Fifteen years ago, Dr. Dean Nicholas, Assistant Head of School, began a ten-part in-service on Biblical integration. Inspired by the concept and wanting to bring it to CHCA, he changed the language and coined the term, “theological integration”.
Upon entering CHCA, each new teacher receives a copy of Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, from which CHCA’s five main ideas originate. This is used to guide them to a more theological way of thinking and serves as a guide for the Theological Integration seminar, taught by Dr. Nicholas at each new teacher orientation.
Recently, though, in search of ways to make the learning process more efficient and practical, Dr. Nicholas applied for and received a Teacher Innovation Grant and assembled a team of people in every school building who serve as mentors to other teachers and staff learning how to theologically integrate their courses. With twenty-six members in all, the cohort will participate in a full year training, where they will examine the Bible, theology, church history, and faith development. They will also take a trip to the Holy Land during Spring break 2021, where their learning will come together, and the training will conclude. Though the cohort would normally meet in-person throughout the summer, due to the rise of COVID-19 and the work to get school ready for in person classes in the Fall, they are learning together in a blended format course administrated by Dr. Nicholas, meeting throughout the school year until in-person meetings will be more feasible.
One of the things that is so important in Christian education is that students leave as people who are able to think about the world, think about every aspect of life, in a deeply meaningful, theological way that’s rooted in Scripture.
"One of the things that, for me, is so important in Christian education is that students leave not with a set of answers, not with a set of checklists, but that they are people who are able to think about the world, think about every aspect of life, in a deeply meaningful, theological way that’s rooted in Scripture,"says Dr. Nicholas of CHCA students. This concept is incredibly important not only to CHCA’s curriculum, but also in shaping student’s worldview with a Christian lens. It is a valued way of Christ-like thinking only found at CHCA, that changes the outcome for students.
Mr. Tim Hilderbrand, instructor of the Visual Arts at CHCA, is a member of the cohort for the 2020-2021 cycle and has learned greatly from his experience. “It has enhanced my knowledge of the Church and also of the Bible. It brings whatever knowledge I learn in class to my classroom. So, anytime we can better ourselves with the knowledge of the Word, that is going to enhance how we theologically integrate in our classroom. We are a Christian academy; that changes our heart. That is the truth of the Word,” said Mr. Hilderbrand of the cohort and how it contributes to his teaching.
Looking ahead, the cohort will continue to educate fellow teachers on how to instruct students theologically in their everyday courses. When the year-long training ends, they will think about how they will “infuse what [they] have just done as a collective group in a way that gains new life and grows within the entire faculty,” according to Dr. Nicholas. Whether this means implementing programs like in-services, seminars, or Bible studies for the cohort and other faculty members to participate in, a plan with next steps will be formed. “What it means, ultimately,” explains Dr. Nicholas, “is that all teachers will be much more aware, each and every day, that their classes should have theological impact. It is about creating framework in teachers’ minds, so that as they teach, and as they plan lessons and activities, it naturally comes out.” This is the ultimate goal of the cohort: to educate teacher’s on how to implement theological integration into their courses, so that they may then pass on this Christ-like way of thinking to their students. This is perhaps one of the biggest aspects as to what makes CHCA unique.
About the Author
Madeline Northup is a member of the Class of 2021 and came to CHCA as a freshman. Looking ahead, she plans to expand her knowledge of Latin in college, as well as Greek and Ancient Mythology. Alongside possibly teaching Latin, Madeline plans to be a novelist and complete her book that she is currently writing about her grandfather. She loves writing, and even explored the field of journalism at her internship with the Cincinnati Enquirer. No matter what may lie ahead, though, she thanks CHCA for all that its wonderful faculty, staff, and students have done for her.
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