Education Students Find Family, Missional Purpose

Education Students Find Family, Missional Purpose

Hannah Tolbert
Hannah Tolbert

Faulkner senior Hannah Tolbert burst into the education lab in the College of Education’s Johnson Hall in tears. About to graduate with a degree in elementary education, Tolbert was facing an enormous challenge to grasp and pass her pre-calculus class. Without a passing grade, she’d miss her May graduation and her hopes and dreams of becoming a 5th grade teacher. 

“I walked into the lab upset and Dr. Sandy Ledwell was right there to comfort me, and told me to come into her office and we just talked about it,” Tolbert said. “From that day forward, Dr. Ledwell has been tutoring me, and I’ll be set to graduate this May. Despite all the hurdles and responsibilities she has as the brand-new dean of the College of Education, she still made time to pour into me. That’s what everyone who works in the College of Education at Faulkner does. They are the kind of teacher I want to be. A teacher who is willing to do whatever it takes to help their students.” 

“When you first start down the path of education, the methods and vocabulary seem overwhelming, but the beautiful thing about being at Faulkner is the teachers here tell you how to use those and how to apply them so when you go into a classroom it becomes second nature,” she added.

Just as the women of the College of Education, Ledwell, Rebecca Horn, Sandy Luster, Carol Tarpley, and Tiffany Till view their teaching roles as a vocational ministry, so do the students and the alumni of the education department view the teaching profession. 

“The classroom is one of the biggest mission fields,” Tolbert said. “You as the teacher are responsible for the future of your students. You are with your students for nearly eight hours of the day and the way you carry yourself, the respect you give to your students, the ways you encourage them and the way you give them confidence to persevere in their studies, should all point toward Christ. You’re showing them through your actions, through kindness and love what it means to be a Christian.”

It is the same example of caring teachers and tutors that first inspired Tolbert to follow a career involving children. In high school, Tolbert struggled in math and English and so her teachers and tutors at New Life Christian Academy in Millbrook, Alabama gave her one-on-one instruction until she grasped the subject matter. Tolbert realized how important it was to make sure no student was left behind. 

Tolbert came to Faulkner as a legal studies major in order to become a child advocate, but she quickly discovered her heart was in the classroom- just like her mother’s, Cindy Tolbert, who works as the Faulkner PreK coordinator. 

“I knew my heart couldn’t handle the tough situations many children suffer with, but I knew I still wanted to help children. My mom suggested teaching, and it was a natural fit,” she said. 

“Being in the classroom is so rewarding,” said Tolbert, who has helped teach in three local elementary schools as part of her coursework. “As a teacher, you may be the only smile your students see that day, or the only sense of safety they experience that day. As a teacher, you have stepped into the role of caretaker just as Christ cares for us, and it’s a position that I will be honored to fill.” 

For 2004 Faulkner Education graduate, Taryn Brodie, her classroom is indeed her mission field and it’s her goal to instill in them positive character traits in addition to teaching them educational standards.

l-r, Taryn Brodie poses with her daughter Keeghan, husband Chris and son Cutter. Brodie champion her students to be Brodie's Best by instilling them with values in addition to their education.
l-r, Taryn Brodie poses with her daughter Keeghan, husband Chris and son Cutter.

“At Faulkner, it was more of the experiences I had which molded me into the teacher that I am. There, I discovered true character, perseverance, and a love for learning that carried over into my classroom,” Brodie said. “Every student who has walked through my classroom door has become a member of Brodie’s Best, ones who in turn will go share that with the world. My professors at Faulkner worked to prepare me for this in addition to everything else I needed to learn to enter this demanding but amazing field. I am blessed to have started my career at Faulkner University.”

Brodie, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, graduated from Faulkner magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and recently completed her Master of Education degree from Faulkner in September 2022. She now teaches second graders at Wetumpka Elementary School in the classroom across the hall from where she interned.

“I absolutely love what I do. Second grade is where they gain their independence and spread their wings, but they still love you and are excited to come to school each day,” Brodie said. “I love to see their growth and am amazed at what we are able to accomplish in my classroom each year.”

Well known in the River Region and the state for his empathy and professionalism within the education system, Faulkner alumnus Jeff Langham is a man of principle, values and faith.

Currently serving as the Chief of Staff and Assistant State Superintendent for the Alabama State Department of Education, his 38-year tenure in education began when he enrolled at Alabama Christian College, now known as Faulkner University. Langham, a Bay Minette, Alabama native, attended the college from 1976 to 1978.

It was the mentors he gained at Faulkner, who helped him strengthen his faith and transition to the workplace.

“From daily chapel to daily encounters with Godly mentors, my experiences at Faulkner have been enormously influential in my faith journey,” Langham said. “So many ‘giants of the faith’ whose legacies are still rich and alive here at Faulkner, served as role models for me in my most critical junctures in my life beyond high school and before my transition into the workplace.”

As a student, he was involved in every aspect of campus life. Later, he completed his master’s degree at Auburn Montgomery and his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, Policy and Law from Alabama State University.

“My experiences at Faulkner, formerly Alabama Christian College, from 1976-1978 were a true joy!” Langham said. “During my time there, I benefited tremendously from the guidance of excellent teachers, wise mentors, treasured friends, many of whom are still dear friends to this day, and spiritual grounding that has kept me on course all these decades later.”

“Faulkner set the foundations of my career as it was here that I decided to pursue a degree in English Education,” he said. “My degree from Faulkner set me on the right track that still impacts my daily career adventures.”