Christian education

In June 2001, Cynthia Deno, a senior at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wis., wrote one of the first teen columns for WELS' magazine, Forward in Christ. In the article, Deno shared how before she started high school her pastor asked her to teach Sunday school. She was hesitant—she had not done anything like that before—but found herself saying, "Sure." She ended up loving it and deciding that she wanted to become a Lutheran preschool and kindergarten teacher.

Where is she now?

For the past five years Deno has been the director of the early childhood center at Saint Paul, Rapid City, S.D.—her first call after graduating from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in 2006.

She is loving it, though she wasn't so sure about the administrative part when she was first assigned. "It took me until October of my first year to realize that I did want to be a director," says Deno. "I love teaching the staff how to help the children and teaching the staff about child development. God knew where he wanted me."

And she still gets to teach. "My favorite part about being a teacher is just seeing the children enjoy learning and seeing them grasp the concepts," she says.

She credits the Martin Luther College early childhood program with giving her the tools she needs. "They did a really good job of telling us day-to-day things that would happen," she says. "And instead of just going by the textbook, they would tell us life stories—stories about difficult parents, stories about reaching out and witnessing to the parents, stories about setting up and starting a childcare center, stories about difficulties in congregations. There are so many times when I am in a situation here, and I will think back to something they talked about."

Saint Paul has more than 60 children at the center—two-thirds of which are from non-member families. Deno says she appreciates the chance this gives her to witness her faith. "Even though I and the other teachers are the ones saying the words and inviting them, it's obviously not us; it's God working through us," she says. "It's just so cool to see how day-to-day contact adds up to people coming to the church and people coming to know Jesus."

Deno encourages anyone considering being a teacher to try it with Sunday school or vacation Bible school. She also recommends talking to teachers. "I had several teachers throughout high school and college that were just so excited about teaching. They always had a smile on their faces when they talked about teaching and children. That always made me feel like, 'Yeah, I'm going to enjoy this. This will be fun.' "

Copyrighted WELS Forward in Christ