(Originally posted on Facebook)
Out of the blue, I received the following email yesterday (June 9) from someone I taught high school biology to in the spring semester, 1977, at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge. He is a Lutheran Pastor now for a congregation in the midwest, and this is what he said:
For some reason we do not talk a lot about Jesus as teacher. We like the big titles; Lord, Christ, and Son of God. But teacher was the title most often used for Jesus in the New Testament.
When we think about our lives, and we think about who influenced us most, quite often, we name a teacher. Teachers have a profound impact on our lives. We can all name teachers from our past that still have an impact on us today. My biology teacher in High School was Mr. St. Romain. He was a dedicated teacher of science and a faithful practicing Christian. He taught me that we do not need to choose between science and religion. We can embrace both. God is able to work through evolution. Because of Mr. St. Romain I continue to advocate for protecting God’s creation and growing as a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is still teaching me. I am still learning how the mysteries of creation are all around us.
We've had a couple of nice email exchanges. Such a surprise.
Here's the back story:
January 1977: I had completed the course work for my Ph.D. in Zoology at LSU and had been married less than two months. We were poor, living in a small house, 500 sq. ft., with only my graduate teaching assistantship, around $350 a month. Lisa was still working on her B.A., and working with the Student Union for hosted events, as needed.
Shortly before spring semester began, a grad student friend came to the table where Lisa and I were having lunch in the Student Union. He'd been teaching biology at Catholic High in Baton Rouge, but had been offered a job to be a pilot leading hunting and fishing trips in Alaska. He didn't want to leave CHS high and dry, but he really wanted that job. On a whim, he asked me if I'd like it and I said I'd get back to him. It paid $700 a month, which means we'd suddenly be bonkers rich!!! The next day I accepted, met with the Principal (I knew him from leading retreats there), and he agreed to the swap, only I'd have to cover the material in the book. This would mean five regular biology classes and one honors class, starting the next week. All 10th graders! Boys!
I had no lesson plans. Neither did the guy I was replacing. And no idea how to keep classes of 30, 15 year-olds in line, an ongoing challenge. What I did was a kind of "To Sir With Love" approach, spending time each day on the book, then at least 15-20 minutes on "open discussions" related to the material or anything else. They loved it! I took them on field trips, taught them basic birding skills, visited the LSU Museum of Zoology, where I had keys to the "back rooms" with specimens. My goal was to prepare them to be Christian young men who could hold their own in discussions about science and faith, for I'd struggled with this for so many years myself. I guess it worked (at least for some), judging from this letter.
This was a very draining time, however, and convinced me that I didn't want to get a teaching certificate and move in that direction. You really haven't lived if you haven't tried to design five different tests for five different classes all covering the same material, then spending a weekend grading all that! I was exhausted at the end of each day, with more lessons to plan, etc.
By that May, the staff at the LSU Catholic Student Center was offering me full-time work for even more money. I could continue working on my dissertation, but eventually I closed that folder and haven't looked back . . .
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