In May 2014 you might not have chosen Andrea (Biedenbender) Van Sice as the most likely person to enroll in MLC’s master’s program.

She’d just wrapped up her undergrad papers and exams, accepted her diploma, and turned her tassel. She’d just been assigned to Nebraska LHS. She was engaged to be married the next summer. Because her fiancé was a seminary student, she was anticipating four moves in four years: to Nebraska, to her husband’s vicar congregation, back to Milwaukee, and then to the congregation her husband would be assigned in May 2017. And it was possible she would be called as a new teacher in each of those new places.

But Andrea has always loved being a student, so she decided to go for it. She enrolled. And though her life was just as crazy as expected—a wedding as well as three calls and three moves in three years, with a fourth move coming up—she’s been completing graduate coursework at every new destination in her new life.

Why MLC? The truth is, MLC was not Andrea’s first choice for a master’s program.

“I looked into various master’s programs before deciding on MLC. My initial thoughts were that it would be a good idea to take courses from a different school to gain a different perspective.

“After applying to a few other programs, however, I received the tuition bills and could not imagine paying that much after just finishing college!”

So she chose her alma mater—for the affordability, yes, but also for the flexibility and the quality. “I knew I needed an online program, as we’d be frequently moving. I knew I needed something that allowed me to have time to teach and still take courses.”

And she’s enjoyed the high quality of instruction she’s received from a variety of professors as well—some from MLC and some from other institutions.

Andrea began her coursework while serving as an instructor and dorm supervisor in Waco, Nebraska, and she continued the next year while she taught 2- and 3-year-old preschool at Faith-Sharpsburg, Georgia, where her husband, Doug, vicared. This year Doug is finishing his last year at the sem, and she’s taking courses while teaching grade 2 at Garden Homes-Milwaukee.

It’s quite a variety of calls—from 17-year-olds to 2-year-olds to 7-year-olds. “Each new place,” she says, “has brought the thought, ‘Can I really do this?’ But God always provides a way and gives the strength to do his work.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a full-time elementary teaching position,” she continues. “Most of my undergraduate and graduate work has been focused on this type of setting, so in way I think of myself as a ‘first-year teacher.’

I joke that I’m overeducated but very under-experienced when it comes to teaching elementary school. However, the graduate work has kept me fresh and excited about teaching and education research. It’s given me confidence to do my job.”

Andrea chose special education as her emphasis, primarily because of former students she has wished she could’ve helped more.

“Last year I had a 2-year-old student who’s non-verbal. She has Down syndrome, and it was clear she knew so much but couldn’t communicate it. It drove me crazy that I couldn’t unlock the door for her to tell us everything she knew. Her mom had been a teacher for 15 years, so she worked with her daughter at home, and I could see the progress she made throughout the year. By the end of the year, she used signs and some pre-phonetic sounds to say things like /kee/ for “kitty.” It was so heartwarming to see her progress, and it encouraged me to learn more about how to help children like her in the future!”

And who knows where Andrea’s future will take her! From a Nebraska high school to a Georgia preschool to an urban Milwaukee elementary school, her path so far has been quite an adventure.

“I’m not sure how God will use me in the future,” she says, “but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past three years, it’s that every type of ministry is important and special.

“Before I started the program,” she concludes, “I questioned whether it would be worth it. I haven’t finished yet, but I would never want to give up what I’ve learned so far. It’s amazing to me how applicable and practical this graduate program has been, regardless of where or how I was serving.”

Written by Laurie Gauger