Concordia students pose for a group photo at the Lutheran Education Association conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photo by Kari Stirtz.
by Corrianne Cain
A group of 12 Lutheran Teacher Diploma students were some of the first university students to attend the Lutheran Education Association Convocation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Oct. 13-15.
LEA is a professional group of Lutheran educators of all grade levels. Teachers and administrators travel from all over the nation to the LEA Convocation that is held every three years in a different city. The event provides worship, fellowship and professional development opportunities.
The 2016 conference took place at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. The theme for the convocation was “Grow,” helping teachers grow in their spiritual, professional and personal lives in order to impact student growth, according to LEA’s website.
This year, LEA launched its “Grow a Teacher” initiative, which allowed for about 60 future Lutheran educators to attend the convocation. Concordia University Nebraska joined other Lutheran education students from Concordia University Ann Arbor; Concordia College—New York; Concordia University Portland; Concordia University, St. Paul; Concordia University Texas and Valparaiso University in Indiana.
LEA funded the registration and hotel costs for the students, while the individual universities supported the travel costs.
“Concordia Nebraska took nominations from the faculty. We had 12 (students) instead of ten…we were the largest university group there,” Head of Teacher Education Dr. Lorinda Sankey said. Sankey attended the convocation and organized the group.
Concordia Nebraska students who attended included seniors Tara Larsen, Kelli Mack, Madeline Osborne and Angie Steinbacher; juniors Taylor Brockhaus, Mark Esser, Molly Goltl, Daniel Spaulding and Kari Stirtz; sophomores April Bayer and Micah Symmank; and adult student Cynthia Campbell.
Concordia Nebraska students left at 4 a.m. on Wednesday and arrived in Grand Rapids. They began the conference by meeting with the other college students for a special “Grow a Teacher” gathering, which involved a question and answer session with a panel of teachers and icebreakers among students from the other colleges.
The large-group sessions over the course of the conference pertained to a wide variety of issues and developments in education. Students could choose sectionals with topics based on their subject or grade level interests.
“It’s the National Youth Gathering for teachers,” elementary education major and LEA attendee Molly Goltl said. “I loved making connections with other people. Meeting other Concordia students was cool, (along with) meeting other teachers and bouncing ideas off of each other.”
The convocation closed on Saturday in worship. Concordia Nebraska’s University Chamber Choir led music in the service as part of their fall break tour.
“These Concordia students now have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran teacher, to be with Lutheran teachers and to have professional development,” Dr. Sankey said.
“I think the biggest thing they honed in on was encouraging us as Christian teachers. All of these key practices of a teacher are good, but the most important thing is that Christ is in everything that we do,” Goltl said. “I went to a public school K-12 and so I didn’t really know what Lutheran education looked like, but after this, I got a really uplifting and encouraging idea of what Christian education is and what it looks like for an elementary school classroom.”