News - Calling: Led Over Obstacles, Past Fear and Straight to the Classroom

Calling: Led Over Obstacles, Past Fear and Straight to the Classroom

by Kate Leenerts Calling: Led Over Obstacles, Past Fear and Straight to the Classroom

During the summer before my freshman year I had the opportunity to be a part of a church mission trip to Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to work at a community center called Kidz Express. I didn’t know at that time that this experience would allow God to clearly show me where my life’s mission and path would lead. During the trip I began to identify some of my own cultural bias, problems in urban education and the power of passionate educators.

Fast forward to Interterm of my freshman year at Greenville College where I would be thrown into a classroom in St. Louis’s inner city to experience some of the challenges urban educators and schools face daily: teacher turnover, lack of resources, and a plethora of skills and objectives schools are required to get through within the school year.

Although my assigned teacher was the third in that classroom that year, and although I was required to redo multiple tasks that didn’t meet the principal’s expectations, the experience did its job. Would I quit in the most difficult and challenging places, or would I push through and continue to learn, grow and be guided by God towards my career path?

The Many Hats of Teachers

Sophomore year at Greenville I began experiencing some social obstacles with adhering to the lifestyle statement and questioning my education choice. I persevered through fall semester to find myself again in an Interterm class that would essentially shape the foundation of my educational philosophy.

Every day that January I would wake up and find myself on a bus to East St. Louis. I was paired with a teacher who taught me some of the most important lessons I would learn during undergrad. She told me that teachers are not just educators. We are parents, aunts, nurses, counselors, transportation providers, discipline enforcers, life-lesson coaches, and more. It is through those many hats we wear each and every day that we are able to do our jobs well, and do our jobs to their fullest.

This Interterm class was also when I met Dr. Theresa Holden, who connected me with other opportunities to build my knowledge and experience in urban classrooms throughout my final two years at Greenville College.

A Hard Nudge From God

During my senior year, the education department hosted a guest speaker at chapel. This speaker was the principal at a young St. Louis public charter school by the name of South City Prep. He shared his story, the school’s mission and the work currently being done. The entire time he spoke I felt God pulling at my heart, shouting in my ear and wishing desperately to be heard. I knew this needed to be my home after graduation, but I was scared out of my mind to interview at a “big girl job” and even more terrified to work in a middle school since my degree was in elementary education.

That spring before my graduation I applied at one school. I had one phone interview, one panel interview, and one job offer. I nervously but gratefully accepted a position as a sixth grade language arts teacher at South City Prep.

Lessons Learned About Calling

God’s callings can be quiet and reserved or loud and unambiguous. No matter how he continues to guide us down our personal life experiences, I know he doesn’t need our willingness to hear him in order to be heard. In fact, it’s often in the times I feel most independent in making decisions that he allows himself to be heard loudest.

Sneak Peek Into Purpose

Urban education may have been God’s calling for my life, but that doesn’t mean it has always been rewarding or glamorous, and it definitely hasn’t been easy. A teacher’s job is demanding, it doesn’t pay well, and you rarely see the impact you make on a student’s life. Occasionally, God shows me a glimpse, a sort of God-like “sneak-peek,” to help me keep pushing. Usually these snippets occur outside of the school building, when I run into my scholars and their families at the grocery store, a basketball game, or the park. God works in amazing and mysterious ways, and I am so thankful he trusted me to educate his youth.

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This story was published on September 28, 2016

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