While my playmates were busy with dolls, I was reading everything I could lay my hands on. Housework bored me – and still does. One of my favorite games was playing school. And yet I never gave one thought to making the teaching profession my life work. That was due mostly to the times in which I grew up – desperately poor times. I could hardly wait until I graduated from high school to start earning money to help my parents.
After I had done clerical work for over eight years, I became extremely dissatisfied with this type of work. Some of my friends were teaching or going to college after having worked at other jobs; I had saved a little money hoping to buy a car in the near future; it was time for a change! At that time, there was a nation-wide appeal for more nurses – in fact, one could even earn a small monthly wage while in training. I decided to be a nurse, but I soon found that my high school background was lacking in the required science subjects. That meant more schooling. I discussed this matter with Alice Reitsma who assured me that she had not found it a difficult thing to go back to a life of classrooms, textbooks and study and encouraged me to do the same. But she also urged me to go in for teaching instead of nursing as there was a strong movement for our own schools, and there would be a great need for Protestant Reformed teachers. Our ministers were also presenting this same need in their sermons, and it was during one of Rev. H. Hoeksema’s sermons that God gave me the deep desire to work in His kingdom in this capacity. I was able to finish my college work in three years and as many summers – and when Adams St. School opened in September of 1950, I became “teacher” to forty-five fifth and sixth graders.
I’m sure that every teacher’s first year cannot be as discouraging as mine was. One thing I do remember: I prayed without ceasing for guidance and help and God gave me what I needed day by day. The next four years were happy years, but when I faced my class in the fall of 1954, I saw that only five of my previous twenty-three pupils had returned. My heart grieved for those others whose parents are to be held accountable for the setting of their children’s feet upon the pathway of their future life. Later, I was to go through a similar heartrending experience, and I still pray for my dearly loved former pupils. My work load for the next few years was heavy but enjoyable. For some of these years I taught grades 5 and 6; for other years, it was grades 4 and 5; for two years, it was grades 3 and 4 mornings and grade 4 afternoons. Yet each year of teaching makes me realize anew how privileged I am that God has chosen me to be a teacher.
There are many advantages in being a teacher. The profession gives one a measure of financial security. Of course, there are many higher paid professions, but I have always found my salary sufficient for my needs. And my responsibilities have been more than that of many single persons. Besides, I have constant fellowship with persons who feel as I do about the things that matter most in this life. A teacher in a Christian school really lives a wonderfully sheltered life. Furthermore, there is no end to learning in the teaching profession. No talents or abilities need to lie dormant. A teacher must be continually improving himself or herself, keeping informed on the latest methods, but also being stimulated with new thoughts and ideas. There are no idle moments for a conscientious teacher, and the teaching day is never monotonous or dull.
But above all else, teaching is a most rewarding work spiritually! A teacher who is called to hold always before the consciousness of her pupils Almighty God who rules over all the works of His hand and who shows to us His children His unspeakable love and goodness in the gift of His Son must have that love of God deeply rooted in his own heart and mind and soul. It is a teacher’s blessed calling to show the children how to be citizens of the Kingdom of God while living useful temporal lives. Presenting each school subject in the light of God’s Word, the teacher strives to implant in the heart of the pupil a realization of his relationship to God in every part of life. Both pupil and teacher must know that during all the days of their pilgrimage here God calls them to be faithful stewards in His service. Psalm 90 verse 17 summarizes well the prayer of every God-fearing teacher: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”