A Sentinel article about teachers? Really? What’s the big deal? Teachers are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? Isn’t it easy to find qualified teachers for our ELS schools?
Well, the short answer is, “No, it’s not easy.” In fact, right now there’s a shortage of synodically trained teachers of our fellowship. We have more openings than candidates in both the ELS and WELS.
Historically, ELS schools have had to draw their teachers from Martin Luther College, various Concordias of the LCMS, or other institutions. Since 2003, however, so that our little synod can provide for its own schools, Bethany Lutheran College has offered ELS certiﬁcation to students interested in teaching in our Christian Day Schools.
Here’s what’s required to be certiﬁed to teach in the ELS: a bachelor’s degree in education; speciﬁc religion courses in the Old and New Testaments, Christian doctrine, the epistles, and the Lutheran confessions; a music course in the use of hymns and the liturgy; an education course in how to teach the Christian faith; and a letter of recommendation from one’s pastor. Certiﬁcation assures a congregation that their teacher is highly prepared to correctly share God’s Word with the lambs entrusted to their care.
At Bethany, the majority of our graduates apply for a Minnesota teaching license and seek employment as public school teachers. Many are currently teaching in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Oregon, Arizona, Florida, etc. It is good that we are producing Christian teachers and spreading them around the country. They let the Light of Christ shine wherever God puts them!
A small percentage (<10%) of our graduates, however, are led by the Holy Spirit to take a call into the teaching ministry in one of our ELS schools. At Bethany, students seeking synod certiﬁcation indicate their willingness either to be placed in a school at graduation, called to a school sometime after graduation, or to forego a placement or call altogether. Placements are made by the ELS Secretary of Schools in consultation with synod and college officials at the request of an ELS congregation that desires a graduate. Calls are issued directly to a student from a congregation through the Secretary of Schools. As you can imagine, choosing what to do requires a huge decision on the part of a graduate.
For those willing to be placed, it means that prior to graduation, they don’t apply for jobs or interview for teaching positions. Rather, they wait and pray and trust. They wait for the Lord to open up opportunities and to place them into schools through congregations according to their needs. They pray that there will be an opening for a teaching position and that they will get a placement. There are no guarantees! It could turn out that there will be no calls available and that they’ll then have to scramble to ﬁnd a job after their peers have already secured one. As you can imagine, choosing to be placed requires a great deal of trust and the willingness to keep human preferences out of the process, to relinquish perceived control over the future. In essence, it is a leap of faith that God will provide for the graduate without his or her active involvement in the process. Moreover, graduates accepting a placement don’t know where they’ll be going until it is revealed to them at the joint candidate of theology/vicar/teacher call service right before their college graduation in May! Until then they wait, pray, and trust.
So it’s a big deal when we have a student who is willing to be placed or called. It’s a very special time of excitement and celebration for the ELS. Specially qualiﬁed teachers for our Lutheran schools are unique in this world. Would you, therefore, please rejoice with us that 2019 BLC graduate, Miss Jayde Thompson, along with her ﬁancé, Tim Faugstad, are willing to be placed? (They will be married shortly after graduation and then will move to their new home in Port Orchard, Washington, where Jayde will teach grades 3-4 at Bethany Lutheran School.) Praise God from Whom all blessings ﬂow!
Dr. Polly Browne
Associate Professor of Education
Bethany Lutheran College
ELS Certiﬁcation Officer