A Classroom Calling: Mary Elizabeth Randolph

by Mary Elizabeth Randolph, fourth grade teacher

I knew at the age of four I wanted to be a teacher.  This was the same year my baby brother arrived on the scene at our house, and I started sneaking into his room in the mornings to “teach” him how to read with my phonics puppets through the bars of his baby bed.  Talk about a captive audience!  I grew up loving to learn and trying to get others as excited as I was about what I discovered.  By high school and throughout college I was using my free time babysitting, teaching piano lessons to first and second graders, and spending my summers working at Twin Lakes Camp.  Looking back, it is easy to see how God was calling and equipping me to love both teaching and working with children.

I majored in elementary education in college, and one of the best aspects of the program was how many classroom observation hours were required from the very beginning.  I had innumerable hours logged in multiple schools long before I began student teaching my senior year.  Getting the chance to see first-hand that “light bulb moment” when a child would take hold of a concept being taught and it shape his understanding of a subject made me so excited and confirmed this was the vocation to which God was calling me.

I began teaching at FPDS right after college, and it is hard to express how much this job and this school mean to me.  One of the greatest gifts it has given me is the ability to teach for those light bulb moments not only in my students’ academic lives but in their spiritual lives as well.  It is a joy like no other when opening up the Wordly Wise workbook to help my students learn to spell “adoption” leads directly into opening up to Ephesians 1:4-5 to help my students learn that “In love he predestined us to adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”  Having the ability to shape these little lives both academically and spiritually is an enormous responsibility and an indescribable privilege.  I have a letter hanging on my fridge that one of my students sent me the summer after I was her third grade teacher.  In it she said she was “missing long division and the devotions.”  More than six years later I still have this letter where I see it every morning because it is the sweetest reminder that I am heading to work each day both to “plant seeds of Christlikeness and pursue excellence in academics.”  The fact that God was gracious enough to use me to help instill a love of learning and a love for Himself in that precious heart will always be one of best moments of my teaching career.

I love when my students tell me they want to be a teacher when they grow up.  The best advice I can give anyone interested in education is to spend as many hours in a classroom setting as early-on as possible.  So much of teaching takes places behind the scenes.  The planning, preparation, paper work, patience, communication, and creativity that is required is better experienced than explained.  Teaching is not easy.  It is often exhausting but always rewarding.  Ultimately you can be assured that if it is the field to which God calls you, He will use it to teach you far more about Himself than you will ever teach your students.  He certainly has with me, and for this I will always be grateful.