By Morgan Consier
For students and faculty alike, Concordia’s family-like atmosphere is well known. A fair number of the faculty know this from both perspectives, as they have returned to their alma mater to pass down Concordia’s mission to the next generation of students.
Many professors were drawn to teach at Concordia because of their experience while attending school here and their desire to give new students that same type of experience.
“I think whatever one’s alma mater is, typically it holds a special place in their heart,” Professor of English Dr. Daniel Thurber said. “I mean, not everyone at all schools everywhere, but most people have warm and endearing memories from their alma mater and I certainly had of Concordia.”
For some faculty, like Assistant Professor of Education, Director of Middle Level Education, and Director of Student Teaching Dr. Beth Pester, teaching at Concordia was not in their original plans, but was in God’s plans for them.
“I kind of stumbled into it,” Pester said. “The hand of God is obvious looking backwards, always, and so I know I was getting shoved through doors I wasn’t even prepared for, but I loved it.”
Even while he was still attending school here, Assistant Professor of Art Justin Groth could see himself as a future Concordia faculty member.
“I always really enjoyed the school and my education here,” Groth said. “I always thought, sort of in the back of my head, it would be great to be involved in teaching here one day.”
Thurber said that teaching at one’s alma mater can also provide a unique perspective that can influence how a person views the college experience.
“I think being familiar with the school from an alumnus perspective helps you sense how the faith journey and the academic journey can touch in very precious ways along those undergraduate years,” Thurber said.
Groth said that by having taken the same classes that his students are currently taking, he is better equipped to teach those classes than he would have been if he came in with no previous knowledge of those classes.
“Being an alum from this program, I know some of the struggles they had,” Groth said. “I know where the deficiencies in the things I’m teaching are, so I can address those really pointedly.”
Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. John Jurchen said that one of the things he loves about teaching at Concordia is the ability to teach students about God through learning about the physical world.
“In a single semester, students can learn a fantastic amount about how matter works in God’s World,” Jurchen said in an email interview.
All four professors said that their favorite parts about being able to teach here are the familial culture and the students.
While it has been many years for some of them since they were students here, Concordia still feels the same as it did back then.
“It’s still such an awesome, familial community and that exists not just in the study body, it exists in the faculty and staff as well,” Pester said. “I think it’s really cool that we’re just as familial with each other as the students get to be, and that’s a really cool part of this whole community.”
Jurchen said he likes teaching here because every day is a chance to live out his call as a teacher and to teach students, his favorite part of Concordia, about God.
Pester said that she sees Concordia’s mission as much the same as it was when she was a student here, and that is what makes Concordia what it is.
“Jesus is still the most important part of this campus and we don’t hide that, we celebrate that,” Pester said. “When I visit with my prospective students, I’m not shy about saying Jesus is the most important thing here, and if that makes you uncomfortable, this might be the best place for you.”
As they move through their daily classes and grading responsibilities, Thurber said it is best to keep in mind the reason behind his teaching.
“I think the large picture is that it’s very satisfying to be part of trying to impart to the next generations of students the best things about Concordia, the things you hope never change and to share those with students in succeeding generations,” Thurber said.