BY: AUBREY KREIDER, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
MS. ANGELA DIETZEL ‘04 taught at Locust Grove for one year, New Danville for four years, and will be continuing as a 3rd grade teacher at the unified Lancaster Mennonite School this year. We were honored to sit down with her to learn how she integrates LM’s core values into her work as a teacher.
Q: How does the work that you do in your classroom and as a teacher relate to LM’s value to Seek Jesus Wholeheartedly?
MS. DIETZEL: My personal goal for my classroom is creating space that values, honors, and respects every student in the class. My hope is that they encounter God, themselves, and one another in new ways, and that they learn to identify themselves and others as beloved children of God. Every day we start third grade by lighting a candle and inviting God’s presence with us. Then together as a class we say, “We light this candle because God is present with us.”
Q: Why is the emphasis on Seeking Jesus Wholeheartedly an important aspect of LM’s curriculum and core values?
MS. DIETZEL: Jesus is an expression that God gave to us to learn about shalom and what it looks like. We can look to Jesus as a teacher to help us understand what that looks like here on earth. In seeking Jesus I see us seeking shalom, and being part of God’s story of shalom. As Anabaptists we look through the “Jesus lens” in scripture and together as a community. As part of our curriculum, shalom is a meaningful foundation with our Encounter Bible curriculum. We draw on Palmer Becker’s description of Anabaptist Mennonite’s core beliefs, “Jesus is the center of our faith. Community is the center of our lives. Reconciliation is the center of our work,” as a guiding framework along with lived practices of prayer, reading scripture, etc.
Q: How have you intentionally worked at creating space for students in your class?
- Photo Wall – Hanging on a wall in our classroom we have a photo of each student, their name listed with their photo, along with a vision statement for the class. I want each of my students to feel seen and a part of the class; that is the foundation of a strong community.
- Representation – A number of students speak other languages at home, and I have tried to get books that are in their first language, like
Karen and Tigrinya. I also have students that celebrate different traditions, so I explored resources to better understand myself and then had the student teach the class about the ways they celebrate it.
- Curriculum – As I taught the social studies unit on local Lancaster County this year I included information about immigrants coming in the 1700’s and provided modern refugee stories as present day connection points within our community, including individuals personally connected to our school. A number of students and their families are recent refugees, and this helped identify themselves here and also helped other students link past and current events together. I believe that by digging deeper beyond the curriculum it brought the material to life in a new and more meaningful way for students.
Q: What influenced your desire to become a teacher? Were there any LM teachers that inspired you?
MS. DIETZEL: As a young child I dreamed of becoming a teacher. I loved my teachers in elementary school and replicated them when I played teacher at home. In 6th grade at Locust Grove, Susan Burkholder tapped me to be the manager of the girls basketball team. She gave me the space to not only fill water bottles, but also to be an encourager and walk alongside as part of the team. She saw that I wanted to be part of something, and invested in me. I continued as a basketball manager through my senior year. These were really formative experiences. In addition, in high school, teachers like Sheri Wenger, Dean Sauder, Janet Banks, Jonathan Metzler, and Deb King were important to me. Each honored my individual giftings and pushed me to express how to offer those in the classroom and in extracurriculars. When I graduated, I recall Sheri Wenger writing me a note quoting an author to go, “Make the world a more beautiful place.” And I have continued to try to do that.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your work as a teacher?
MS. DIETZEL: In the classroom, my highlights have been the experiential learning opportunities I have tried to create for students to experience Bible stories and content in new ways and create memories together.
Those have included:
- Shalom Prayer Labyrinth – Students created it and walked the path to pause, reflect and pray during the International Day of Peace. Each circuit focused on a part of the wholeness of Shalom: peace with myself, peace with others, peace with creation, and peace with God.
- Maundy Thursday Service – Together we ate the last supper and washed hands in remembrance of Jesus and his disciples near Easter time.
- Pinwheels for Peace to celebrate International Peace Day with the whole school
- Animal Presentations with an exhibit to showcase their work.
I have also really enjoyed some of the leadership roles I’ve been able to take on, such as mentoring new teachers. It has been a joy to walk alongside new teachers and help them navigate their role.