Duane Vance can’t say enough good things about the Martin Luther College master’s program. “I never imagined what kind of impact the graduate studies program would have on our ministry here,” he says.

Having attended the University of Northern Florida for his teaching degree, Duane wasn’t sure what to expect at the WELS College of Ministry. He discovered an environment that understood public gospel ministry. “The program certainly met my expectations and more.”

Duane had taught at a public high school in Florida before he was called to fill a one-year emergency situation at Jerusalem in Morton Grove, Illinois. After accepting the call, he became synod certified (2007). After eight years he became the school principal and knew he needed more training. That’s when he enrolled in the MLC graduate program.

“I knew I needed to grow professionally to become a much more qualified principal. I wanted to learn as much as I could about school growth, development, and improvement in order to bring that to Jerusalem. I ended up learning much more than I originally thought I would.”

Notably, MLC’s program taught Duane what makes a Lutheran school distinctive. “Building a positive Christ-centered culture was emphasized in almost every course, and I learned a tremendous amount that we’ve been able to apply to our ministry here.”

But Duane gained more than ministry tools. “One very special change I made in my teaching was a greater focus on formative assessment. I began giving many more assessments to improve the students’ learning and not just evaluate what they’d learned.”

He also found that his coursework helped him guide his school to WELSSA accreditation. “From curriculum development to writing policy, we are well positioned for accreditation (and quite possibly at the exemplary level),” he says.

The span of his influence became even wider as he shared Jerusalem’s new communications plan and crisis management plan, both of which he’d developed at MLC, with the local superintendent to help him initiate similar plans in the public school system.

As a public university graduate, Duane knew he hadn’t received the ministry training his WELS school colleagues had. He wanted that. “I wanted to experience a college that is Christ-centered and supports our synod schools the way MLC does. I knew that the professors would understand the rigors of the called ministry and would work with me as needed, all the while holding to high expectations and standards for excellence.

“Frankly,” he continues, “I believe this program has changed my ministry and my life. I’m using strategies and skills that have helped to bring our school to a higher level of achievement. I now feel compelled to help other schools synod-wide.”

Having seen education from many different perspectives, Duane recommends that all WELS teachers consider MLC for their master’s degree. “I feel it may be the best option for most called workers. It’s affordable, especially if the school ministry contributes to professional development. The professors understand the life of a teacher in the called ministry. But above all, the quality of the program and instruction alone make MLC a great choice.”

Duane Vance is a 2002 graduate of the University of North Florida. He has served at Jerusalem-Morton Grove IL since 2005.  He enjoys playing golf and watching the Michigan Wolverines and Jacksonville Jaguars. He and his wife, Rebecca, have two children, Sarah (13) and Nathan (10).

Written by Laurie Gauger-Hested