationships with staff, which is an often-overlooked opportunity in education,” she says. “There is so much focus on the kids, as there should be, but the general population forgets how impactful adult interactions can be.”
It is the cumulative power of this faith network in our schools that is making lasting changes in the lives of our students, our communities, and our world. “Grateful doesn’t even begin to express the feelings I have toward Corban, its education program, the professors that poured into my life, and the community I gained,” Legg says. “Every day is a ministry opportunity, and I take great pride in that work. I’m humbled by the opportunities God places in my path. As educators, it’s literally life-changing for some of the students and staff that we encounter.”
For Corban education professionals, confronting the epidemic need for belonging and acceptance with the unconditional love of Christ stands at the heart of everything they do. “In a world that is untethered from truth, teachers that are willing to speak the truth in love are desperately needed,” says Trammell. “As Christian educators, we can be a light in a world that is often consumed with anxiety, fear, and the pressure to fully embrace each new social agenda. While we do not need to embrace the agenda, we do need to embrace and love the people. Christ loved regardless of the social agenda and met people where they were at, where they are at. We need to do the same, in the classroom and in the community.”