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Developing Christian leaders isn’t a mission statement that education professor Dr. Janet Morgan takes lightly. She believes, lives and practices that call every day. When Dr. Morgan met Sharlyn Elliott, master of education student and Lewisville Independent School District middle school teacher, she knew God had big plans in store for them. Elliott returned to school to earn her master’s degree because she wanted to be able to share her faith in the public school system. She felt called to education and believed that God was guiding her to administration so she could have a larger influence in the public school system.
Dr. Morgan had Elliott in several of her classes, and one day, Elliott dropped her homework off a little early before heading to another job.
Not only was Elliott a middle school teacher, but she was also a co-founder of an organization in the Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) area called Bridges Outreach of Denton County, Inc. This organization, founded in 2001, serves marginalized children and seeks to enrich students both spiritually and academically through math and science courses.
“ encouraged me to see her programs,” Dr. Morgan said. “Eventually, I went and I was fascinated.”
Dr. Morgan and her husband decided they could start a similar organization in Tarrant County, near DFW. In 2010, under the auspices of Bridges Outreach of Denton County, Inc., Dr. Morgan co-founded BridgesWork, Inc. Its mission is to participate in the lives of children, equipping them through academic growth, spiritual awareness and service to identify future dreams and help make them realities. Now a registered 501(c)3 organization, BridgesWork offers education and enrichment opportunities for students, especially to those who are at risk of falling behind in school.
“It’s not always the professors inspiring students to do great things, but many times, the students inspiring the professors,” Dr. Morgan said.
In 2011, Elliott graduated with her master’s degree, the same year her daughter graduated from Baylor University. Then, in February 2013, Elliott was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. The disease ended up taking her life just eight months later, but she continued to teach in her classroom because she loved to teach and loved her students.
“ was very hard for me,” Dr. Morgan said. “Sharlyn was the epitome of a Christian woman who was always giving back to the community.”
Elliott’s legacy lives on at Bridges Outreach of Denton County, now run by her daughter, Morgan Elliott.
“The heartbeat of the ministry is to bridge the gap between school, church and the community,” Morgan Elliott said.
BridgesWork is touching the lives of many in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, and Concordia graduate students and staff members are helping make a difference.
DFW Center Dean Dr. Rebecca Burton and retiring professor and board member of BridgesWork Dr. Robert Malzahn have been instrumental in establishing the relationship between the CTX DFW center and BridgesWork.
“Since Concordia DFW holds evening classes, our students and teachers conduct leadership and enrichment programs in the morning, so our Concordia students and other mentors can work with the children,” Dr. Morgan said. “We believe we’re making a difference.”
Concordia graduate students volunteer as mentors and instructors in both the Saturday and summer programs. Many of these programs are offered throughout the summer, after school and one Saturday of each month October through May. The Concordia DFW center even hosts a Christmas gift shopping experience every year that allows children to look through hundreds of donated items and choose a few to give to their families.
“The children who participated in the summer programs were invited to come and ‘shop’ for their families for Christmas,” CTX graduate student Linda Ristow said. “They were so excited about the gifts they picked out for their families. For many of them it was their first time to give a gift rather than just receive one. Truly a life-changing experience!”
BridgesWork tutor and Lutheran teacher Ann Jung has been working with a few of these children for more than a year.
“We work on academics, but many other teachable moments arise to talk about family, community and their futures,” Jung said. “Let’s invest in them as future leaders in the community – leaders in their own families. That’s what really excites me.”
Beginning in October 2014, programs will include topics such as “Establishing Your Compass For Life” for second through fifth grades, and “Paying It Forward” for grades six through 12. This year, BridgesWork also plans to sponsor the Christmas gift shopping experience, and the tentative date is set for Saturday, December 13, 2014
In late October, Callahan, a ’13 graduate of Concordia’s Director of Christian education (DCE) program, began a 15-month journey in Botswana to fulfill an internship requirement. All Concordia University Texas (CTX) DCE students partake in an internship upon completion of their in-classroom degree program. This step allows them to finalize their certification process as a DCE in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
Consistently involved in mission club and service learning projects throughout college, Callahan felt God was calling her overseas for her internship. Through an opportunity administered by Global Lutheran Outreach, Callahan knew Botswana was where she was supposed to be.
