In 2011 Denise Ball traded in her spreadsheets and business suits for tennis shoes, crayons, and Bible story time. And MLC’s Early Childhood Educator courses have made that transition a success.
Denise, a member at Calvary-Dallas, had leveraged her degree in computer science and business from Texas A&M Commerce into a corporate job in Dallas. She had worked for several years, refusing transfers and instead moving from one department to another as her company shifted things around.
“One day,” she says, “I had a lot going on, and 90% of what I was working on went wrong. It was a very trying day, and God carried me. I prayed, right there in my cubicle: ‘Lord, I will never take another offer. Please take me out of here. I won’t look back.’”
That was a huge step. “I’d never been able to let go of my job,” she says. “It was my worth. Now I was ready for God to take control instead of me.”
And take control he did. Two weeks later, it was announced that her department would close. She accepted the severance package, and April 22, 2011, was her last day. “It also happened to be Good Friday!” she adds.
Five months later God opened a different door: to a preschool classroom at Calvary. Denise began as a volunteer and then was hired as the preK assistant. Two years later she was called to be the preK teacher.
Her divine call required her to get her CDA (Child Development Associate) credential, and her principal, Jim Henrickson, got her started. She jumped in immediately, taking one course per semester from MLC while she taught. She’s completed eight of the 11 required courses so far.
“I couldn’t believe the range of choices at MLC,” she says. “I’ve taken face-to-face and online courses. Every instructor has been encouraging, knowledgeable, professional, and personable. Every course has been meaningful. The topics are current, including nutrition, observing play, assessment, early literacy, and reaching out to diverse families.
“I take away so much from these courses, not just because of the content, but by the way these instructors present the material for real application. I’m making lessons as assignments that I’m taking straight to my classroom.”
For the past three years, Denise’s duties in that classroom have included “teaching Bible stories and academics, mediating, observing, counseling, sharing with parents, building relationships, reaching out to the community, and being a PE coach, life coach, social skills director, emotional supporter, caregiver, cheerleader, comedian, and drill instructor!
“The best part of my teaching day is telling the students about Jesus—seeing their eyes while telling the good news, retelling the stories, and opening up discussion. I want each student to have Jesus.”
Denise also wants her students to develop tenacity. “Each student is required to try. Trying develops tenacity, which leads to accomplishment. It’s rewarding to see a child who’s been struggling—with ABCs, counting, playground activity, behavior, etc.—actually reach their goal. We rejoice together and move on to the next challenge.”
But her ministry isn’t only about the little ones. It’s about their families too.
“I want my preschoolers to have a relationship with me that bridges to their family. If I don’t have a bond that reaches into the home, how effective can this ministry be?”
By God’s grace, Denise’s ministry is an effective one. She’s grateful to her Lord and also to MLC for the Early Childhood Educator courses. “Without the benefit of these courses, I would be an acceptable teacher. But now I’ve learned how to be flexible, how to communicate more effectively, how to be an intentional educator. When a teacher grows, everyone benefits—teacher, family, students, parents, congregation, and community. I want to be an ever-evolving educator, a lifelong learner willing to share it all.”