Mr. Mingerink is the administrator of Adams Christian School, the Executive Secretary of the Federation Board of the Protestant Reformed Schools, and a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church.
Editor’s Note: Although the subject matter of this article and the recent editorials is nearly identical, there is no inherent (cause or effect) connection between them. As you might expect, I am delighted in the development reported in the article.—RJD
In 1956, the final book in the Narnia Chronicles was published. Readers of good literature witnessed the ending of a great saga. In November of that same year, Fidel Castro boarded a boat en route to Cuba to help set off the Cuban Revolution. On December 7, 1956, four days after Castro landed in Cuba, another important event happened. Gathered in a little room in Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School, representatives from Adams Street, Hope, and South Holland/Oak Lawn Christian schools met in a joint meeting.
The world little noted nor long remembered that meeting. People moved along with no idea or care about what these men were discussing. But for those with an interest in and concern for Reformed education, the meeting was of great importance. On the agenda that evening was the establishment of a Normal School (a teacher-training school). Although the paint had hardly dried on the walls of these new schools, their founders knew the importance of properly trained teachers for their schools. By coming together on this matter, they saw in their unity a source of strength and stability. In short time, this little gathering organized themselves into the Federation of Protestant Reformed School Societies. It was created with the purpose of dealing with matters pertaining to Protestant Reformed schools in common.
Over the next couple years, the Federation met to discuss the matter of training teachers; but progress on such a project is neither easy nor simple. In 1960, with no reason recorded in the minutes, the Federation passed a motion to drop all efforts in establishing a Normal School. I can only imagine what the obstacles might have been. No money? No room? No time? No energy? No support? No leadership? Such are the common obstacles that plague even the greatest ideas. Despite this decision, the Federation did not change any of her purposes for existence. In Article II. C of her Constitution, she has the purpose of “seeking ways and means for a more thorough training of teachers and prospective teachers in Christian principles.”
With this purpose still intact, the Federation has once again made a push to provide a more “thorough training” of teachers. In 2015, with input from various individuals, the Teacher Educational Development (TED) committee of the Federation produced “A Concept Plan for a Future Protestant Reformed Teacher Training Program.” A short quote from this document provides the purpose for it: “This document is designed to articulate a vision for such a program [teacher-training program] and to inspire potential supporters to embrace this ideal and to acknowledge its feasibility.” This plan was presented at the annual Federation delegate meeting in October, 2015 as information. The readers of the Standard Bearer can access this seventeen-page publication by visiting www.prcs.org. The Concept Plan articulates a distinctively Reformed teacher-training program, which supplements the regular college education teachers receive.
In the months following, the TED committee of the Federation reached out to her member schools asking for feedback on the ideal of a teacher-training program. Additionally, a delegation from the TED committee visited the Covenant Canadian Reformed Teacher Training College (CCRTC) in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. This is a small teacher-training college that provides training for elementary school teachers who plan to teach in the Canadian Reformed Christian schools.
In April, 2016, after assessing the feedback from the member schools and evaluating our observations from CCRTC, the TED committee presented the Federation delegates with a revised direction. Slow and easy was the main message we heard. This is also how the CCRTC got her feet off the ground. Slow and easy. Of course, when working in committees with constant turn-over, slow and easy can also be a path for getting very little accomplished.
We live in a society of great spiritual and moral erosion. This erosion has eaten away at the educational institutions our future teachers attend. These are the institutions that shape the young men and women who will be providing instruction in our classrooms. Many institutions that were once great halls of education are now only feed troughs for swine; hardly worth casting your pearls before. They have become arenas for showcasing man’s “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). Slow and easy is appropriate for engaging in a large venture, but we must keep our nose to the grindstone.
With this in mind, the direction proposed by the TED committee was the establishment of a new committee called the Teacher-Training Committee (TTC). This committee, headed by a paid director, would have the purpose of conducting more detailed research into a teacher-training program with the eventual goal of obtaining approval from the Federation to begin providing more teacher-training opportunities. It has become readily apparent to the TED committee that the complex endeavor of teacher training requires more time and energy than what the TED committee can provide. Members of the TED committee already serve on local school boards and the work required for this endeavor is more than what this committee can handle as it is structured now. The new TTC would ideally be comprised of individuals who are not currently serving on a school board but who have the skill and heart for the great work it is tasked to do. We also want to see committee membership from individuals outside the West Michigan community. This is possible thanks to the use of various communication programs on the Internet.
I am happy to report that at our last Federation delegate meeting held this past October, the Federation voted to approve the formation of such a committee. The TED committee has also recently secured Mr. Rick Noorman, administrator at Covenant Christian High School (Grand Rapids), to serve as the first Managing Director of this committee. We are convinced he is very capable and has a solid grasp on the nature of the committee’s work. He will be working with us to fill the rest of the committee slots.
I end this short article by asking the readers of the Standard Bearer to support our efforts in the establishment of a training program for our future Protestant Reformed teachers. We need willing individuals to serve on this committee. After sixty-plus years of Protestant Reformed education, we have accomplished very little in this area. We need men and women who can think deeply about the principles, practices, and history of Reformed education and then shape our new teachers with this knowledge and practice. Such training can provide a common anchor that keeps the instruction of the school from tossing in the winds of every new idea and philosophy. But such an anchor can also serve as a springboard from which the craft of Christian education can be sharpened and honed. Without such a program, we have no think-tank for further development of and research into Reformed education. And in this day and age, if we are not confronting what is coming our way, we are only slowly eroding.
Although there is nothing left to write in the story of Fidel Castro or the Narnia Chronicles, the story of Protestant Reformed Teacher Training is just beginning. Please help us write this story and support this important cause.