Cheryl Crouch has been a high school English teacher for 13 years, but the skills she seeks to instill in her students are timeless.
“As an English teacher, [I hope] that they would be really strong and effective communicators and that they would have the depth of character that what they communicate is beautiful and contributes positively to the world,” Crouch told The Lion.
She teaches at Denton Calvary Academy (DCA) in Texas, a hybrid college preparatory school with the motto “Growing in Wisdom, Walking in Love, Building Fortitude.”
For Crouch, fortitude is especially important.
“The big terror for English teachers right now is AI and that it can write for you,” she says, sympathetic to the fear. “The act of writing actually helps to form how you think. My dream for this year is to help my students do the hard work of writing and of thinking yourself. Be a thinker, don’t just take the easy way out.”
One exercise Crouch uses with students to help them achieve this is a book review and presentation activity.
Using painter’s tape and sticky notes, her students team up to record and organize various facts about five books, and then choose one of the books to present on before the class.
“It’s just beautiful, because you hear them discussing themes and the background of the work and the authors’ worldview – and all of these things came out – but it was them, processing and remembering and discovering, instead of me having them fill in blanks,” she says.
Crouch’s innovative methods and commitment to quality education are a few of the reasons she is one of 12 educators nationwide to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion.
Challenging students to think for themselves with a biblical worldview is part of what makes Christian education excellent, she says. It is “not being afraid to address other ideas and other concepts, not being afraid to read works that are written by non-Christians.”
And when her students leave her classroom and school, she hopes and expects that their learning will never stop because their love for it is so strong.
“A big dream that I have is that they would graduate from our school and love to learn. I’ve talked to so many third graders who are already done with school and so they think they don’t like learning because school’s been such a negative experience for them.
“I want our kids to have a lifelong love of learning.”
The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will attend a special awards event in Washington, D.C., where they will also receive a monetary gift.