A faculty blog by Dr. Beth Ackerman
Friday, April 10, 2015
This week I received an email from a student asking why I haven’t blogged here in a while. I honestly didn’t think anyone would notice. :) I’ve been busy these days with family, friends, and work. And I’ve also been enjoying my Women of Faith blogs. So you can look for me there as well. But I appreciated the email from this student so much that I asked his story could be my next blog. If you’ve followed by blogs at all, you’ll understand why I appreciate his story so much as key people were placed in his life to set his path straight, particularly a Christian foster family. Please take the time to read his story and pray about what God is saying to you through this one Champion in Christ.
My name is Joseph Provost, and I am an undergraduate student (Senior, will be graduating next May) studying Special Education in the online program. While many may think what I am about to say is needless or frivolous, I think it's important for you to hear.
As a child, my mother left me at three months old, and my father had disabilities and was unable to care for three children. I was placed in foster care while visiting him. Unfortunately, I was abused eventually his parental rights were terminated. I was then sent from foster home, to residential, to group home, to hospital, time and time again. It appeared I had no one to love me, and the statistics did not look good. In my dark days of uncertainty, I turned to a belief that there had to be something of good out there. While the people who were supposed to show me good failed at this, I knew that someone out there had to love me, because what else did I have? I began to have a childlike faith in God, which helped get me through many dark times.
To fast forward, when I was finally put in public school in 10th grade, I was tested at a 6th grade level and placed in a self-contained special education classroom. I was told that given my then current behavioral characteristics and classification statistics, by the time my graduating class walked across the stage, I would be a dropout, dead, or in prison. Around the same time, I was taken in by a great foster family at around 15 (which later adopted me as an adult) and was baptized into the Faith. What happened next shocked everyone. In one year, I tested out of the self-contained special education classroom, and was mainstreamed taking college prep and honors classes, with over a 3.8 GPA.
I graduated high school as the first and only person to do so in my family, and I did so as #3 in my class, and 1 of 12 on the National Honor Society. I was not ready for college, even though it was pushed upon me. I attended American International College for just over a year studying Criminal Justice, and left because I really didn't know what I wanted to do. While I was successful in high school, there were still so many things afflicting me, that it was difficult to focus on moving forward, including settling on any specific path in life. I worked for about 10 years in many sales and marketing positions, until one day, I was inspired to return to school at Southern New Hampshire University for "no apparent reason". I didn't know why I was going back to school, but I did. Through all of my classes, I finally had an "aha" moment in which I realized the calling God had for me - to be a Special Education Teacher, effecting change for generations.
In the years since returning to school, I have received all "A's" except for one "B", and have prided myself in making an eternal difference. I plan on continuing at Liberty for my MAT in Special Education, and then deciding on a program to earn my EdD.
Why do I tell you all of this? I say this to help you understand that I KNOW how hard it is to balance the demands of work, school, family, etc. I work as a Special Education Behavior Interventionist while also studying at Liberty. I am engaged to be married. I am a Squadron Commander, Director of Cadet Programs, and member of the Civil Air Patrol Chaplain Corps. Given where I came from, the immense trauma, and where I am today in a position to serve is entirely miraculous. What YOU and EVERY faculty and staff member does for me and every student who wishes to learn in an academically challenging and spiritually grounded University is beyond remarkable, and continually shapes who I am.
The real heroes are the ones who suffer and labor in silence. You and the entire Liberty staff have my continued respect and admiration, as well as my prayers to continue the good fight - the fight for Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Posted at 11:07 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
“Give me a lever long enough… and single handed I can move the world”. Peter Senge
Today, I had the honor of watching the grand opening of the Jerry Falwell Library. Being in academics, it’s amazing to see such a state of the art library being built at the University that I once attended for my undergraduate program and to where I now am one of the associate deans. After seeing the amazing structure and technology, I feel incredibly humbled to be part of such a flourishing program.
It was emotional for me to hear the remarks from Rev. Jerry Falwell’s eldest son and current President, Jerry Falwell, along with his closest friend and current Provost, Dr. Ron Godwin. During their remarks I’m sitting with my Mom, the Dean of the School of Education. Anyone that knows my Mom knows her humble, servant heart. What folks may not know, because of her quiet spirit nature, is her love and belief in the power of Christian Education, a vision that she has quietly shared with Dr. Jerry Falwell. It was also a vision passed down from her parents, to where she sacrificed much to see us receive this education.
