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Heald Strives to Make Adventist Education Worthwhile

Posted on May 20th, 2014

2014 EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING AWARD RECIPIENT, GEOFF HEALD
Lake City Junior Academy | Upper Columbia Conference
Grades 7-8 Teacher

Heald1After spending several years teaching from a textbook that was poorly-written and outdated, Geoff Heald realized the need for a change in his Northwest History class. The Lake City Junior Academy teacher devoted his summer to recreating the course, resulting in an improved curriculum that included excerpts from a college-level textbook and incorporated both written and visual primary sources.

“Geoff produced a syllabus and handbook that turned the formerly dull class into a student favorite,” said Ron Jacaban, principal of Lake City Junior Academy.

This feat was part of Heald’s mission to make the quality of an Adventist education equal to the price of an Adventist education. He wants students to leave his class knowing that they have obtained a worthwhile education.

“He is everything a teacher should be,” said Mindy Weber, parent of students in Heald’s classes. “He is open-minded, a positive role model, he cares for his students, and is innovative in his teaching style.”

Heald3The most highly anticipated innovation in Heald’s class is a trip to Washington D.C. every other year. Before the students leave for the capitol, however, Heald uses the entire year to prepare them for what they will see by integrating themes of citizenship, ethics and personal freedom into his Bible, history and language arts classes. The professionally-developed lesson plans Heald acquires from government entities such as the Smithsonian Institution allows his students to debate, research and present on topics like religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms.

“Tour guides have remarked after speaking with a student about a particular place, ‘I have performed this tour for years and I didn’t know that,’” Weber said.

Heald4Heald also uses his D.C. connections to book exclusive tours of the White House West Wing and a visit to rare collections in the Library of Congress for students who have excelled throughout the year. This year, he has even arranged for his class to meet with Senate Chaplin Barry Black.

“Without reservation, I know that because of Mr. Heald’s unrelenting expectations as a teacher, my sons now enjoy history, traveling and reading,” Weber said.

Though Heald’s classes are strict—with every daily and quarterly deadline posted inside the classroom to prevent surprises—they are also fun. He regularly leads his class into a question-and-answer game of “Geoffardy” to help the students study for history tests.

“The students love it,” Jacaban said. “The atmosphere in any class Geoff teaches is relaxed and engaging. One NPUC representative who observed Geoff teach described him as a ‘master’ at what he does.”

Although students who have taken Heald’s classes usually return to tell him that they learned more than ever before in his course and that they are at the top of their classes in their current schools, he knows there is more to do.

“I am a product of the Adventist education system,” Heald said. “It’s my home and it’s what I know. If it’s going to improve, that change has to come from the inside. So here I am. And I am determined that on my watch, no student is going to experience spiritual abuse, favoritism, or intimidation. And no student is going to say that he or she got a subpar education at an Adventist school.”

Geoff Heald’s award ceremony was on Friday, May 16, 2014, at Lake City Junior Academy Fellowship Center.

Renaissance Network School Manager, Cyril Connelly, presented the award to Geoff Heald.

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