Educators reminded they are God’s witness in the classroom

COLUMBIA—Educators converged on Cardinal Newman School recently for two days of learning, fellowship and inspiration at the Diocese of Charleston’s Teachers Education Conference. The March 2-3 event drew 785 teachers.

They heard a message about the power of Christ’s love and their important role as educators and evangelizers from the keynote speaker, Sean Forrest.

Forrest is the founder of Movin’ With The Spirit, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to proclaiming God’s word. He also started Haiti180, a group working to provide housing, food and care for children and the elderly in Haiti.

He was a musician before he gave his life to Christ and the Church, and his emotional, amusing testimony included the story of how his soul was changed by a priest and a group of Catholic musicians who prayed a rosary for him in the middle of a bar where he was performing.

Sean Forrest speaks to participants at the teachers conference.

“I think God is more pleased to see us try to walk in faith and fail at it than to stay home safe, alone with their Jesus,” Forrest said. “Our faith has to go beyond us, beyond our school buildings and into homes, into restaurants, out in public. When God bids a person to follow Him, He is asking them to come follow Him and die to themselves.”

Forrest reminded the teachers that their role is doubly important because they not only share their knowledge in specific subjects, but also have the opportunity to offer a Christian witness every day in the classroom.

“You will be the first understanding of who God is for some of the kids you meet,” he said. “They will come to know Him through encountering you and seeing how merciful and honest you are. Catholic education is about helping people grow in mind, body and spirit. Don’t underestimate the power of the work you do and the power of letting the Holy Spirit work through you.”

Forrest also told the educators to acknowledge the frequent stress they face, and to take care of themselves both physically and spiritually.

“Make sure you fellowship with people who bring you closer to Christ, and make sure you have people praying for you — that is very necessary,” he said.

After his presentation, the teachers attended Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

On March 3, they heard talks on the “Joy of Teaching — Fun Raising in Catholic Schools” and “Pope Francis’ Vision of Education.”

They also took part in dozens of workshops. The sessions covered a wide range of topics, including  new and innovative ways to teach math, reading and science; discussions of new technology for the classroom; and ways to teach Catholic social justice, Scripture and theology.

All photos, Miscellany/Christina Lee Knauss: Kathy Preston, right, principal of St. Peter School in Columbia, talks to Monica Wyrick, an art teacher at the school, during the diocesan Teachers Education Conference held March 2-3 at Cardinal Newman in Columbia.