I’ve always joked that I landed my first teaching job in a Christian high school because I had supper with my sister-in-law’s parents at the nearby Dutch retirement building before the interview. As you probably know, or have guessed already, I am not Dutch (and apparently not much … please read this as a joke!). Although one could argue at length the similarities between the Scots and the good Netherlands folk, I initially felt myself “a stranger in a strange land.” In those days, the multicultural elements at the school where I taught were the students from a narrow range of Reformed churches! I could have offered to change my name to Van Cameron-sma, but I was tall and blond and it was fairly easy for me to blend in.
In all seriousness, my exposure to the Christian education before my first job in a Christian high school was little to none. We had friends in a nearby city who sent their children to a Christian school there, but my parents never considered Christian education an option, perceiving that school to be ethnic and denominational only. So I went to public elementary and high school, and two different publicly-funded universities to receive my education. I remember being asked at one of my job interviews how I could possibly presume to teach at a Christian school when I had no formal Christian education. Smart aleck that I am, I quickly replied that Moses had been educated in Egypt and I think he did alright. In all fairness though, it was an interesting question. I was a good teacher, took my faith seriously and had a good working knowledge of scripture, I but had a long way to go before I was able to fully bring that faith into the science classroom where I teach.
My first Christian teachers’ convention, put on by the Ontario Christian School Teachers Association (OCSTA), was an intensely alienating experience. Not only did everyone seem to know each other, but it seemed to me that they were all related—something that I found out later was almost true. The convention that year was held at a big hotel in Toronto, and the only things I remember clearly are Diane Stronks (currently the executive director of OCSTA) at the microphone for the business meeting, and Johanna (Hiemstra) Kuyvenhoven (currently on the faculty of Calvin College) telling stories at the banquet. Both of these women have since become close friends, but at the time, sitting alone in my hotel room, I wondered what on earth I had got myself into.