“It’s scary to think about leaving everything you know…everything that is comfortable…behind,” Callahan said. “But I know God has big things in store and I trust His leading.”
Botswana has the second-highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world. Almost a quarter of the population of Botswana, 320,000 people, suffers from HIV/AIDS. With only one physician available for every 3,000 individuals (primarily located in high-density urban centers), rural communities in Botswana often lack access to both health care and health education according to the CIA World Fact Book.
These facts led Callahan to conclude that she could impact rural Botswana by creating both opportunities to worship and learn in easily accessible settings. Her goal is to create increased access to rural home/community churches, weekly Bible studies, and spiritual training, in conjunction with health education, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, and hospital ministries.
Unfortunately, overseas ministries are costly and offer no income.
In September 2013, Callahan herself was not sure she would be able to leave for Botswana on schedule. She needed to show she had raised at least 60 percent of the $33,000 needed to sustain her through 15 months of overseas ministry prior to boarding the plane. Despite generous contributions from friends, family, church congregations, and t-shirt sales, she was still less than halfway to her 60 percent goal.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Klein, Texas, stepped to help Liz meet her goal. Four years ago, Trinity Lutheran established the Legacy of Blessing (LOB) Mission fund to assist LCMS ministries and support ongoing mission projects. Even though the church was paying off its own debt from a recent capital campaign, it understood the importance of giving.
Trinity’s mission board was interested in helping Callahan because her ministry was unique and they had not previously funded a program in Botswana. Upon receiving her request for funding, the Trinity congregation decided to provide $16,000 toward Callahan’s mission work. This game-changing grant was approved just in time for Callahan to depart for Botswana a short few weeks later. The congregation’s support brought Callahan to tears.
After more than a month of intense language-immersion training to get familiar with the tribal dialects common in the rural areas she will be working, Callahan began teaching at a youth camp in Kanye, Botswana, a remote village where she will live long-term. Her work is evidence of just how far a congregation’s willingness to answer God’s call can reach.
You can follow Liz on her journey through her blog at http://avoidinglizasters.wordpress.com/
My experience at the NCAA Career in Sports Forum was enriching and unforgettable. Very few students were blessed with the opportunity to attend this forum and I am incredibly grateful that I was selected to represent Concordia University and the ASC. While at the forum, we considered how our values intersect with our opportunities for careers in intercollegiate athletics; we learned about our behavioral styles (through taking the DISC assessment) and how our style impacts our individual effectiveness; we developed plans to enhance our development and growth; we looked at the role of intercollegiate coaches and administrators; and we were given the opportunity to network with other athletes and key decision makers in the NCAA. There are so many incredible things I will take away from this experience and I cannot wait to share them with my fellow teammates and athletes.
While at the forum, we had a student-athlete huddle with NCAA President Dr. Mark Emmert. For over an hour, we were able to engage in dialogue and ask him questions. We discussed how other countries see the benefits of playing sports on developing young people in terms of their leadership and ingenuity; we are very fortunate to have an organization devoted exclusively to enriching and bettering the collegiate athlete's experience. Dr. Emmert also elaborated on his belief that an athletic program's true success is measured by how they reflect the values of their university. There were many other questions and thoughts addressed throughout the huddle that allowed me to understand the implementation of rules and how things are decided in the NCAA.
There was a session on branding by DeNita Turner, Founder of Image Builders Inc. Turner defined a “personal brand” as the process of differentiating yourself by identifying and articulating your unique value. She made the point that what people see and what we want people to see is not always the same. Turner gave us many statistics about how social media can affect your personal brand and your ability to get hired for the job you want. From my talks with other student-athletes, this session made us consider our own personal brand and if our social media was a distraction from our brand or if we used it appropriately to make statements about our character.
