The First Word: Teaching is an Act of Faith

In the classroom and laboratory, we can measure how well students master course content. On the sports field, game statistics provide some measure of student success. We watch students develop as leaders through participation in campus activities and student government. Each spring, we know when students are admitted to graduate school or are offered jobs following internship assignments.

Yet teaching reaches farther than this. Teaching is about shaping the whole person, fostering a love of continuous learning, embedding life convictions of service to others, enabling good citizenship, directing faith-filled living. These higher goals are not so easily measured. And so faculty and staff at colleges and universities across the land wonder, “Have I taught well? Did my teaching transform lives or merely credential individuals for their respective profession?”

We learn the answers to these higher questions only over time. Five years, ten years, even twenty and thirty years are necessary to measure how well we taught, to determine whether the students under our care were truly “prepared for lives of significance and service.”

We who teach do not know the outcome of our effort until generations have passed. We teach today only by faith. This faith is prompted by alumni, those students who came before us. They did not study in our classroom or play on our team; rather, they were part of an earlier generation of North Parkers. We were not their teachers. Yet in them, through the evidence of their lives, we see by faith, we look into the future of those presently in our classrooms and gain confidence that they, too, will one day lead lives of significance and service.

Today’s alumni are the testimony we require. They are “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”—for teaching is an act of faith.

President David L. Parkyn