My Amazing Journey as a Lutheran School Teacher
Whether I knew it or not, my life’s journey was totally directed and under God’s control. I was born into a Christian family. My father was a Lutheran pastor and I attended a Lutheran Elementary School until high school. During my high school years there were two main streams of career opportunities. One stream was to go to university to become a teacher or a nurse, the other was to go into the business field. Nursing was my career choice right up to the time of my high school graduation. During the summer I changed my mind about nursing and chose instead to become a teacher. I registered (rather late, I might add) at Concordia College at Edmonton, Alberta and miraculously I was accepted. I don’t remember that I had thought about being a teacher before that at all.
I also do not recall any one really encouraging me to become a teacher, but looking back I see how God and the people around me certainly provided many opportunities for me to appreciate learning and engage in teaching experiences. I learned a lot from my father, a Lutheran pastor and teacher. He was my grade school teacher from grade one – to grade three. He taught students from grade one to eight in a one room school (the church on Sunday) at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Brightview, (Usona) Alberta. I saw how he cared deeply for each child and their families always demonstrating the love of God, I saw him engage students of different ages and interests with many creative teaching techniques such as open-ended learning, story-telling, hands on experiences (which I remember to this day) etc. Two years before I had to take confirmation class I sat in on his confirmation lessons because I loved the way he told stories, the way he used illustrations to help kids understand the Word of God and the way he encouraged his students to get excited about learning. After I was confirmed I taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, helped with Christmas Eve Sunday School programs, attended youth group, played the piano and organ for church services etc. I was a sponge taking in God’s greatness daily. At the time I didn’t know and I didn’t appreciate the many ways I was being prepared for my life as God’s servant.
Once I was accepted into Concordia College, Edmonton, Alberta my studies and path changed to becoming a Lutheran School teacher. I attended Concordia College one year (1960-61) and then transferred to Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Nebraska, from which I graduated in 1964. I found the college in Nebraska to be an excellent school of learning. Besides helping me gain both spiritual and earthly knowledge I also learned many practical teaching techniques and had an excellent practicum experience in Salem Lutheran School, Saint Louis, Missouri.
Most of my experiences and memories of schooling before receiving my degree from Seward are wonderful to recall. Yes, I was far away from home, and yes I was living in a foreign country, and yes the Canadian dollar was not highly valued, schooling was expensive and my parents and family gave up a lot for me to attend school but God walked with us and provided. The pros out weighed the cons. I gained so much insight into the American way of life. I have friends throughout the US, and had many positive learning experiences from the conferences and conventions of the Lutheran Education Association in the USA, (an older and more established organization).
After graduation in 1964 I taught grade one in Holy Cross Lutheran School, Collinsville, Illinois for three years. Wages were not that great – about $325.00 a month so during the summer months I went home to work at the Dominion Glass Company, Redcliff, Alberta. In 1966 I married Ron Towriss who at the time was attending Concordia Lutheran Seminary, St. Louis. During the summer months Ron worked to help us make ends meet. We spent two more years in the US so Ron could finish his schooling to become a pastor and I taught in the public school system. In the summer of 1969 we were called to serve the Swift Current Area Parish, Swift Current, and Saskatchewan. While in Swift Current I continued serving the Lord in the church but not in the classroom. In 1986 we moved to Port Coquitlam, BC where I began taking correspondence courses in Early Childhood Education so I could perhaps? someday? open a Lutheran preschool.
My life changed dramatically, however, after I received a call in 1989 to teach kindergarten at Zion Lutheran School, Cloverdale, BC. It was a “God Thing” that took me back to teaching. I had other plans for my life at that time and this was not part of them. I had a lot of reasons why I couldn’t accept the call. I didn’t want to drive so far in the winter, I hadn’t taught for twenty years etc. etc. but after much time in prayer and discussion with others I finally accepted the call to Zion where I taught for seven years. The years I taught at Zion were amazing and very fulfilling. I was back where I belonged. I was in the classroom being challenged and spiritually refreshed daily by the lives of His little children. Still to this day I recall little Russell bouncing into the classroom on a cold rainy morning telling me that it was pretty cold and wet outside, but “Oh well.” He said, “It’s just God, changing the seasons.” How nice to be reminded of that!
God continued preparing me for another step in my journey. In 1996 I was called to be principal and teacher of Hope Lutheran School, Port Coquitlam, BC. Of course this was not in my life plan. Why would I want to accept such a big challenge? I was not experienced in administration, yada, yada, yada! Nevertheless, under God’s gentle persuasion I accepted the call to do the Lord’s work in Port Coquitlam BC. The school began with eight students in 1995, and in 2010 when I retired we had 190 students. Today with the high school the student enrolment is approaching 300. God is still at work.
Most certainly there were many challenges, frustrations and difficult times as I worked in God’s harvest field, but the joys of working with God’s children are quickly forgotten when one sees and hears the unbelievable witness and expressions of faith in Jesus that comes from the mouths of babes and children.
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him. “Yes”, replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” Matt. 21:16
There are so many experiences and stories I could tell about the wonders of being about the Lord’s business, but one thing I know is that God chooses and uses us to fulfil His purposes, in spite of our self- centered ways, our weaknesses and failings. He enables our walk with Him to be joyful and refreshed daily as He strengthens us with His miracles of love and grace along the way.