Teachers inevitably give a writing assignment to students asking the question What did you do this summer. Approximately 75 Springfield elementary school children may answer somewhat differently this year. These youngsters who attended Vacation Bible School at Hamlin Memorial Baptist Church could tell about the Bible stories taught to them by Ralene Graves, the Springfield, MO teacher of the year.
A teacher of the year who spends time in the summer leading Bible School is not unusual for the Bible Belt churches. This is the first time for Hamlin kids. It isn't the first time Mrs. Graves has led the bible study. It is the first time she has been teacher of the year.
Ralene’s position as teacher of the year meant that she missed most of one night to speak at the Springfield summer graduation program. She enjoyed that experience, but came by church to watch the last session and to help with preparations for the next night. Her greatest disappointment was missing the night that Jesus’ death and resurrection were taught. The encouragement she was given at the graduation was priceless. She also felt that the kind words from the audience were sincere when she was complimented for using scripture in her speech. Many times Christians are intimidated by others who are outspoken against our beliefs and succumb to the pressure to not reference the Bible as is done in believer's everyday speech.
Teaching the 23rd Psalm, the stories of Nehemiah and other characters were part of the curriculum, but on the second night Queen Esther came alive to the students. While not a professional actress, many times our teacher of the year has performed in skits, plays or just role played with students. She made Esther real for these youngsters. The story of the Queen's faith in her God in the face of death was brought out to them.
A favorite night was the final night and the opportunity to listen to her testimony of what God has done for her and her family through their savior Jesus Christ. Christians often miss these opportunities and as a public school teacher, one must be careful not to present a child information that will offend or confuse. The local church is the ideal place to do that. Raylene is adept at this and made summer a learning experience for many kids.