So during one of the videos that showed Dr. Falwell praying and sharing his vision for the future of the land that now holds Liberty University, my Mom leaned over and said to me, "I watched that live on TV". About a decade later my family moved to Lynchburg so my parents could be part of what is happening here. I was 13 years old when we moved, nearly 3 decades ago.
We often hear about the legacy and the large numbers that Jerry Falwell was part of creating. But for many of us, for the families of the church, University, LCA, it was a new beginning to being part of something ordained and greater than ourselves in sharing of a vision that the world can be changed through Christian Education and being a part of a lever that can move the world.
Grand opening - http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=18495&MID=109603
Posted at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | Permalink
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
As the debates seem to continue about Common Core Standards, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the matter here. This discussion is an attempt to explain the controversy rather than to push a point of view. I prefer that our students and others think critically about these ideas and be able to form their own opinions based off key elements such as a biblical perspective and Christian principles.
The debate seems to be centered around standards that are nationally driven or top/down agenda, which is not typically seen as a conservative point of view. It’s also my understanding that the major teacher unions have gotten behind them which is sometimes seen as a liberal group of stakeholders. While common core can be seen as controversial, most school systems have already adopted the standards.
ACSI, Association of Christian Schools International (the leading Christian education organization), has begun to develop materials to address the standards in our Christian schools. Christian schools are now utilizing the common core, because many states that house these schools are now requiring the common core. ACSI is offering workshops and aligning curriculum to these standards as states have already endorsed them. They have some information on their views at this article - http://pubs.royle.com/article/Christian+Schools+and+the+Common+Core/1497092/173903/article.html
Virginia Department of Education, who approves Liberty University's programs, has decided to not utilize the common core standards. Instead they have demonstrated how our State Standards Of Learning align to the common core standards, but at this time VA would prefer to maintain control of their own standards. So this is also state’s rights type issue, which is seen as a conservative view point. See VA DOE's statement at - http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/index.shtml and http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/common_core/index.shtml
However, the biggest fear of conservative organizations is that national standards can be agenda driven. Once the Federal government or any entity starts requiring them, then it is possible for agendas to become part of the standards. Some conservatives are claiming that the agenda is already there. Speaking in very general terms, conservative states and organizations have been the last to “sign off” on common core. The fear is if that though they are currently voluntary, they may not stay voluntary. And some conservatives and conservative organizations have said that states are already applying pressure to home schoolers and Christian education institutions. Regardless of whether they are volontary or if your state has endorsed the standards, they are probably here to stay whether we want them to be or not, at least for a political season.
With that said, there are benefits to common core standards, just as there are any “standards” for holding accountability. As Christians, we don’t want ever want to shy away from accountability. As Jerry Falwell, Sr. often said, “If it’s Christian, it ought to better”. Our concern should be focused rather on who and what is driving the standards and are our religious rights being impacted by these decisions. The link above to the ACSI's thoughts on the Common Core, express nicely how Christians should be engaging the culture, to include common core standards with biblical truths and princples. Perhaps they don't need to be something to run away from confronting.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 8:45 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I started becoming aware of this when I decided in my teen years that I needed to escape my family and four sisters fighting for a single bathroom and I moved myself to the basement bedroom. It was next to the stairs and it sometimes seemed an earthquake was coming when people galloped down the stairs. In adjusting to the new sounds of my bedroom and in the solitude I was seeking, I became very aware of my family’s movement. I could tell when sisters were fighting, Dad was mad, and when my family was being active or peaceful. When Jhon and I got our first apartment together, it was a basement apartment. The sounds above were foreign to him, but to me, it felt like home.
I’d begun to forget about those days when we bought our own home. It was 11 years before Jhon and I had Johnny, our first child. A couple years after this, I remember when I became aware of his little pattering toddler feet, whatever I was doing I stopped and listened and I cried. I get teary eyed now to still think about it. I now had my family and our own beautiful sounds of children feet.
Yesterday, I returned from a trip. I was just so happy to be at home and with my family. And I was listening intently to our home. The kids were playing on their Kinect and I heard their feet dancing, running in place, and jumping. And then one that just made me laugh, a clickity, click of paws on the hardwood floor. (I can’t believe we have a puppy!)
When times are stressed, when we are arguing, looking for lost shoes, trying to get out the door. I just exhale, briefly close my eyes, and just listen to feet, and now add the clickity, click of paws, and I know, all is good and blessed!Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 8:12 AM | Comments (1) | Permalink
Friday, July 19, 2013
It’s hard to not be sentimental when I see the various machinery and barriers closing in on the School of Education. I imagine most of us from the School of Education would agree that it is a bitter sweet ending of an era.
