I recently wrote a blog post which looked back at my connection to some of “pastoral ancestors,” for lack of a better description. I have another side of my personality, though, and therefor am the descendant of a whole other line of teachers. I'm not just pastor, I'm a geek-pastor! I need to thank the people who have helped me with this side of my nature as well, because it's certainly part of my calling. Actually, I need to thank one person in particular, because without her I would have never been set on the path I'm now walking. Judy, this one is for you.
In 1998, less than a year after I got married, I applied to a work-study program assisting in the computer lab for five hours a week. I went in to interview, and got the job. Starting out I was pretty terrible. It was an all Mac environment and I hadn't touched a Mac for years. Over the months, however, I began to feel more comfortable. By Late May the work-study grant had a lot of money left, and I was told to work as many hours as I liked until the end of the school year. Given that I was finished with my seminary classes at that point, I pretty much worked full time until school let out. It was wonderful.
The real turning point came for me the next school year when the district was opening up a new building. The increased size of the facilities had a position opening for a new technology assistant. When I told Judy I was interested in the job, she blurted out, “You're hired.” There was a bit more to the hiring process than that, but those two words changed my future.
The new building was scheduled to open up after Christmas break, which gave us a week or so to set up the computers for the new school. Computers for three labs, every classroom, the offices, and the library all had to be provisioned, set up, and tested. I will never forget the process we had going, what a wonderful week.
When the school opened, it was like being unleashed into a new playground. A brand new network, and video distribution system had to be tested. We needed to come up with ways for faculty to use their technology in the classroom. Students had to be trained in the new expectations placed of them because of all the new tools they had at their disposal. Teachers also had to be talked down from a panic state when things didn't go according to plan. What an ideal environment!
Every time I learned a skill, I became more confident that I could teach others, or come up with a solution to problems I encountered. It didn't matter that many of the skills I learned weren't directly related to my assigned tasks (as long as those got done). I was learning how the process of computing worked, and that was the key — it made me better at my job.
Sadly, I had to leave the school sooner than I would have liked, but my experiences at Miles River Middle School are what have given me the audacity to actually believe I can manage a database, create a book, learn new software, or leverage new technology for pastoral ministry. It was Judy's patience, empathy, and encouragement which set me on this particular aspect of my journey. So, if you have ever been the recipient of some computer assistance and wondered where on earth I picked all this stuff up — just think to yourself, “Thank you, Judy.”
Thank you, Judy. As you get ready for retirement, I hope you look back on all your years teaching and know how much of a impact you have had!