Dr. Alan Spurgin
"I never want to lose sight of the child.” This might be a mission statement for the life and ministry of Dr. Alan Spurgin, one of nine on-campus instructors in MLC’s master’s program. Dr. Spurgin teaches two courses in the special education emphasis: Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities and Diagnosis & Assessment of Students with Special Needs. “I feel very strongly about children with special needs and know there are a growing number of children with special needs in our Lutheran elementary and secondary schools,” Spurgin says.
“With my terminal degree in special education, I felt I could share my knowledge and practice of special education. However, my ultimate goal of teaching in the master’s program is to help a child. I never want to lose sight of the child who wants to learn, especially about his or her Savior.” Dr. Spurgin taught in the 70s and 80s at St. John-Watertown, Wisconsin; Good Shepherd-West Allis, Wisconsin; and St. Peter-Balaton, Minnesota, a K-8 one-room school and also the first WELS elementary school in Minnesota to be accredited.
He has been at D/MLC since 1992, filling different roles in the education department: associate director of clinical experiences, student teaching supervisor, 5-6 grade teacher at St. Paul’s, and instructor on the hill, teaching psychology and education courses at both the undergrad and graduate level.
Continuing education has always been important to him, and he’s done coursework at six different institutions. He earned his MS in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and his EdD in Special Education at the University of South Dakota. He’s a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and the Minnesota Council for Exceptional Children.
In addition to his ministerial duties, Al and his wife of 41 years, Gerane, have taken in 97 foster children over the last 30+ years, adopting #40, Jennifer. They also have two biological children, Jason and Jeremy, and the whole family lives near New Ulm, so Friday family pizza nights and grandchild sleepovers are a given. “To watch the grandchildren grow physically and spiritually is a great joy,” he says.
As licensed childcare providers, his wife and daughter provide care for other children in New Ulm, and the whole family “feels very strongly about children,” says Spurgin, “advocating for children locally or on the state level.”
Spurgin very much enjoys teaching in the master’s program. “I work with highly motivated Christian teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to continue their education,” he says. “It is pleasurable to work with teachers who have expertise. I try to offer opportunities for these teachers to share their knowledge and skills. I also very much enjoy stretching the teachers and getting them to go beyond their paradigms of teaching and instructing. Each of the master’s level courses I teach has a strong practical application wherein the teachers must go beyond their comfort zones. Probably the best part of teaching on the Master’s Level is to see them walk across the stage at graduation. To greet them afterward as Master Teachers is absolutely wonderful.
When he isn’t teaching, Dr. Spurgin, a member of Courtland Lutheran-Courtland, Minnesota, enjoys watching the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Twins as well as amateur baseball teams in New Ulm. Fishing and field trips with the grandkids are a regular part of his schedule, and he is a singer. In fact, he says, “I almost went to school to study music, but missed a scholarship by one person. I wanted to study to be an opera singer. God had much better plans for me. “I truly am not a very remarkable person,” he adds, “just an ordinary Joe whom God has given the privilege to serve him for 40 years.”
The MLC family is grateful for Dr. Spurgin’s service, and special education teachers all over the synod recognize in him a professor who is both an expert and an advocate for special needs students. “Children with special needs also need to know about Jesus,” he says. “If I can help a child learn about salvation, God be praised.”
(Article written by Laurie Gauger)