Teacher Receives National Award

by Myron Madden

(From left) Ron Hessel, Summit Northwest Ministries pastor; Jodi Orser, Lake City Junior Academy school board chairwoman; Cyril Connelly, AAF staff; Geoff Heald, Excellence in Teaching Award recipient with his plaque and medallion; Ron Jacaban, Lake City Junior Academy principal; and Jim Mason, Upper Columbia Conference associate superintendent, celebrate Heald's award.
Geoff Heald celebrates the Excellence in Teaching Award with his family. .

Coeur d'Alene, Wash., June 12, 2014  -  Geoff Heald, a teacher at Lake City Junior Academy (LCJA) in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, was presented with a national award on Friday, May 16. Heald is among 10 teachers selected this spring by the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) to receive a 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award.

The award ceremony was held at 8:30 a.m. in the academy’s Fellowship Center. The award included a medallion and a $2,000 gift.

Geoff Heald's mission is to make an Adventist education worthwhile. After spending several years teaching from a textbook that was poorly written and outdated, Heald realized the need for a change in his Northwest history class and used his summer to recreate the course. The new and improved curriculum included excerpts from a college-level textbook and incorporated both written and visual primary sources.

“Geoff produced a syllabus and handbook that turned the formerly dull class into a student favorite,” said Ron Jacaban, LCJA principal. Devoted to making learning relevant outside the classroom,

Heald also crafted his curriculum to include a trip to Washington, D.C., every other year. Before the students leave for the capital, Heald uses the entire year to prepare them for what they will see by integrating themes of citizenship, ethics and personal freedom into his Bible, history and language arts classes. “Tour guides have remarked after speaking with a student about a particular place, ‘I have performed this tour for years, and I didn’t know that,’” says Mindy Weber, parent of students in Heald’s classes.

Heald also uses his D.C. connections to book exclusive tours of the White House West Wing and a visit to rare collections in the Library of Congress for students who have excelled throughout the year. This year, he even arranged for his class to meet with Barry Black, Senate chaplain. “Without reservation, I know that because of Mr. Heald’s unrelenting expectations as a teacher, my sons now enjoy history, traveling and reading,” Weber says.

Although students who have taken Heald’s classes usually return to tell him that they learned more than ever before in his course and that they are at the top of their classes in their current schools, he knows there is more to do. “I am a product of the Adventist education system,” Heald says. “It’s my home, and it’s what I know. If it’s going to improve, that change has to come from the inside. So here I am. And I am determined that on my watch, no student is going to experience spiritual abuse, favoritism or intimidation. And no student is going to say that he or she got a subpar education at an Adventist school.”

AAF annually selects 10 teachers from the Seventh-day Adventist school systems across North America. The 10 finalists will be celebrated in the upcoming weeks. AAF is a nonprofit organization that has awarded grants to Adventist schools and teachers totaling more than $2 million. Since its establishment in 1995, the organization has recognized 125 exceptional teachers with an Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2011, AAF refocused and created the Renaissance Network, a management group specializing in making Adventist academies across North America successful in every area of operation. AAF’s strategy is to bring training and support for implementing the best practices in business, marketing, youth ministry and education. Learn more at AlumniAwards.org.