Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teacher Tuesday: A Lesson from Jen

Yesterday I introduced you to our Academic Advisors. They are caring women who not only advise and counsel the students, but instruct them as well.  They help them with finances, education planning, relationship issues, vocational training, behavioral counseling and an untold number of other things.

Erin Luchterhand, an Academic Advisor and Instructor for the Math & Money Skills and Personal Finance classes, does something special with her advising group. I asked her to tell you about it:

“Every Thursday when school is in session, I meet with my advising students in the small conference room of the Wood Center. We discuss upcoming events, CAM money and other important issues, and the rest of the time I read a book called ‘Miracle for Jen’ to my students. It’s the story about Jennifer Barrick, a girl I met in college.

In the fall of my sophomore year at Liberty University, the Barrick family - Andy, Linda and their children Jen and Josh - were headed home after a concert at Thomas Road Baptist Church. Less than a mile from their house, they were hit head-on by a drunk driver going 80 miles an hour with his headlights off.

The entire family suffered injuries and,  once medical personnel arrived,  were flown to four different hospitals.  Josh, age 11, had the least amount of injuries.  Andy and Linda endured bone, muscular and nerve damage, but Jen, only a sophomore in high school, suffered from a traumatic brain injury. At the scene of the accident, Jen’s response was that of a dead person. When she was brought to the hospital in Lynchburg, the surgeon immediately drilled a hole in her head and put in a bolt to relieve the pressure on her brain.

Jen stayed in a coma for five weeks. As she was slowly coming out of her coma, Jen would wake up praying. She could not remember that 2+2=4, or that she had a brother, but she could remember praise songs and Scripture. Jen continued to progress and go through physical therapy.

I met Jen about three years after her accident when my college roommate was working with her in school. My roommate would hang out with Jen and then we would all go to dinner, to the mall or to a movie together. At the time, Jen struggled with managing money and she continues to struggle with emotions, sensory issues, stomach problems and headaches. Jen went from being an enthusiastic high school girl who was praying for boldness in sharing her faith, to someone with no filters who constantly shares her faith with everyone.

Jen and her mom Linda have been travelling to speaking events to share their story. They’ve also started a ministry, Hope Out Loud.

I had known Linda was writing a book even before I moved here from Virginia. ‘Miracle for Jen’ was released earlier this year. The story describes the accident, the recovery, the prayers, the desperation for God, and how God was and is working through the pain, the brain injury and the ministry the Barrick’s now have.

The book is incredible and I’m in the process of reading it to my advising students in order to instill in them that God created them and wants to use them because of their disability, not in spite of their disability. Cody, one of my students, said to me, ‘You mean that God wants us to view our disabilities as blessings and not burdens?’


I let my friend Stephanie know that I was reading the book to my students and why, and she told Linda and Jen. Linda asked me to email her what we had been doing so that she could send the story to the publisher.  I told Linda that the book was impacting our students in a way that allowed them to see that God wants us for who we are, not in spite of anything. 

Slowly, but surely, I trust that this truth will sink in for each student."
Mrs. Luchterhand's Advising Students

"May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."     Romans 15:13

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Our Academic Advisors

We’re only four days away from welcoming our largest group of first-year students!  On Friday, 24 new students will be driving up, unloading their vehicles, moving into their dorms, meeting with the Nursing and Business office staff and then getting introduced to their Academic Advisors.

The role of Academic Advisor at Shepherds College is a key one.  Students are assigned to an Academic Advisor after they enroll in their first year of college, and they stay with the same advisor for all three years of the program.

The advisor has an important part in the success of each student and, since we treat all our students as individuals with unique needs, their role might look different from student to student or group to group. An advisor might be dealing with a homesick student one day while another is working on helping a student find balance in her emotional disability. Another advisor could be counseling her group through personality clashes at the same time a different advisor is teaching her group how to comfort someone during grief. 

Even though the day to day “stuff” of advising might vary, each advisor has common responsibilities:
  • Every advisor is also a classroom instructor - proof of the “awesomely, other-worldly multitasker” title.
  • Here’s an obvious one: Each Academic Advisor provides academic advisement to their assigned group of students. This might involve creating a plan to help the student stay organized for each class, or talking through classroom expectations.
  • The advisors also serve as counselors for their students. There are a lot of new things happening in the students’ lives once college starts. The students aren’t expected to handle it without friendly guidance.
  • The advisors work with the students and other instructors to set achievable academic goals.
  • The advisors communicate regularly with the parents and serve as their first point of contact.
  • This one is so important: the advisors gain a complete understanding of the medical needs of each student and work with the nursing staff to ensure those needs are met.
  • The advisors maintain confidential files on each student.
  • I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes we might have behavioral issues among the students. The advisors work with the students to develop behavior plans. They communicate regularly with the residential life staff with regards to the behavioral issues and the plans that were implemented to solve them.
  • Each advisor also offers assistance to their students in the areas of finances, personal care and health management.
This isn’t the end of the list or of their responsibilities, but, unless you want to hear about all the evaluations and assessments they have to perform and meetings they’re required to attend, I’ll stop here and leave you with a personal observation of the Academic Advisors -

