"St. Herman’s was for me an eternal formation—holistic, and all inclusive of the important academic endeavors—yet entirely structured on the foundation of eternity."

I received the call: “Mike, I need you to sub for me while I’m away in Chicago” “Ok, Tudor, I’d be happy to.” And so it began—three days of walking down memory lane at St. Herman of Alaska Christian School. The time that was to follow proved to be a self-examination, asking why I felt like St. Herman’s had such a profound impact on my life. If you’d permit me, I would like to share some of my reflections with you. I feel very grateful for my time at this school—a place where I labored, and played, for over nine good years. I vividly remember some things, and have forgotten much. But if one thing is clear, it is that the richness of my childhood education has deeply impacted me now. It has richly informed my secondary and higher education in ways that I still cannot understand. I think that I have begun to understand a few of them: I have many fond memories. Driving to the gym for P.E. at the West End House facility was certainly one of them. I also remember, going as far back as kindergarten, hearing stories read aloud by the teacher while we (the students) sat on pillows on the floor, but were not really in the room as our minds had floated off to France, Medieval England or some other exciting time and place. Even the times that made me squirm, have become delightfully implanted into my memory, like when we got to dissect a cow’s heart to see how it functioned and operated so beautifully. We were very creative as well; we even made a full-length movie of the famous story taken from Dicken’s Great Expectations. And then there were the plays. I’m not sure I can count how many Shakespeare characters I have been, but I must say that Twelfth Night’s Malvolio was probably the most entertaining and eccentric of all of them. One of my fondest and most recent memories was our Eighth Grade Trip to Washington D.C. These are all pockets of memories that ebb and flow in and out of my mind as life continues to move rapidly forward. Amongst the stressful weeks and months that feel like fleeting days, these memories act as oases for my, often, cluttered mind and soul. In these comforting moments I can sense something deeper than the presence of mere memories.

 

Putting aside all good memories, all information that was gained, and friends that were made, something almost tangible was transmitted, something eternal and necessary; it’s truly a gem that is useful wherever I am and in whatever circumstance. Ultimately, it is something at the root of, what I would call now, a rightly-ordered education. It started with stories. I have loved stories since before I can remember. My mother and father would read them to me before I went to bed and would even tell my babysitters to read to me before sleep. The stories would often come from classic tales of knights, battles and chivalrous acts. Other tales would recount acts of heroism and extreme witness in the lives of the martyrs and saints of the Church. During my time at St. Herman’s, I began to love telling stories of my own. I had two English and Writing teachers at school who continued where my parents left off by fanning the spark of my love for stories into a flame of excitement for writing. This tradition of inspiration continued into my high school years where I was blessed to have another amazing English teacher three years in a row. I began to be more aware of my love for writing, but it was the continued love and guidance of my teachers that opened my eyes to the world of Literature and Writing.

Finally, I went to college. I began my freshman year as an English major, but I soon became aware of a new love that had emerged in my life; I was deeply moved by the words of various theologians and biblical scholars of ancient and modern times. As a result, my specific interest moved towards theology. But had it not been for the constant love of my English professors, in allowing me to explore the beauty of God’s creation in Literature and Writing, I would not have been able to hear my inner longing to study theology.
I have learned a lot from this bumpy (and very brief) journey of mine. The world is filled with people of all professions and skill-sets. But regardless of what we do—of what we are trained to do—the most important thing, I have realized, is that in everything we “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Thus, in the 6 hours of our day, 30 hours in our week, 120 hours in our month, and 1440 hours in our year, and God-willing over 17000 hours that we spend (or spent) in school, this greatly influential and formative time in our lives should be rightly-ordered in seeking the first things first. I truly believe that in this right ordering of things, I was able to see all of my studies with an eye of greater discernment, value and responsibility. Instead of absorbing information from various disciplines and leaving them to sit disconnected and stagnant in my mind, I was able to begin to make sense of the connection between math and theology, between writing and history, and between all of the subjects and God. Granted, learning information in the right way, and with qualified people is important, but what an honor it was to be able to learn in an environment that recognized the natural fulfillment in all that I learned.
 
Otherwise, as the writer of Ecclesiastes so wisely notes:
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
Yet, it is clear that the answer lies in his conclusion:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,  
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
Many have wondered why it is necessary to integrate faith with education. If a child goes to church and maybe even Sunday school, why does education need a spiritual foundation? I believe, from my own experience, it is the case that regardless of what school one attends a “spiritual foundation” (however unstable) will be built. The question to ask is not whether one will receive a religious education or not, the question is which foundation does one want to build an education upon. There is an ordering and philosophy to any passing-on of knowledge that exists in this world—any education. Will it be ordered according to that which is eternal—that which is important? Or to that which is, as is written, “Vanity.” St. Herman’s was for me an eternal formation—holistic, and all inclusive of the important academic endeavors—yet entirely structured on the foundation of eternity. I don’t know if a study has been conducted on this yet, but I would bet that a student who knew, not only what he/she was studying, but also why he/she was studying it, would be more apt to pursue education with a full and open heart, as opposed to a child who simply asked to learn various disciplines. God-willing others can receive this same gift as well!
 Michael Tishel

  Michael graduated from St. Herman’s School in June 2000. He then attended Lexington Christian Academy (’04) and Gordon College (’08 - Summa Cum Laude). He is currently studying in Greece.