Teachers Find New Inspiration in Chicago

September 26, 2018

Six thousand professional Adventist educators from around the North American Division (NAD) converged on Chicago, Illinois, for the NAD Teachers’ Convention, held August 6–9. This was the fourth time since the turn of the century that the every-sixth-year event has been held.

Themed “Encounter Jesus, Experience Excellence,” the convention featured more than 400 presentations geared toward a wide variety of roles, including classroom teachers, administrators, deans and marketing staff. A cavernous exhibit hall, with more than 300 organization represented, allowed educators to mingle and learn more about additional resources.

Organizers spared no details to make those who came feel welcome and inspired. The opening program featured Jesus 101 speaker/director Elizabeth Talbot and music with well-known Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman. Those who stayed until the end of the event found great blessing in the commitment service with the NAD president, Dan Jackson.

A highlight for the Northwest came on Tuesday evening, when Stephen Lundquist, Portland Adventist Academy (PAA) Bible teacher and religion department chair, was honored with an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF). He was recognized for demonstrating outstanding professionalism, creativity and dedication in the classroom. Lundquist's award included a $2,000 prize, a medallion and a framed certificate of recognition.

Hundreds of Northwest educators attended with critical financial support from the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) education department, led by Dennis Plubell, NPUC vice president for education. These educators came away with a greater understanding of their role within the divisionwide curriculum. Some, especially those from smaller schools, received additional support materials for the new Encounter Bible curriculum. The Christ-centered theme of the gathering directly encouraged them to live it out with their students in the school year ahead. 

As Girlie Zunega-Aguilar, principal and fifth- through eighth-grade teacher for Oregon's Scappoose Adventist School, says, "If we don't have that personal encounter with Jesus, it is impossible for us to share the love of Jesus to our kids."

Several Walla Walla University students also attended and benefited from the theme. Talea Shupe, music education major, says, "The thing that stood out the most from the sessions is the overall focus on sharing Jesus to our students."

Andrea Betts, history, religion and education major, understood the choice teachers face each year. "We have the choice to be the teacher who is passive, but we also can choose go above and beyond, who notices the slightest emotional difference in our kids," she explains.

While most who came navigated the miles by auto or air, one Northwest educator literally went the extra mile. Monte Saxby from Skagit Adventist Academy in Burlington, Washington, pedaled more than 2,100 miles to Chicago on his bike, raising more than $13,000 in donations and pledges in worthy student funds. The Saxby bicycle brigade included Monte's son, Craig, and a support team of Monte's wife, June, and Craig's wife, Amanda, a teacher at Cascade Christian Academy in Wenatchee, Washington.

Saxby, who in earlier years attended Mount Ellis Academy in and Walla Walla University, has given back through years of teaching in the Northwest. His students will no doubt hear stories throughout the year about his recent firsthand experience in perseverance. 

Invigorating, inspiring and unforgettable would be appropriate words used to describe the impact of this session on educators across the nation. As they continue their work of instruction, mentorship, encouragement and evangelism this school year, the prayers of Northwest members will no doubt bolster their tireless efforts.