They are a tireless, dedicated, loving group of people who are determined to see their students grow toward Appropriate Independence™. They are the ones who come in early to prepare for lessons and stay late to talk with their students. They are the comforting voice on the other end of the phone when parents see “Shepherds College” on their caller IDs.  They are skilled at offering discipline and encouragement in the same sentence, and they’re usually the ones crying the hardest when it’s their students’ turn to walk up the aisle in cap and gown to ‘Pomp and Circumstance.’

I’d like to introduce these special women to you:

Laura Pollard
Top: Lori Konopasek
Bottom: Karli Luchterhand, Erin Luchterhand, Elyse Fye

Sarah Kolkman

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday's Top Five: Simple Prayers

I decided to follow God at the age of 25. At the time, I was attending a church in Illinois with my husband. The congregation had been praying for my salvation for years.  I’m not sure if they were so excited that they finally “reeled in a big one,” or if they were so desperate for teachers, but my hair had barely dried from my baptism before they committed me to life service in the Sunday School department.

I remember standing in front of my new class of 4- and 5-year-olds wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with them. Most of these children were already quoting John 3:16 while I was left at the front of the class, wide-eyed and trembling, screaming in my head, “John?! Which John?! There’s four John’s in this book! What are they talking about?!!!”  I didn’t think I was going to last much longer than that one class, but God had other plans for me.  

I grew up spiritually with those little people at a pace someone who had never touched a Bible could handle.  I learned simple Bible verses and simple ways to apply them to my life.  I also learned that simple prayers uttered in childlike faith hold unbelievable power.  I never really learned to pray any other way. 

Over time, I learned all the big Christian words, I studied Apologetics, I read books by authors who knew the Bible inside and out, and I heard incredible prayers by my brothers- and sisters-in-Christ that sounded like rich, vibrant poetry.  But my prayers never changed. When I tried to make them sound “all grown up,” they never felt right – it was just not how He raised me.

In the last 21 years of talking with God, I’ve experienced His “no, this is not My best for you,” His glorious “yes, your will and Mine are one,” and the frustrating, “Wait, the time is not right and one day you will understand.”  

It didn’t matter that my prayers were simple – He heard and answered each one.

Will you join me in prayer for the college today? Will you add your simple prayers, your profound prayers, and your heartfelt prayers to mine to lift up the students, the staff and the program for God’s blessing before the new school year?

Please pray for the new students as they’re packing to leave for college. Living away from their families is such a big adjustment for them. Many of the students never thought attending a college was an option, so they may not feel emotionally prepared to leave home and live with strangers for a good part of the year. Pray that God calms their fears, readies their minds for new schedules, new ways of doing things and new things to learn, and stirs up excitement in their hearts as He reveals His plan for their futures.
Pray for the returning students as they’re about to start either their major area of study or their internships. They already know the stress of college, the joy of making new friends, and the personal satisfaction of gaining in wisdom and knowledge. Pray that God helps them recall all they learned in the last year or two so they start school with confidence in their many abilities. Also, pray that these students bring real benefit and blessing to their internship sites.
Pray for the parents of our students. Letting go is hard. Pray that God brings them comfort in their sadness at saying good-bye, peace in their decisions to trust the staff at Shepherds College with the well-being of their children, and security in knowing that we place our faith in God and He is in control of this special school.
Pray for the faculty and staff of Shepherds College.  We know the value of the lives being placed in our care. Ask God for stamina to get through the tough, homesick days at the beginning of the year and all the important days of learning and growth that follow. Ask Him for sensitivity and discernment to better meet the individual needs of the students as they’re adjusting to this new phase in their lives. Ask Him for patience and wisdom as we face each day head on with all the challenges, adjustments, insecurities, excitement, enthusiasm, melancholy, happiness, busyness … everything that He chooses to pour into it.
Finally, please pray for Shepherds College as a whole. Our school is unique and we’re breaking new ground with every step forward. Pray that God blesses our efforts to bring a much needed service to people with intellectual disabilities. Pray that our campus provides a comfortable, welcoming and safe place for students to learn and grow towards Appropriate Independence.  And most importantly, pray, that in everything we do, we bring glory to God.

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  John 14:13-14 

Thank you, dear friends.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Getting Ready!

I’ve discovered over time that I’m a phenomenal multi-tasker. But not just any old multi-tasker – a specialist. I can be given a list of several tasks and – this is key – as long as one of these tasks involves food, I can dominate that list. 

I can answer the phone at the same time I’m eating a Seroogy’s Dark Chocolate Almond Meltaway and wiping wet almond chunks off the receiver.

