The New Organization
During a turbulent period of history for our people, the Federation of Protestant Reformed School Societies was organized. This was the fifties. The church controversy of 1953 had severely tried the fledgling school societies in California, Michigan, and Illinois. At the beginning, when it was difficult to find trained dedicated teachers, three school boards sent delegates to Hope School in Walker, Michigan, on December 7, 1956, to deal with their common problems in procuring and training teachers for their schools. When South Holland inquired whether there would be teachers if their school opened in the coming fall, Hope and Adams advised them not to start at that time.
After forming a constitution committee, the first order of business for the new organization was to establish a teacher training program which was referred to as a “normal school.” Minutes of this meeting were sent as information to Edgerton and Redlands which also operated schools at this time.
The Seminar Program
The establishment of a teacher training college was soon ruled out as an impossibility. As a first step, the Federation established a seminar program where the ministers and teachers met in monthly meetings to deliver papers and discuss biblical and Reformed principles of education. The first papers were delivered by ministers and professors, and it was determined that the seminary professors, H. C. Hoeksema and G. M. Ophoff, would serve as directors of the seminars. Since the seminar meetings were held monthly in the afternoon (from 1 PM – 5 PM), schools were dismissed early so that teachers could attend the meetings.
The seminar program ended in 1970. These seminars provided a forum for intellectual exchange between our pastors and teachers which was stimulating and spirited, and the level of debate (not often recaptured) was a mark of the commitment of these pioneers.
Seminars (1958–1961) History of Education
Education Among the Hebrews, H. Hanko
Education Among the Greeks, C. Hanko
Education Among the Romans, H. C. Hoeksema
Education in the Middle Ages, D. Slomp
Ed. During the Reform. and Renaissance, A. Lubbers
Enlightenment in Europe, F. Hanko
Enlightenment in America, W. Koole
The Nineteenth Century in Europe, J. Buiter
The Nineteenth Century in America, A. Reitsema
The Twentieth Century in Europe, J. Dykstra
The Twentieth Century in America, B. Woudenberg
Psychology and Pedagogy
Scriptural Psychology, H. Hoeksema
The Influence of Sin, Grace and the Operation of the Spirit, G. Vandenberg
Development of the Child, T. Pastoor
Place of Child in Family and Church, B. Woudenberg
Psychology of Learning, H. J. Kuiper
Criticism of Broudy’s Philosophy of Education, J. Jonker
Obedience and Self-discipline, J. Dykstra
Teaching Moral and Spiritual Values, J. Jonker
Child in Family and Church, K. Emcees
The Christian Child in the World, R. Dykstra
Degrading the Grades, M. B. Lubbers
Methods of Teaching (1961–1964)
Methods of Teaching, L. Lubbers
Principles of Teaching History, F. Hanko
Principles of Teaching Science-type Subjects, H. J. Kuiper
Principles of Teaching Appreciation Subjects, R. Petersen
Principles of Teaching Bible, A. Lubbers
Principles of Teaching Reading, F. Block
Principles of Teaching the Language Arts, D. Medema
The “New” Series of Seminars (1965–1969)
Thomas Aquinas, J. Huisken
Augustine and His Teaching, A. Lubbers
Scholastic Movement, A. Lubbers
Martin Luther, Reformer, P. Nobel
Education in Geneva under Calvin, J. Buiter
Jesuit Education, D. Huisken
John Dewey’s Impact, L. Lubbers
The People Called Methodists, G. Kuiper
The Summer Workshops (1970–1979)
Group learning and writing projects in specific disciplines
Language Arts Workshop
Social Studies Workshop
Anatomy and the Bible Workshop
Stream Ecology Workshop
Individual Writing/Study Projects
Bible Manuals and Workbooks, G. Hoeksema
English Curriculum, G. Vander Schaaf
Curriculum for Computers at Covenant, B. Vermeer
Science Units Published, M. Martin
Mathematics, An Overview, V. Huber
Lecture series which apply biblical principles in depth
Biblical Psychology, H. Hanko
Reformed Education, D. Engelsma
Discipline, R. Decker & L. Lubbers
Teaching Spiritual Values, J. Heys
Motivation, F. Hanko
Education for Special Children, M. Kracker
Spiritual/Emotional Needs of Special Children, R. Cammenga and R. Dykstra
New Approaches to Teacher Training
In 1970, at the request of the Teachers’ Institute, the Federation sponsored its first workshop for teachers. The subject of these workshops was to be the courses of study in our schools. The participants would be teachers from member schools who would work together during the summer months to discuss the assigned subject and to prepare a written product for use by teachers in the schools. The longest running project was the history writing workshop. This group met in Grand Rapids continuously for six years. Their product was a series of outlines covering world history from Creation through the Middle Ages. The project was distributed to schools of the Federation. The outlines featured a study of world history from a biblical perspective.
The first mini-course was held in 1974 under the direction of the newly formed TED Committee. To reach as many teachers as possible, summer courses were planned to study various fundamental areas in Reformed education. The mini-course was close to the dream of the founders of the Federation who wanted to establish a normal course to train our teachers. Between 1974 and 1980, eight summer mini-courses were sponsored by the Federation.