One of my favorite sessions of the weekend was the “Big Picture of Intercollegiate Athletics.” During this panel, Peter Roby, Sue Willey, and Dan McKane educated us about the different philosophies of Division I, Division II, and Division III. They were very insistent on the fact that no division is better or worse than another, they just aim towards different philosophies. One of their main points focused on finding a good fit for you. When you select both a division and a university, you need to make sure that their values match yours.
On the second day of the forum, we separated into groups and went through a series of three rotations titled “A Day in the Life.” These rotations educated us about the structure of athletic departments, the various roles and opportunities available within an athletic department, and the factors that influence our choice of career options in intercollegiate athletics. During these sessions, we also compared and contrasted the elements of working as intercollegiate administrators or coaches. These sessions were incredibly beneficial because they educated us about the internal and external functions, the skills required and the various job titles.
There was a panel consisting of Greg Pottorff (Lawyer in Indianapolis), Julie Arnold (Director of NCAA Special Projects), Bruce Wimbish (Director of Marketing and Communication), and Charley Casserly (NFL Network Analyst and former General Manager of the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins) concerning alternate careers in sports. Each of the panelists holds a position outside of the campus or conference setting and they discussed their roles and responsibilities. This panel was just another example of how many different job opportunities there are in the world of sports. Some of the most valuable information I took away from this panel is to make sure you are a self-starter, take chances that can extend your career in different directions, continue looking for things that challenge you so you can continue to evolve, and to make sure we find time in our busy schedules to volunteer, because it is the extra things that you do that make you stand out.
One of the most valued lessons I will take away from this experience is the importance of networking. Each and every session, we were given the opportunity to network with fellow student-athletes, our team's facilitators, other facilitators who all have jobs in intercollegiate athletics, and a variety of other professionals who have careers in athletics at varying levels. There were a total of 277 student-athletes from across the country, and while I did not meet everyone, I did have the pleasure of getting to know quite a few of them. It was incredible to see so many athletes with such drive and impeccable work ethic. The relationships I acquired throughout the forum are definitely ones I will cherish and maintain throughout my life. I was placed on the Red Team and we have already created a group on Facebook where we can continue to encourage each other as we work towards our careers in athletics.
Attending the NCAA Career in Sports Forum expanded and enhanced my knowledge about the NCAA and all the possible careers in intercollegiate athletics. I built many relationships with my fellow student-athletes, my team facilitators, other team facilitators, and with those who came to speak at the forum. I also learned more about my values, my priorities, and what interests me; this experience helped me to grow as a student, an athlete, and a leader at Concordia. The NCAA did an incredible job of making sure that this experience was invaluable for all who attended.
Most student-athletes will never have the opportunity to attend something like this, and I am very thankful that I was given this chance. I cannot wait to take what I learned and share it with my fellow student-athletes at Concordia. My desire is to get more involved and encourage others to do the same. We have such an incredible opportunity before us as not everyone is given the chance to compete in athletics at the college level. I look forward to using the tools and information gained from the NCAA Career in Sports Forum to establish a culture of school spirit, involvement, and dedication at Concordia.
It was an honor to be selected and take part in the NCAA Career in Sports Forum held in Indianapolis, Indiana from June 8-11. The forum was set up to prepare student-athletes for a future career in intercollegiate athletics. The program touched upon assisting individuals in making the transition from competition to choosing and acquiring their soon-to-be profession.
The forum began with a look at individual values and how these values play a role in choosing a career in athletics. It is important to know your abilities and understand who you are to be successful in life. Student-athletes took a behavioral style assessment before meeting in Indianapolis. At the forum, each individual was given a breakdown on their personal style and how it relates to choosing a suitable career. In addition, student-athletes learned how to recognize the styles of others in order to work effectively with colleagues.
The second day involved obtaining the “big picture of intercollegiate athletics.” Student-athletes were introduced to a variety of careers that exist in this field along with learning the different philosophies of the three NCAA divisions. From coaching and administration to working positions outside of the campus, professionals from each division spoke about their roles, responsibilities, and what it takes to be successful. One particular speaker, Mr. Charley Casserly, grasped everyone's attention with his insight into obtaining a job. Mr. Casserly, a 16-year veteran NFL General Manager and currently a part of the CBS Sports NFL Pre-Game Show, stressed the need to give your best from the start with goals in mind and to bring a strong work ethic. He quoted Lou Holtz and said, “The greatest investment you can make is in yourself.” This relayed the importance of creating a strong image of yourself and allowing others to see your strengths and abilities. The second day ending with a visit to the NCAA Hall of Champions to see the trophies, banners, statues, and displays exhibited.
Day three at the forum was based upon learning individual strategies and techniques needed to make a successful and smooth transition into a career in intercollegiate athletics. Student-athletes learned how to properly write resumes, network themselves, and make an impressive interview. We were given a chance to practice our interviewing techniques against our peers and receive feedback on how to improve our efforts.
Our final day at the forum highlighted the key components of transitioning into a career. As so often stressed during the forum, “the time is now.” Early preparations are needed to make a smooth transition, and this forum provided everything student-athletes need to get a head start. Each individual was sent home with the understanding on how to enhance their development and plan properly for their career choice.
I truly enjoyed attending this forum. It was fun getting acquainted with college students from all over the country along with meeting professionals within the NCAA. The four days spent at the forum were very informative and made me feel more confident in my abilities to obtain a career in my field. I would highly recommend to any upcoming qualified student-athletes to apply and attend this type of forum for guidance and direction in choosing their own individual careers.
Education majors, both traditional undergraduate students and adults in the master of education and superintendent certification programs, comprise a large percentage of Concordia’s enrollment. And one thing that Concordia seems to do very well is give these future educators many opportunities to learn from practical experience.
For special education students, opportunities abound. Concordia partners with Leander Independent School District (LISD) to host the SELF 30 program aimed at providing special needs students ages 18-22 from LISD with a chance to attend school in a college setting and hone skills they need to be successful in life.
“SELF 30 students are a part of CTX,” said Sharon Whightsil, a Concordia student and education major. “SELF kids learn what it’s like to be in college but also learn independence.”
Education majors are required to do five hours of field work with the SELF30 program, but many volunteer for much more. In fact, that experience is what prompted Whightsil to pursue a career in special education.
“These kids are not sheltered from reality,” said Whightsil, on having the SELF 30 program on Concordia’s campus. “They attend classes, chapel, and interact with students daily. Aline (the SELF 30 director) was the catalyst for me joining the special education program.”
Special education majors also benefit from travel courses. In May, a group of five students traveled to California and Nevada with Professor Cari Chittick to observe special education programs in Lutheran schools. It was an especially interesting experience for students pursuing a Lutheran Teaching Diploma to become a rostered teacher in the Lutheran school system.
“It’s our goal to be able to start something like that here,” said Joel Schildwachter, a student studying special education.
Chittick says these opportunities happen from networking and getting involved in the community. And they have been blessed with many opportunities to use classroom education in practical situations.
“You never know how God is going to call and use you,” said Kendall Ainsley, a student in Chittick’s class.
To learn more about these programs, visit
CTX – Houston Center will launch its latest M.Ed specialization, a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction with Teaching Certificate, in the spring of 2012. This program will allow students teaching in a private school or with a Bachelor’s Degree inanother discipline to earn their master’s degree and Texas teaching certification simultaneously.
