Church Leaders Honor Long-Serving Educators in Inter-America

Annual Teachers’ Day celebration acknowledges their contribution to mission.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
Church Leaders Honor Long-Serving Educators in Inter-America
[Photo: Tom Hills]

Thousands of primary and secondary school teachers from across the Seventh-day Adventist education system throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) were honored for their dedication and commitment during a special online program hosted from Panama City, Panama, on October 1, 2022. The event celebrated the important work of the thousands of teachers in more than 700 Adventist schools throughout the territory.

“The world honors athletes and artists but we want to honor one of the most important groups in the Adventist Church, and that is those who are forming future church leaders,” IAD education director Faye Patterson said. Patterson, along with IAD and local church leaders, thanked the teachers watching online throughout the 24 unions or church regions, for accepting the call, year after year, to prepare children and young people for a future in this world and eternal life in heaven.

Celebrating Teachers’ Day

The program was held during the IAD’s annual Teachers’ Day. Teachers with the longest tenure from each union were honored with a special medal and certificate during the online worship service. In addition, each union gathered its teachers and honored them with certificates and gifts.

“You are doing an important work day by day in the classroom, on campuses, and represent a select group of missionary workers who represent Christ and we want to thank you for your efforts in fulfilling the mission of the church where you are,” IAD president Elie Henry said. “You take part in advancing the church, in preparing young people in their physical, mental, and spiritual factors and God has given you influence over them and the community.”

Henry encouraged teachers to practice biblical values and to take opportunities to grow in what the church in the IAD has emphasized as the “Path to Knowledge” program in its Adventist educational system. “Your work for the Lord is not in vain. We thank you for dedicating your efforts and energy to advance the work of God,” Henry said.

Twenty-five educators were honored at the event, including Elma Bruce-Frederick, from the Caribbean Union, with 53 years of service; Deidy Chirinos, from the West Venezuela Union, with 45 years of service; and Sonia Villeneuve, of the French Antilles Guiana Union, with 44 years of service. 

During the online program held at the Metropolitan Adventist School in Panama City, leaders also celebrated the work of Yojany Esther Chavanz Cea, who has been teaching in the Adventist educational system for almost 40 years.

“We recognize that you have placed your life in the business of Adventist education, and we thank you with this token of a medal,” Patterson said. “Many of you have spent more than half your life educating children.”  

Division-level Competition

The Teachers’ Day celebration concluded with an online competition. Fourteen primary and secondary teachers representing the Spanish-speaking unions in the IAD were tested on their knowledge of the history of the Adventist Church. They answered 50 questions from two books by George R. Knight, A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists and A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs.

The idea for the competition emerged after an activity during a meeting with teachers revealed that many of them did not know much about the history and development of the Adventist Church, Patterson said. Soon after, in early 2022, the Adventist Heritage competition was established. Teachers competed at local schools, then regional conferences and missions, and then at the union level, before reaching the IAD for the final competition.

Javier A. Marin Vargas, of the North Colombia Union, had the top score, with 335 points after answering 47 questions correctly. He has been a high school teacher at the Libertad del Sur Adventist School in Bucaramanga, Colombia for three years. “It’s been a great adventure to rediscover Bible, historic and prophetic roots that are part of my own life,” Marin said. “I say that because my life I consider it as an extension of the world church.”

Marin will join Melissa García from the Belize Union and a teacher from the French Antilles Guiana Union as top winners representing the Spanish, English, and French-speaking unions, on an all-expenses-paid trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2022. There they will take part in decision-making meetings with Inter-American educators and church leaders.

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a very rich history and I’m sure that after studying these books you are not the same, you understand better who we are and where we are going as Seventh-day Adventists,” Patterson said. “The [Adventist] Church has its identity, and we have learned from our mistakes and [will] continue to fulfill the mission.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News