My family left Miami, FL and moved to Lynchburg, Virginia in 1986 so that my Mom could teach at Liberty University. She had just completed her doctorate at UM and it sparked a series of changes for our family. I remember her first office in the hallway they are prepping for destruction. She shared it with her friend and colleague, Dr. Rebecca Carwile. I remember hanging out in what was already a small office to share. At age 13, I would play with Dr. Carwile’s paper cranes until I figured out how to make one. My Mom, Dr. Parker, later became the Chair and Dean of the School of Education. Dr. Carwile was her Associate Dean for a time before losing a battle to cancer.
My Mom had the same office in the School of Education for about 20 years. To the best of my knowledge and because of much construction and growth, I imagine that no one currently at Liberty University has stayed in the same office longer. There are many memories of times spent visiting my Mom in her office, tears because of grades and frustration with school, memories of visits from my sisters there. And then the more recent memories of holding what I call “marathon meetings” with her in her office.
Of course, I was also a graduate of the School of Education, where I did my bachelor’s degrees. I had my colleagues as professors, Dr. Carwile, Dr. Pantana, and Dr. Black just to name a few. I still struggle to call them by their first name. I sat as a student in what used to be desks now replaced by tables, I recorded my first lesson plan and delivered presentations to my classmates in that building in the early 90s.
So as I walk the halls and see the white boards being removed, boxes being packed, I imagine that there all precious memories for all of us being stored until the School of Education finds a new home to fill up with new memories.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I should start that folks are often shocked that I’m introverted. When they think about it, I think it makes sense to them. There’s a reason I’m always hard to find in person, why I’m fast on email and slow to the phone, why I don’t frequent the office lunches, and then there is my obvious love for meetings, ;). My colleagues have learned it’s not that I’m not available; it’s that I’m available to them in different ways.
I also used to be EXTREMELY shy. As a child, I wouldn’t/couldn’t talk to strangers, and they often would even make me cry when they spoke to me. My students always love this example. When I was an undergraduate student, I DREADED speeches or presentations with the sick stomach and all. No, it’s worse than that, I was pitiful. I was one of those folks the audience even felt sorry for…with my voice and hands shaking. On a few occasions in my early college years, I even walked out of the middle of my speeches in tears. And I still get sick to my stomach on the first day of a new class or if I know I have to use a microphone at a speaking engagement. Though finding a sense of humor helps me recover from these more quickly.
There are times when being an introvert is great. When I have the right confidants and trusted friends lined up, it actually makes life easier being an introvert as I can escape much drama and enjoy a simpler life. But it’s hardest when people don’t recognize that this is how I am. I can do the parties and politics, have fun, hang out, talk to different people, etc. And it’s not even that I don’t enjoy it. I love hearing people's stories and hearing about their life. And anyone can tell you that I do love to talk :), it’s just that it makes me VERY tired. It burns energy from me to the point where I feel that my mind becomes unable to function.
Also, some of my long-time friends know that it can take years before they really got to know me. One of the reasons these blogs stretch me in interesting ways. :)
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 7:59 PM | Comments (2) | Permalink
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I write monthly devotional blogs for Women of Faith. Because of the quotes that have been dear to me in my walk in faith, this one has been my personal favorite. I wrote it a few weeks before the passing of Brennan Manning and it was published a couple weeks after his passing. If you are not familiar with his writings, I suggest you begin with Ragamuffin Gospel.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 2:40 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Thursday, April 4, 2013
It was 2005, and I had already paid my $200 deposit for my first overseas trip to an orphanage in Kazakhstan. But I had found out a couple months later that I was pregnant and I would be unable to go. So I went to this meeting about the trip in hopes of getting my deposit back. At this meeting, I find myself sitting next to Ember, who I met for the first time. Ember and I talked about her doing her Master’s degree and at some point in the conversation she stated that there was no way she could have the deposit which was due the next day. So she wouldn’t do the trip on this go around. Before I could give it any thought, I told her she could have my deposit. I don’t say this arrogantly, because I was having a baby and I really wanted to keep that money. Had I given it any thought, she would not have received the deposit.
