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Passing the towl: A new faculty commissioned to lead

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New students are not the only fresh faces in classrooms at Bethel College. The start of the fall semester marks the beginning of a full year of teaching for new faculty. This year, Bethel College welcomes 17 new faculty members to the five various schools. Many of the new faculty feel God has used the experiences and trials preceding their arrival at Bethel to prepare them for their opportunities with students now.  “I feel like the Israelites wandering through the wilderness for many years, and in coming to Bethel, I’ve come home,” said Dr. Nancy Ryan, associate professor of education.  Ryan feels that God brought her to Bethel. The school’s initial request for her to teach one class turned into a full-time position in January of 2008. Now in her first full school year at Bethel, Ryan looks forward to mentoring her students as they prepare to be teachers. Her hope for all education students is that they “gain the skills and disposition to create a better today for the students that they teach.” Ryan views teaching as “people-making” and is passionate about the challenges of being an educator. She is especially interested in diversity initiatives. Like Ryan, Josh Sauerwein, a new instructor of accounting, also feels that it was “the Lord’s leading” that resulted in his arrival at Bethel. After he had initially applied, there was a slight delay in the school’s response because Dr. Cramer had recently suffered a heart attack. Sauerwein gladly accepted Bethel’s offer, considering it “a dream to teach full-time at a Christian school.” For Sauerwein, the best part of teaching is the interaction with students. Having previously been in ministry for seven years, Sauerwein sees a college campus as a great place to practice “incarnational ministry – being there and living life together.” He is passionate about helping students discover their callings and has been encouraged by how seriously the Bethel community takes vibrant worship. Ben Eggleston, a new instructor of mathematics is looking to help his students engage in the difficult material and wants to “make the complicated seem easy.” He had high expectations coming in and , he said, “so far it’s been everything I’ve hoped for. Students are kind and work hard. Faculty members are open and helpful.” Eggleston, who played tennis while he was in college, is also helping out with Bethel’s tennis team this school year. Dr. Heather Ayala, assistant professor of biology, has started the school year on maternity leave while she is taking care of her newborn son. However, she is excited about her start at Bethel and particularly hopes to build mentoring relationships with her students. In teaching biology, Ayala loves “understanding the intricacies of life” and feels that in studying biology one “unfolds more and more of the mystery of life.” Dr. David McCabe, assistant professor of New Testament, comes to Bethel after spending several years abroad studying and teaching. Most recently he taught in Lithuania, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. This was a valuable experience, McCabe explained, because he taught the Bible “to a culture that was entirely biblically illiterate.” One thing he noted that surprised him upon returning to the United States is how prevalent the Bible is in American culture yet how cheaply or casually it is treated in the culture of the Christian Church. He said this is partly because he found the Bible is not a part of everyday culture in Europe, but it is was a part of the “culture of the Church to love Scripture.” “Teaching is a venue for me to express the things I am passionate about, and it’s exciting to see people get passionate about those things, especially when it’s Scripture,” McCabe said. McCabe also said he hopes his students come to realize the Bible “is not easily domesticated” and that they learn “what it means to wrestle with God and meet with the Bible on its own terms.” Dr. Eric Oglesbee, assistant professor of linguistics, was a former undergraduate at Bethel and has returned to teach at the school. “It’s funny being a co-worker with people I had as professors,” Oglesbee said.    He said he was surprised to find how aggressive Dr. Tim Erdel, associate professor of religion and philosophy, is on the basketball court during faculty games at noontime.  Oglesbee said he appreciates the unity of Bethel’s faculty and the spiritual vibrancy of the campus..  “I would hope that [Bethel students] discover a faith that’s their own and that they would have a chance to explore the hard issues of life in a place that’s safe,” Oglesbee said. Other new faculty members are: Joel Boehner, director of the writing center and now an instructor of writing; Dr. Haining Chen, assistant professor of information technology; Mary Downs-Last, instructor of nursing; Dr. Kevin Drury, assistant professor of biology and ecology; Irene Eskridge, instructor of education; Dr. Boyd Gilbert (ABD), instructor of education; Dr. Adam Hammet, assistant professor of mathematics; Joseph Kutcka, instructor of sign language; Diane Myers, instructor of education; Matthew Scott, instructor of theatre; and Louise Solak, instructor of nursing.
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