The 2015 Durstan R McDonald Teaching Award
Innovative Christian educator, insightful child psychologist, fearless Scout troop leader, brilliant Sunday school curriculum-designer, patient production company manager. Theme park designer, hand-washer, tear-dryer, and a legend among the guild of papier-mâché artists. For more than 30 years you have guided the children and youth of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Austin in exploring the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Under your supervision, students have constantly discovered new ways to discover the Good News through drama, language, and the astonishingly versatile artifacts of construction paper, Elmer’s Glue, coat buttons and thread. The themes that animate your classroom are the same that animate your own faith: discipleship, stewardship, evangelism, sacraments, justice and an eye for the miraculous in the midst of the mundane.
You are always on the lookout for the ones in need of extra care. One year when you observed that the boys were dominating the classroom both in numbers and in energy, you created the girls’ overnight camping trip and candlelight breakfast, now an honored tradition at All Saints’. One colleague notes the care you take in attending to those who demand it along with those who might otherwise remain invisible. “Whether children are shy or gregarious, precocious or developmentally challenged, total hams or introverts . . . Sarah respects their preferences and finds ways for them to participate fully and enjoy the activity.” Another observer notes that the cute and agreeable children garner no more of your attention that the disagreeable ones. “Good News indeed if you belong to the second category.”
Among your great gifts is your stunning courage in the face of any and every mess. If the floor is littered with tiny paper triangles and dollops of plaster, and if the campground is sticky with marshmallows and chocolate, it was a good day. You would never be content with telling students the story of Jonah and Moses: in your class they crawl into the dark belly of an enormous fish, and climb a mountain to get a copy of the stone tablets. Young children can’t wait to be old enough to travel to these experiential theme parks, and older ones eagerly anticipate writing and making their own bible-themed movies. You delight in giving children the permission to be themselves, to take joy in one another, to discover their own creativity, and to experience the strange, wonderful, breath-taking world of God’s Word.
There is simply no way of counting the number of lives that you have changed and the quantity of good news you have passed along over your many years in the classroom. Your courage, your intuition, and your ability to listen for God’s still small voice in the most unlikely of contexts, are an inspiration.
In recognition of your commitment to your students and to the art of respectful and engaging teaching, Seminary of the Southwest is proud to present you with the 2015 Durstan R McDonald Teaching Award.
Cynthia Briggs Kittredge Nathan Jennings
Dean and President Faculty Secretary