by Lindsay Banton
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
Hosting morning prayer before the school day starts, loving students with intention and care, bowing her head during the daily moment of silence, and meeting needs when they arise are a few of the ways Tiffany uses her public school classroom as her ministry.
Tiffany has been an elementary public school teacher in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for more than 20 years. She grew up in a multi-generational home, serving in her church and community, caring for children around her in many ways. She knew teaching was her calling, and although she was discouraged from it as a career, she prayed and knew teaching in the public school system was God’s plan for her life. Tiffany fully believes that being a Christian in the public school system is a strategic ministry and is committed to being a light in a dark place.
Although she isn’t allowed to initiate conversations about God or religion in her classroom, she doesn’t shy away from the things she is allowed to do such as bowing her head in quiet prayer during the morning school-wide moment of silence, praying over her meals before she eats, praying over the children’s desks before they arrive, and following up with emails to her students’ families when she has heard of a need. Often these actions spur questions from her students, and she is permitted to answer honestly. Her “precious students” as she calls them, always leave feeling loved and safe.
Tiffany’s love isn’t only for her students. Her colleagues appreciate she is available for prayer before the school day starts and miracles have taken place. She was asked to pray for a colleague’s young daughter who had a seizure which led to the discovery of a brain tumor. For days leading up to the specialist’s appointment to determine whether the tumor was cancerous or not, Tiffany and her fellow Christians gathered after school to pray for God’s protection and healing for the young girl. Surrounded by school desks, textbooks, and bulletin boards, they cried out to God in her classroom, asking him to intervene in the potential cancer diagnosis. While waiting to hear the test results, they discussed and prayed for other needs in the school family. “About that time, the father ran into my room with tears streaming down his face, and he hugged me and said, ‘Tiffany, it was just like you prayed!’… We praised the Lord for answering prayers and providing his family and our school family with a precious miracle. It was such a powerful moment and one I will never forget,” Tiffany shared.
Others in the school building recognize Tiffany’s love for God, too. Several teachers from all walks of life and beliefs have connected with Tiffany to ask for prayer when dealing with significant difficulties. Teachers find encouragement from a verse hanging on Tiffany’s classroom wall, given to her by a parent. She checks in with the teachers through email and provides resources as God directs. Her colleagues are very thankful and receptive. Tiffany lives her belief that people will listen to what she has to say if they know she truly loves and cares about them. She plants the seeds and allows God to work, trusting in the words of her favorite verse, Proverbs 3: 5–6.
When asked about what she would tell others who want to use their classroom as a sacred space, Tiffany said, “if God calls you, he will provide all that you need. Make yourself available to God and allow him to use you…every moment of every day God can use each of us, and being in a public school the harvest is great. There are so many who need the Lord, and sadly, there are many who haven’t heard the gospel. God calls us to love people, through our words and actions, and as we are his hands and feet extended, he will open doors and hearts for us to share the gospel with those in our educational mission field.”
As a believer that God places Christians in every sphere and workplace, Tiffany wisely navigates the difficult boundaries placed upon her and sees her habits and love leave a ripple effect in her community. The public school classroom can be a sacred work space when it is led by a wise teacher with welcoming hands who is fully devoted to loving God and others in every aspect of her life.
Lindsay Banton is the author of the forthcoming book Trail Guide: A Simple Manual for Understanding the Bible. She is a member of Redbud Writers Guild, free-lance writer, and campus missionary to a public university in New England. Sign up for her newsletter here, and connect with her online on Instagram.