Ember went on that trip and then went every summer until 2008 where she stayed for a year. That year she met Kiikzhan who she married in 2010. They now have 2 beautiful children, the newest one born last week that sparked this blog. They may even return with their family to Kazakhstan someday. I occasionally see them around town and pictures of their beautiful family on Facebook, and I just think… a $200 deposit I hoped to get back. Ember would also tell you all the other people that got her there that day and later on the different trips to Kazakhstan. My role was very small and really the role of many others. Ember made the true sacrifice. But my point is that we may never be used in the ways we had thought we might. But we are all used in beautiful ways. If you open your eyes to what is happening around you, you will see it.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 5:34 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Throughout my life there are those images left frozen on my mind. Mental pictures that can always spark instant emotion. Some are funny, well hysterical actually, others are pure joy, and then there is this one - one that leaves me with the rawest of emotions - sadness, frustration, anger, and doubt – all in one picture. Every time I’ve thought of it, it ends with - WHY? Why doesn’t God protect us and keep us safe? The thing about these mental pictures is that no words can do it justice. But I’ll try.
It was almost 2 years ago and I was attending a double funeral of my colleague and friend’s daughter and son-in-law. It was a tragic death of a beautiful young couple killed in a fire. I was watching the family procession into the church. Behind the shared single casket which held this young couple; there was my friend, Dr. Kathie Morgan. She seemed barely able to walk with 2 men supporting and guiding her along; one man, her first husband, who she had grown to forgive and continue to love, and the other man, her new husband who walked with her through her recent battle with cancer to include a mastectomy. Just behind her walked her only surviving daughter, and when I see her I know instantly the world of hurt that she is facing in losing a sister. There was my snap shot and mental picture of Kathie bearing all of life’s possible pains.
I also have to say here that Kathie Morgan is one of those amazing, kind women, who I imagine has very few, if any, grudges against her. So with this mental picture, I’m often left wondering – Why? Why does it storm so hard on some people? And good people? Where is our protection?
Yesterday, Kathie shared her story in our School of Education Convocation, I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. I knew it would hurt to hear her story again. But then sometimes it seems the least we can do is to listen to her story. I also knew that underneath the pain, perhaps she would offer me some wisdom. That raw wisdom discovered through life’s pain. She told her stories of pain, heartbreak, and loss to include others, like losing her sister to cancer. She didn’t even have time to share her husband’s recent heart problems and her Mom not doing well and other struggles I know she faces. While we are all left crying and emotionally drained, she closed with these thoughts. She gave us five things to do –
1. Love those people God put in your life in grace. Allow them to be free. And don’t allow any regrets.
2. Choose people over things
3. Choose your friends, mentors, and colleagues wisely, as through the hard times, they are your support.
4. Listen to your heart
Being true to teaching and her love of literacy, Kathie ended it with a quote from C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia referring to Aslan.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
Here is a picture of Kathie and her daughter. Because this is much her story, Kathie read this and gave permission to share. It's been an honor to learn from her and I hope you feel this as well.Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 7:05 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink
Sunday, February 24, 2013
This weekend Mom wanted to get Dad out of the house a little more as it's now been a few weeks since his open heart surgery. Yesterday, at a middle school play where his granddaughter had a leading role, he seemed to be struggling a little and felt he was going to faint. I jokingly told him that “you’re just trying to get out of the Carousel play tonight”. He said, “That’s one of my favorites. I love the music to that one”. He rested for the afternoon and was able to attend the play.
So last night, while waiting for the start of Carousel with my parents and extended family, who traveled to see my cousin perform, I looked at the Playbill wondering why I don’t know what music was even in Carousel. I turned to Dad who was sitting behind me and asked, is this THE “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. And he said “yes, but it won’t be as good as the Lettermen singing it” (Though we all now agree the performers last night DID do better, particularly the closing number was very moving).
But I grew up listening to Lettermen tapes - or could it have even been 8 tracks? :). As a kid, I never realized they were a "cover band" of sorts. So it’s always funny to me when I find out where these songs originated from. But as a child and as a family, we would belt out songs like this in the car, and songs like "Yesterday", never fully understanding the meaning and emotions of the lyrics, songs about life's storms or of loss.
So at the end of Carousel, sitting with some of the extended family, family who've traveled to funerals, to include my Sister’s (their cousin and neice), as well as Grandma’s and Grandpa’s funeral, family who travel to each other’s weddings, family who vacation together…and with more weddings and life to come. And also sitting with my Dad, who is still pulling through on a difficult and scary time. Through all these family memories, we arrive at a part in the play when the characters attempt to move beyond a death and the struggle of life...there was the childhood song and the lyrics to You’ll Never Walk Alone –
When you walk through a storm
Keep your chin up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.
When the play was over, I saw Mom’s eyes filled with tears as we were probably sharing similar thoughts. What a blessing, to be raised with such strength and determination, "Walk on, walk on" through difficult times, to be taught such "hope in your heart", and most importantly to be taught undying family loyalty that - “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
Postedby Margaret Ackerman at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink