Stephanie Schindel was awarded the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award. Following are excerpts from her "Engaging the Process" speech given at the 2011 Opening Convocation.
For the first 9 years of my professional life, I attempted to coerce my nontraditional students into compliance with their "educational" standards using my credentials, a badge or through the threat of punishment-the use of handcuffs. I should mention that those nontraditional students were probation and parole clients I supervised as part of my responsibilities as a probation officer.
So why begin opening convocation by referencing my gun-toting, arrest-making past? It is because of a common question that I now receive from students. They inquire as to how I survived in a field where there seems to be such minimal success. Considering the significant pressure in our society to be "successful," I′m not surprised by that question. What does it even mean to be successful?
Neil Postman, in his book Technopoly, suggests that the most important educative contribution that an academic institution can make is to provide students with a sense of coherence in their studies, a sense of purpose, meaning and interconnectedness in what they learn. If you fail to see the connection among the core, your major and the electives you choose, you will become frustrated by what mistakenly appears to be fragmented curriculum.
Effective education should challenge your identity and your integrity. It is a call to service. While adequate pay, financial stability, and purpose of your work and life are relevant criteria in exploring careers, they are not suitable for your central motivation. This call to service involves a connection with a larger ideal in life-to love God and to love others. Therefore the preparatory path to your future vocation, your education at Geneva College, is more than preparation for your specific career. Our desire is to challenge you to seek the realization of your potential as one who is created in the image of God and to assist you in developing your God-given capacities. In doing so, you will experience the purpose of Christian education-to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Is your priority the mere completion of assignments or the memorization of theories in order to achieve some desired grade? Are you instead willing to take the time to think deeply about the topics and reflect on how they relate to other areas of study? A Christian liberal arts education allows the Gospel to illuminate the whole of reality, creating a space where you can join an academic community and draw on the depth, breadth and height of each other′s questions.
I′m a Geneva graduate, and my challenging, Christ-centered education at Geneva prepared me to understand that success isn′t just some outcome to be obtained. Goals that are not for Christ are meaningless, for apart from Him, nothing we do will have any eternal significance. John 15:5 reads, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."
My challenge to you as we embark on a new semester is to allow the classroom to become a place of exploration rather than a mandatory four-year sentence that requires the use of coercion; to develop a passion for learning rather than striving to avoid the punishment of a low grade; to view the cost and the struggle in the learning process as signs of success rather than obstacles to be avoided; and most importantly, to allow God to define success in your life and to engage the process that He has for you.
To listen to Professor Schindel′s speech, click here.
Stephanie Schindel is a 1990 graduate of Geneva College, earning bachelor′s degrees in psychology and chemistry. She received her master′s in professional psychology from Geneva in 1992. Professor Schindel started teaching part-time at Geneva College 15 years ago and took on a full-time position in the Department of Psychology and Human Services in 2004. She consistently has been rated a superior teacher on the student evaluation forms. On the award nomination, one student wrote, "You have shown me what it truly means to love your job … what it′s like to glorify God through your work. Thank you for caring for us and showing us your passion in teaching. It makes me want to learn more."