I can check my emails at the same time I’m cooking dinner and sending an email back to my boss saying that we only received 2 Tbl of donations, must add salt.

I can chop carrots at the same time I’m doing my impersonation of the Iron Chef and applying Band-Aids to the cuts on my fingers. 

How’s that for impressive?   . . . Hmmmm???       . . .Huh. You’re a tough crowd.

I know what’s really impressive though – the teachers at Shepherds College.  Talk about phenomenal multi-taskers. Teachers at typical schools usually get about twelve weeks to relax, vacation and prepare for the new school year. Our faculty and staff have less than eight weeks.  The shorter summer is best for the students, and our students’ best interest is what we’re all about, but it does make life a bit more challenging for the college staff.  

This committed group of people is up for the challenge though. Take a quick look at just a portion of their task list to get ready for the students' return: 

·         Take a mini-vacation to rest and rejuvenate
·         Once staff are back on campus, eat lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings to catch up and team build (Note: food-related. Key to successfully dominating the rest of this list)
·         Complete all documentation for Federal Student Aid (I know you parents right now are shouting, “Quick, get them more wings! More wings!!)
·         Relocate the Advisors’ offices
·         Paint and set up the new Residential Life offices
·         Set up the new Computer Lab
·         Conduct employee appraisals
·         Interview, hire and train new staff
·         Make daily planners for the students
·         Order Bible study books
·         Review and update policies and procedures in the student handbook
·         Review and develop classroom curriculum
·         Develop curriculum to train the students with med passing
·         Write lesson plans
·         Create the 2012/13 Calendar
·         Read Student Folders
·         Write Student Profiles
·         Create chore charts for the students
·         Assign roommates
·         Prepare menus
·         Mail the student packets
·         Schedule lots of fun activities (I heard a scavenger hunt, boating outings and a Jelly Belly tour are part of the plan!)
·         Create the student activity calendars and post them online
·         Read books that will elevate staff performance from “superior” to “awesomely other-worldly”

And they would have to be awesomely other-worldly to get this list done in less than eight weeks - which they are doing.  I think our amazing and very helpful God has something to do with it.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

I am now ready to relinquish my crown as “Multi-tasking Queen” - and turn it over to the “Multi-tasking King” and His busy followers at Shepherds College.
Miss Houk with a book she'd like the staff to read
Mr. Wright working on FSA
Mr. Gaschke preparing for Res Life

Med training for the college staff. Lots of new faces!
The staff shopped for new kitchen supplies for the dorms

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Office: Blessings In Disguise

We all have those moments when, in retrospect, we’re less than happy with our words or actions. Maybe our conversation wasn’t filled with grace or kindness. Maybe our actions weren’t motivated by love or patience. Or maybe our interactions with others didn’t reflect the person we normally are or strive to be every day. 

Although I’m never happy about my personal embarrassment in these situations, one thing I love is that God always uses these moments to teach me, to grow me and to mold me into a person that resembles Him a tiny bit more each day. I just pray that my heart is always ready to accept each lesson.

Cathy, our dear Administrative Assistant, asked to share one of these lessons in her own life:

During this past spring semester, the college director asked us to choose one word that we wanted to work on for our semester goal.  After much thought and for various reasons, I chose “humility.”  There were numerous opportunities within the semester for this word to challenge and stretch me.  Even today, I was caught off-guard when an e-mail conversation with a co-worker turned into one such opportunity for me to learn (yet another) lesson in humility. 

My e-mail request to make a room reservation in the Wood Center morphed into a dialogue about the noise level in the building during the work day.  Noise, in this bustling college environment, comes with the territory, I know, but for whatever reason I was carrying on about it, complaining about the talking in the hallways, the cleaning staff vacuuming the carpet during work hours, the lockers banging, days when my office seems like Grand Central Station. I ended the e-mail with, “I appreciate the break times when I can actually think with some quiet. (sigh)”

My co-worker’s compassionate and Godly reply humbled me and brought tears to my eyes.  I had to stop what I was doing and go outside to process the conviction born in my heart from her description of noise that interrupts the days at Shepherds.  She wrote,

“The noise and interruptions can be a blessing – when Dennis is going down the hall singing praise to Jesus, when students just stop by to talk or to show me their Special Olympics ribbons or their birthday presents...

...when Peter walks into my office to adjust my furniture so it is positioned just right, when Ron stops by to tell me I look very pretty today, when a student from Horticulture brings me a special arrangement she made for my office...

...when Culinary Arts students bring tasty samples...

 ...when college students come to sing Christmas carols...

 ...when Doug comes to share the burdens of his heart, when Sean stops by just to see how I am doing, when JoEllen stops in to share whatever is happening in her life that day. 

As my pastor has often said, ‘it is during the interruptions when ministry happens.’” 

I think I need another semester on the goal word of “humility.”

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at www.shepherdscollege.edu.