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Serving Christ Among High School Students

TGCvocations with Tim Shaw

Tim Shaw is a social studies teacher and department chair at Booker High School in Sarasota, Florida, an urban school with an esteemed visual and performing arts program. A native son of Florida, he is a Marine Corps veteran who enjoyed a career in hospitality management before beginning his 20-year tenure in education. Although Tim enjoys teaching American history and government, his greatest passion is forming that bond with students that allows him to instill valuable life lessons aside from the mandated curriculum. Tim is married to Linda, and they have two daughters.

How would you describe your work? What do you do every day?

My days are hectic. I go from one class with advanced and focused students to one with kids who read on third- and fourth-grade levels. There are endless emails and phone calls, meetings behind and before, rushed planning sessions, and constant grading. I also coach the academic olympics team after school.

Occasional chats with colleagues refresh me throughout the day. It’s good to have people who can empathize with me in the chaos. I also lead a weekly prayer group, which is always a special time that changes my whole week.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

Demonstrating grace is the most important way. There is a line between being compassionate and not letting students walk all over me; I have to find the right amount of leniency to give. As I consider their stories, backgrounds, and lives, I must remind myself that a grade on a history test or ability to solve an equation isn’t really that important to those whose needs for love and physical security aren’t being met.

How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?

In my school, I see a critical need for Christ in what is sometimes a dark place. There are many broken individuals and families. Some children are at a total loss of any kind of direction, desire, or will to become productive citizens. They are hopeless, which is partly why they can be so apathetic and lethargic about their schoolwork. Their communities and homes tell them a tragic story for which they think they’re destined. Lacking joy and love, they then try to fill their lives with meaningless and shallow things.

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?

As a veteran teacher, loving my neighbor often means helping my colleagues—sharing ideas with them and, most importantly, listening to them. Teachers tend to be generous people looking to make a difference in the next generation. Some sacrifice financially, buying students tickets for events or dresses for prom. Some tutor for free, giving of their time. Demonstrating love and compassion is important. Sometimes this means delaying my rush to the copier before first period so that I can listen to my colleague share an update about his wife who’s going through cancer treatments.

Editors’ note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners how they integrate their faith and their work. Interviews are condensed and edited.