Preparing young minds for citizenship on Earth and for eternity is a serious mission for staff and faculty at Tree of Life Christian Preparatory School (Fredricksburg, Va.). They place value on a child’s academic accomplishments and their spiritual growth. They also believe academic excellence and Christ-like behavior results from outstanding teachers with Christian standards, small classrooms and an imaginative, individualized curriculum.
Their vision provides even greater clarity – they feel strongly that the home, the church and the school form a partnership to accomplish these goals. Children who embrace opportunities with enthusiasm, a teacher who nurtures their growth and parents and church members who support the many facets of school life join to form the family that is TLC Prep.
Within the mission and vision are three critical components – all of the strands, interwoven, are required in order to create a healthy school system and a learning environment that enables students to learn and grow. Teachers are a critical strand in that chord, and Becky Durichek, an outstanding teacher, is recognized for her role in those critical strands.
Though Becky was personally recognized this year by the Columbia Union Conference Office of Education and received the Outstanding Educator Award, she’s always quick to acknowledge her support system. Her husband, John Jr., continues to be mentioned in one story after another. Then, she shares a story that involves her daughter, Emily, who is currently running the equestrian program at Camp Blue Ridge (Montebello, Va.).
“My husband and daughter help me a ton,” says Durichek. “I’m very fortunate to have that support.” She shares a story about a book that had a major impact on her teaching career. “He [John, Jr.] was the one who located the book Being Teddy Roosevelt at the library – he brought it to me and encouraged me to share it with my class. I did not know how much of an impact it was going to make. I thank God for sharing these ideas with me.” As I listen to Becky, I can’t help but think of all the pastors and teachers within the Potomac Conference who have husbands, wives and children who also support the mission and vision of their respective schools and churches. These talents and sacrifices made on a daily basis, which often go unnoticed by the vast majority of us, are an incredible testament to the value and strength they bring to our mission.
Her colleague and friend, Janet Armstrong, is a passionate advocate of Becky’s. Having taught together for over seven years, the bond between them is tight – one senses that as you listen to Janet share her impression of her friend’s teaching ability. “One of the first innovative projects Becky ever did was something we now call Biography Tea. It was all inspired from that book. In it, a 3rd grade student is doing research on Roosevelt. At the conclusion, the teacher has a ‘tea’ where each student dresses up as their historical figure and then tells the class about themselves, in character. Becky took this idea and did the same project with her students. That first year she invited grades 5 – 8 to listen to speeches from her 1st – 4th graders. Becky carefully chose the characters for each student, matching their personalities. The following year, Biography Tea became a school-wide project. Every summer, Becky finds people from history (past and present) and matches them to the personalities of her students.”
Another aspect that jumps out as you listen to them share Becky’s story is her absolute love of teaching. Whether it’s taking her class on a weekend camping trip in order to help students deal with issues they’ve never had the courage to tackle or all the times she stays late after school to help tutor a student, her passion for teaching is infectious and the love she has for her students is evident. She shares a story that captures this sentiment so clearly: “We had communion several weeks ago, which. It was very humbling. I told them to pick a person they were struggling with or who they need to clear the air with. Many of them didn’t even wait for the other person, they started taking off the shoes and socks of their partners. I encouraged them to contemplate what they’d like to share with God when they got to the church. I really felt it was God’s timing – God leading and guiding my kids.”
These are just a few of the incredible things Becky, and the rest of the team at TLC Prep, are doing to create an award-winning environment at their school. As King Solomon once said, all of these strands, when interwoven, are not easily broken.