A select group of the nation’s best Christian school teachers was recognized with national awards of excellence in the nation’s capital on Saturday.
The 12 teachers make up the inaugural class of national award recipients honored at The Herzog Foundation’s first annual Excellence in Christian Education Awards Gala. This year’s celebration took place at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Winners were selected from hundreds of nominated K-12 teachers with at least one year of experience in either a traditional Christian school, a hybrid Christian school or a Christian micro-school. Applications were expected to demonstrate excellence in Christian education.
“The 2022 Christian Teachers of the Year are a part of the Herzog Foundation Excellence Model,” foundation Chairman Todd Graves said, addressing the audience on Saturday. “You’ve set the bar for every other Christian teacher nationwide, and we’re grateful for your commitment to excellence in your classrooms.”
In addition to being treated to an all-expense paid weekend in the capital with their invited guests, winners received a trophy composed of a crystal apple, a special gift package, and a $2,500 check from the Herzog Foundation. Each school represented by an award winner also received a $2,500 donation.
In addition to 10 at-large teaching awards, two awards were reserved for subject specialists, one Bible teacher and one science teacher.
“Bible and science are two academic subjects identified by the Herzog Foundation as being instrumental in a child’s academic development,” said event emcee Chris Stigall, who also hosts a podcast on Christian education with his wife, Christine. “And as a couple of the teachers pointed out, Bible and science don’t have to be antagonistic, but rather complementary.”
Bible Teacher of the Year Loren Hopf is a living example of the generational impact that Christian education promises.
“My parents moved me to Second Baptist School in 6th grade. That one shift created a hunger for God’s word in me,” she told The Lion. “Then, I went to Bible college and fell in love with a man who had that same passion for God. Now we are raising four babies that we pray will pursue Jesus with all that they are. The hope is that it dominoes from there. This is just our story. There are so many more like us.”
After the event, Hopf expressed her thanks for recognition in a Lion feature story and at the ceremony.
“This is amazing. I don’t even know how to thank you and all the Herzog people!” she wrote in an email on Monday. “I am so humbled by your kind words and all of the incredible things that happened last weekend. Thank you so much!”
Science Teacher of the Year Josh Ernst has a remarkable story of being led away from his dream job as a university scientist to teaching science at a Christian school, where he also enjoys the freedom to mentor students in their faith.
“It took God seven years to soften my heart and move me beyond the concerns of recognition and prestige, to finally follow my calling away from the Physics Department at the University of Chicago, and to a small Christian school in northern Michigan,” Ernst wrote in a letter of thanks to the Herzog Foundation after the event.
“Thank you for carrying the call on one man’s life, even after that life’s time in this place has ended. And thank you for doing it in such an unwavering, uncompromising, exceptional way.”
That “call on one man’s life” is a reference to Herzog’s namesake, the late Stanley M. Herzog, whose generosity and foresight during his life make the foundation’s work possible.
“Stan was full of life, business acumen, and passion for Christian education,” Graves told the audience Saturday. “He gave us a simple directive before he passed away in 2019: ‘Advance Christian education.’ And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing since the foundation launched in January 2021.
“These 12 teachers being honored tonight are excellent at what they do, and their passion for Christian education shines through.”
Collectively, the awardees demonstrate the breadth of excellent Christian education in America.
“Each one of our Christian Teachers of the Year is impressive in their own right. But as a group, they’re even more impressive,” said Herzog Foundation President Darrell Jones.
“Among this group of 12 excellent Christian teachers being honored tonight, we have 10 different states represented – Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Texas, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, New York, Michigan and Massachusetts,” Stigall pointed out. “Their schools all range in size, with the smallest school having 125 students enrolled and the largest school having 1,000 students enrolled.
“Ten of the schools are a traditional Christian school model and two are hybrid schools. We have some teachers that have taught for four years and some that have taught for 20-plus years. This is just an outstanding group of individuals with a diverse range of experience and backgrounds.”
The full list of winners are:
- Josh Ernst (science), Harbor Light Christian School in Harbor Springs, Michigan
- Loren Hopf (Bible), Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas
- Annie Pettit, Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale, Iowa
- Dorothy Easton, Grace Christian Academy in Merrick, New York
- Doyle Philpot, Coastal Christian Preparatory School in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina
- Elizabeth Kendrex, Logos Preparatory Academy in Sugar Land, Texas
- Greg Finch, Summit Christian Academy in Lees Summit, Missouri
- Jean Auxier, Faith Christian Academy in Kansas City, Missouri
- Jean Chen, Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas
- Marshall Ellson, Westminster Christian Academy in Huntsville, Alabama.
- Nancy Farrington Reid, Veritas Christian Academy in Wayland, Massachusetts
“It’s an honor to stand in a room full of Christian educators who are making such a significant impact in the lives of young students,” Stigall said of the event, “and truly changing the future of our country for the better.”
Award recipient Greg Finch agrees: “The Christian school is the last best hope for Western civilization, the last best hope for America,” he told The Lion.
If these 12 teachers represent Christian education, the future looks bright.
Nominations for 2023 awards are now open and can be made at the Herzog Foundation Awards website.