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Pam Adams - Faculty Profile

By Sally Jongsma

You've heard it many times before: "I've always wanted to be a teacher." But it really is true for many career teachers. Dr. Pam Adams is one of them. As a child, she enjoyed school, did well, and fondly remembers helping an aunt and an uncle grade papers and erase blackboards.

"It was so much fun," she says.

For Adams the fun part isn't grading papers anymore, it's helping and watching students develop talents they can use in God's world.

Adams has taught elementary school, college, and is currently the director of the Dordt College graduate education program. They're quite different teaching experiences, but she's enjoyed them all. Even though Adams thought about eventually teaching in college already while she was an undergraduate, she values and treasures the years she spent teaching third and fourth grades.

"It was probably easier to care deeply about individual students in elementary school," she says. "You're with them all day, you dream about them, you lose sleep at night if you've been a little crabby." In college, students come in and out so rapidly that it takes more work and time to develop strong relationships.

"But wherever you teach you have to love different kinds of people and want to be with them and do what's best for them," she says. For Adams what is best for them has always been trying to make a difference in their lives so that they can make a difference in the world. That's why she's so committed to Christian education-Christian education that tries to shape and nurture young people so that they will live God-glorifying lives both as individuals and as members of the communities they live in.

Adams, who became director of the graduate education program at Dordt College this year, says teaching graduate students has been very gratifying and helped put her earlier teaching experiences in a different perspective.

"I meet students who didn't always seem to have a lot of passion for some of the things we try to teach them as undergraduates, but as mature, experienced teachers they are now 'preaching' to me," she says, smiling. "Students who thought Dr. John Van Dyk had some pretty far out ideas and strategies now think he's a genius," she adds, breaking into a chuckle.

As a consequence, Adams says she is less concerned that undergraduate students demonstrate that they "get" everything they're being taught. Some things they'll "get" when they need them,. It also makes her a bit more relaxed-though just as committed-about giving her students the knowledge they need to be good teachers.

Adams' passion for Christian education became especially strong when her children went to school.

"I was pretty particular about what they were being taught," she says. Adams attended a Catholic school and still appreciates the fact that her parents sent her there. She believes it is important for parents to send their children to a school that reflects their beliefs and worldview.

That is not to say that Christian schools are perfect. Christian schools, like Christian families, fight the negative influences of secular thinking and culture. But this realization makes her more committed to trying to train discerning teachers who can help their students live out their faith.

She's admittedly farther removed from day-to-day teaching now that she's become graduate program director. A greater percentage of her time is spent on what she calls detail work: preparing the catalog, lining up professors to teach summer courses, working with library and computer services, preparing reports for the department of education, and a host of other administrative details. But that's important work too because it helps enable Dordt College to prepare the best teachers it can.