Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be the glory.” The phrase holds a lot of meaning to me as someone who heard it and sang it for 13 years of my life. It was not only my school’s motto, but it was also a prayer for what was going on in my life, good or bad. I don’t think I realized how integrated that phrase was into my thoughts until 10 years passed and I returned to my alma mater this fall to teach science in the Rhetoric School.
I was a Caldwell Academy student from Kindergarten all the way through 12th Grade. I can list every teacher who taught me, every person with whom I graduated, and every coach and director who led me. I can sing the school song, and if two others joined me, I could sing it in a round! I can recite a good portion of the Grammar of Christianity and the first part of Matthew 5 that I learned in third grade. If someone yelled out to me, “1066,” I would yell back, “Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, Norman Conquest.” (Shout out to Mrs. Liebmann!). If someone needs me to convert miles per hour to kilometers per hour, I can construct a factor label that would lead me to the right answer. (Shout out to Mr. Feeney!). Thirteen years of memories, lessons, and experiences instilled in me a love of learning, a love of God, and a love of making connections.
Although the 10 years in between graduating from Caldwell and returning as a teacher were a winding path, I know everything on it meant to lead me back. After graduating from Caldwell, I attended Appalachian State University and obtained my bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry. In every science class I took, every single one, I could not help but reaffirm my belief in a Creator. I saw God in my biology classes, anatomy classes, chemistry classes, and yes, my physics classes. Soli Deo Gloria, what a brilliant Creator we have!
When I left the medical field to pursue teaching, I was not prepared for how God was going to work in my life. The timing of Caldwell’s need for a high school physics and biology teacher was not a coincidence, but God at work. I am excited to be back, to advocate for my students, to teach them science, and to do it from a Christian perspective.
After I accepted the Caldwell position I was asked if it would be weird to return. My answer was always no. My student experience was far enough away to separate the student from the teacher. My experience as a Caldwell alum helps me understand when my juniors talk about their mini-thesis, and when my biology students ask about the bug project. I have been through similar experiences, and I understand the context. I have worn all black at a Caldwell-Westchester soccer game and screamed for an Eagles’ victory. I have stayed up to study and prepare for the humanities oral exam. I have written and defended a thesis.
I have also been the student that asks, “Is this really important?” “Why do I have to learn this?” “Do we need to go to this and sit through the whole thing?” “Why am I here?” Every student, no matter what school you attend, thinks those thoughts.
What makes Caldwell different, now that I am a teacher, is Christ. Christ in your life always makes a difference. He doesn’t take away life’s everyday challenges or the struggles our students face in and out of school. In John 16:33 Jesus very clearly says, “In the world, you will have tribulation.” But what makes the difference is what He says next, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Through science, through teaching the hows and whys of our world, through the pursuit of education and knowledge, I hope my students not only love learning but also love the Lord. Caldwell challenged me to think and discuss what it means to believe in something. I want to pay that forward and create a safe place where my students can question, think, and learn.
If I can do that, then Soli Deo Gloria!