Beginning in Spring 2012, CTX- DFW Center will add the Superintendent’s Certification Program to its graduate education offerings. This program is designed for individuals already holding a Master’s degree who wish to obtain Texas Superintendent Certification. Superintendent Certification programs are also offered at Austin’s North Lamar Center, Houston Center and San Antonio Centers.
The Concordia University Texas – San Antonio Center is pleased to announce the introduction of two new programs for the San Antonio education community. New programs include a new master’s degree with initial teacher certification. This program is ideal for the professional with a degree in an area other than education who wishes to enter the teaching profession. It is a two-year program and includes student teaching as its capstone course.
Another new program is the Superintendent Certificate Program. This program is offered to those educators with a master’s degree and administrative experience who wish to become school district superintendents. The Superintendent Certificate Program is a one-year program with an internship.
CTX- San Antonio will continue offering the masters level programs in advanced literacy, curriculum and instruction, and educational administration with an attached principal’s certification, as well as a principal certification program for those educators who already possess a master’s degree in education and wish to add the principal certificate to their resume.
For more information on the master’s of education programs offered at all locations, click here.
Concordia University Texas graduate student Erika Stevens was invited to sing “God Bless America” in the 7th inning stretch of the 4th game of the World Series on Oct. 23.
“It was exciting to be part of a winning game,” said Stevens, 46, who performed before a live crowd of 55,000 people at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. “The crowd, the cameras. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. The next morning I woke up (and thought) ‘Did I I dream that or did it really happen?”
Stevens, a vocalist in the Texas Air National Guard military band, received an invitation to sing at the game after her commander urged her to submit a recording to the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were looking for a representative from the military to sing “God Bless America.” A celebrity would be chosen to sing the national anthem, she explained. Steven’s invitation came just two days before the actual game.
“I was sitting at my desk at school when my phone rang,” Stevens said. “It was the Rangers calling. I almost passed out.”
The weekend was a whirlwind of activity in preparation for the Sunday game. The Rangers gave her tickets to four choice seats.
After her performance, Stevens changed out of her uniform and re-joined her sister and two friends in the 18th section of the stadium. She said reaction from her circle of acquaintances was immediate. “I got 19 text messages between the time I changed clothes and got back to my seat.”
Erika Stevens is in the Masters of Education program at Concordia University Texas’ Dallas-Fort Worth center. She will graduate in August 2012 with a specialization in Advanced Literacy. In addition to her role in the Texas Air National Guard, she teaches music at Leslie A. Stemmons and N.W. Hadllee elementary schools in the Dallas Independent School District.
Stevens’ performance at the World Series game can be viewed here.
Deandra Wright, 2008 graduate of Concordia, was selected Winderemere Elementary Teacher of the Year 2011. She teaches 4th grade in Pflugerville ISD.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010, Dr. Joanne Antrim’s Advanced Techniques in Reading students and Andrew Chapin’s sixth grade students at Hampstead Hill Academy in Baltimore, Maryland spent some time together. Earlier in the semester Andrew, a Concordia Texas 2010 graduate, and a teacher with the Teach America program, contacted Dr. Antrim to ask if his sixth grade students could, using Skype technology, have some of their questions about reading and college answered. The questions from the Hampstead Hill students were sent in advance and the Concordia students each chose a question that was answered “live” and also told the sixth graders the title of their favorite book and why they liked it. There were cheers from Baltimore as the students recognized many of the books the Concordia students enjoyed. The Concordia education students gave the sixth graders insights into college life and were wonderful role models for these future college students.
Andrew Chapin, May 2010 graduate, was selected to participate in Teach for America. He double- majored in History and Secondary Curriculum with an 8-12 Social Studies specialization. In June 2010, Andrew traveled to Philadelphia for 5 weeks of training before starting his teaching career at Hampstead Hill Academy, a Title I Charter school, part of the Baltimore City school system. He will teach 6th grade English and Social Studies. As part of his 2 years with the Teach for America program, Andrew will work on his Masters degree through John Hopkins University.