Hiring from a Limited Pool
Early on there was a concern that the member schools should issue contracts at the same time in the year and that hiring procedures not give some school undue advantage. Concerns were aired about “teacher robbing.” Several times the rules for teacher hiring and contracts became the subject of long Federation meetings. If a school did not follow the rules, other schools were quick to note these exceptions. The current rules for hiring and teacher contracts are followed by most member schools of the Federation.
Salary Study Committees
The first salary study report was given to the Federation in 1960. Beginning teachers with two years of experience would receive $2,560 per year. Teachers with a masters degree did not fit on the chart. The top pay that year was $5,120 for teachers with 12 years experience and an B.A. degree. The goal was “to promote harmony between the schools.” The scale promised to give the teacher adequate compensation and not to put “undo hardship” on the schools. This wage was considered adequate for the next three years since no changes were proposed. Beginning in 1963, the wage was adjusted annually to meet changes in cost of living and experience.
The periodic deviation of member schools caused great concern from the other schools. There were frequent discussions whether the salary scale was a guideline or a requirement for the schools. Schools did indeed deviate from time to time, and some schools never reached the scale proposed. Finally in 1993, the salary study report was discontinued. Today each member school is required to report its current schedule for the information of the other schools.
The Elusive Pension Program
Pension plans for teacher retirement were proposed as early as 1959. Subsequently, three other pension study reports were filed. The fate of each pension proposal was death by vote of member boards. None of the plans was able to capture the imagination of the delegate board. Perhaps there were so few teachers no one thought of retirement as a possibility. Nevertheless, because the needs of teachers in their old age is a common responsibility of all the schools, the establishment of a pension plan remains a high priority for the Federation of schools.
The charter members of the Federation were Adams, Hope (Walker), and South Holland schools. The growth of the Federation has been slow but steady. Some schools did not join immediately upon their formation. Schools which held back from entering the Federation questioned the Federation’s ability to deliver the services needed. Western schools found it difficult to attend the meetings, and so were not represented. New schools put affili ation concerns on the back burner until they had their own ship running.
Several attempts to better accommodate the needs of the western schools were to hold the teacher workshops and mini-courses during the summer months so these teachers could participate. Also, minutes of the meetings have been sent to western schools for their information. At one time a telephone hook-up was discussed as a way to directly involve our far flung friends in the business of the Federation. Schools in the West benefit regu larly at teacher convention time with the traveling funds provided by the Federation grants to the Teachers’ Institute.
Towards More Stable Leadership
During the first decade of the Federation, elected delegates served as officers of the Federation. There was a lack of continuity in the secretarial office (elected annually and lasting at times for two meetings). Better communication with the member schools and the delegates was needed. Therefore, the Federation formed a new position—the executive secretary. Those who filled this new non-elective office were to have an important role for the Federation. The executive secretary (now called Executive Director) also provides contact with, and serves as a member of, the Teacher Education Development Committee.
1995–2005 Agatha Lubbers
2005–2011 Deb Kuiper
2011–2014 Alex Kalsbeek
2014- Rick Mingerink
The TED Committee
The formation of the Teacher Education Development (TED) Committee was proposed after it became apparent that existing committees were working on similar projects. Also, new ideas were being proposed by the Teachers’ Institute which were outside the scope of the existing committee responsibilities. The old committee system had a rapid turnover of membership. Adjustments in terms were made to ensure continuity of committee membership so that projects could be seen to their completion.
Over the years, the TED committee has served the Federation well. It has planned and given direction to directors of the workshops, the individual writing projects, and the mini-courses.
Music Workshop, 1995–1996
Motivation and Instructional Techniques Workshop, 1998
Principles and Practices Seminars, 1996, 1998, 2000
Repertoire of Chemical Demonstrations, 1999
Art Curriculum Grades 1–6, 2000–2001
Art Workshop, Summer, 2001
Reformed Worldview Workshop, 2001
Music Project, Grades K–5, 2002
Advanced Art Project, 2002–2003
Biblical Psychology Seminar, 2003
Transfer manuals to electronic discs, 2002–2003
Teachers’ Institute Relationships
The Protestant Reformed Teachers’ Institute was formed shortly after the Federation. The Institute membership consists entirely of teachers, most of whom teach in Protestant Reformed Christian Schools. The Institute has regular meetings, sponsors the annual teachers’ convention, and produces its magazine, Perspectives in Covenant Education. The need for such an organization was realized early and the Federation itself urged the formation of a “club” for teachers.
Of the two teacher delegates to the Federation, one is elected by the Institute. Most of the Federation work involves members of the Teachers’ Institute.
With An Eye to The Future
The motion made in the 1994 Federation meeting to disband was a clear call to reexamine what we are doing and how we do it. It was also a warning that if we go through the motions without genuinely desiring to reach a goal, we ought to shut the doors of the Federation. The Federation must be much more than an opportunity for meeting other school board members. We must provide educational material and training for our teachers.
There are now fourteen member schools with approximately 1,600 students. The ranks of trained and available teachers has grown from 12 in 1956 to more than 125 teachers currently employed in our schools.
As our schools continue to grow and schools join our Federation, the work of the Federation increases in value. The Federation of the future must provide leadership to the member schools to solve our common needs and stimulate our teachers to become active in the broader cause of Protestant Reformed Christian Education.
Revisions by Agatha Lubbers