UPPER SCHOOL GOVERNMENT, ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS,
Allison Hayden (AH) interviewed David Stafford (DS) to find out what authentic Christian education looks like in the Government, Economics, and Business classrooms.
AH: David, you've done a lot of different things in the past, with business and finance, so, tell us what got you interested in teaching and what brought you to Bethesda?
DS: I would say probably about 20 years ago, I started praying for God to lead me into a ministry. And, there were several avenues that came my way, but for about three years, I just kept praying, “God, open a door.”
And of course, my wife, Lori was here teaching and I was actually coaching Elementary and Junior High sports and still working in the secular world. And I saw what Lori was doing every day and she'd come home so excited about the things that were happening. So, for about three years I just kept praying.
And then, after that third year, Dr. Carver, who was a previous BCS administrator came up to me and said, “Hey, we see what you've been doing. We need you here and we, we have a Social Studies position available. Do you want to do it?”
And I didn't even have to think about it because it was very clear that God wanted me here. And I’ve been here going on now my 17th year.
AH: What have you taught here specifically? Right now, you're teaching Government, Econ, and Business.
DS: When I first started, I taught everything. I taught US History, World History, Geography… we had a Current Events class.
AH: What are some ways you've added relevant or rigorous components to your classes?
DS: I'd probably say kids in my classes know they're going to have to listen, take good notes, be organized, be engaged, and work hard to do well.
I teach seniors primarily, so I try to structure the class as like a 100-level college class. And so, when they walk in the door of a college or university - or even if they don’t go to college and university, if they go to the workforce, or they go to military - they'll have those work ethics already built in.
And I must be doing fairly good job (because sometimes I wonder, “Am I really doing this right?”) because, over the years I've had past students come back and say, “When I walked in my 100-level class, I was ready and I felt prepared. That the professor knew that I knew what was going on and the other kids were kind of confused.” And the Bethesda kids would actually help their college classmates.
So that felt good for me to realize they are ready. So that's my objective: to get them ready for that first college experience.
AH: In your teaching, you've also given them a lot of some really practical, hands-on experiences.
Talk a little bit about the coffee shop or how, in Economics right now, you're studying the stock market.
DS: In Government classes, we do a lot of debating and trying to prepare kids to defend their Christian view and be good citizens of the United States.
And then in Econ and Business, we do a lot of projects. We do a lot of trying to teach them how to even start small business with the coffee shop. They try to invest in the stock market, real life stock market. Now, it's made up money, but they're actually looking at real stocks and the real market.
And then we even tried to teach them how to avoid debt. We try to even get into the personal finances of staying away from debt, and really setting up budgets so when they walk out the door, when they go to college, they don't have any money, but at least once they have something, they know what to do.
AH: And you've done a great job of using that Financial Peace University which we've seen has been very effective around the country.
Talk a little bit about how you incorporate our faith and the Gospel into what you're teaching and, as you go through these different difficult topics, in Government and Economics and even Business.
DS: I don't really feel that I could teach a subject without giving God's Word almost on a daily basis because, as you know, government is ordained by God. The structures of government and the church and the home are actually taught in the Bible.
So, I like to view everything in my classes through the lens of Scripture. My philosophy, I guess, would be really simple. I like the BCS motto: the thought that if you can reach kids, their hearts, then you can teach them.
And I think relationships come before results. In order for our kids to excel at anything - it could be math, could be science, could be business, could be government or whatever - but I think if they have a relationship and they feel comfortable, then they're going to want to learn and they're going to be engaged and they want to actually be even more respectful.
I always tell them, “Hey, I love you first just like Christ loves us.” So, then I want that to come back. So, when we're doing things, then we ask why. “Why are you doing what you're doing?” Not just to get a good grade. It's to obviously do everything to the glory of God.
And if you start on this level, then when you walk out these doors, you'll feel much more comfortable because you know, you’re inundated (with Biblical teaching) here in this nice environment. But when you go out to the secular world, we don't want them to fall apart. So, their relationship with Christ is so important.
AH: Well, you've talked a little bit about this with trying to prepare them for their first college classes and their hundred level, but what are some of your desires you want as you see our students leaving, especially since you do interact every single year with our 12th grade class, amongst other grades.
What are your desires as they leave your classroom and graduate in a couple of months?
DS: Probably first and foremost, I like to have my students to have a personal relationship with Christ and to trust and obey Him, in whatever they go through, throughout their lives.
I also tell them often that I want them to leave places better than they find them. You know, if they're walking down the hall, pick up a piece of paper…
I always tell them a story - and it's a true story – of a lady who was going for a job position, a very high position. It was downtown and she got there early and she asked the receptionist, “Hey, can I go use the restroom really quickly?” because she had plenty of time before her interview.
So, she went down to use the restroom. She went in the restroom, which was completely trashed. So, she just picked things up, kind of spruced things up, and she didn't realize there was another lady in there watching her.
Anyway, after waiting for about five minutes, the receptionist said, “Okay, we're ready for the interview.” She walked in, and the lady that was in the bathroom was the person doing the interviewing.
Long story short, the lady that was doing the interview said, “I don't need to interview you; you have the job.”
And she said, “Why?” And the interviewer said, “Well, I saw what you did. If you cleaned up the bathroom, you're going to take care of what you need to take care of.”
So, that's what I want the guys and the ladies to do: whatever they do in life, leave it better than they found it.
And then I always try to tell them, being a graduate of BCS, about what I have seen here and then what I came back to after being away. I can tell about what I've seen and know firsthand about what Christian school teachers are, and how different their work and lives are from what I've seen away from here.
DS: Then I think too, it's also fascinating that Lori and I are here together, that they can look at both of us and see how we handle things and how our marriage has grown over these many years and they can kind of watch. And so that's kind of a ministry - or a legacy - that Lori and I don't really take very lightly. We take it very seriously.
I think the kids watch that and they see how we interact with one another.
And I think when they walk out these doors to marriage, hopefully, they can see what a strong Christian marriage looks like and then they can take that wherever they go in life.
AH: Yeah. That's an incredible opportunity for many of our students.
And you're both alumni of the school as well as working together, which has been an amazing testimony for our students and other staff to see.
Thank you very much for your time!