Faith in the Public School from a Teacher’s Perspective

Media by Cord Buchanan.

“I am not a teacher but an awakener.” This quote from Robert Frost perfectly encapsulates the main goal of teaching. It is a teacher’s responsibility to not only help their students retain facts and numbers but also to awaken curiosity and inspiration inside of them. Teaching can be an immensely fulfilling profession, but it does come with its bumps in the road. One obstacle that teachers can face in the workplace is religion. Often, in the public school system, teachers are required to leave their faith out of their curriculum. This can prove to be easy for some, but difficult for others.

A side view of Greenville school. Media by Cord Buchanan.

Danae Marquis, wife and mother of four children, has been a teacher for 22 years, 18 of which were spent teaching language arts in a public elementary school. Marquis always knew she wanted to be a teacher, even when she was a little kid. “I came from a family of educators. My favorite thing to do as a kid was to play school. I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. When I became a teacher and started working with kids, I realized how much I enjoyed watching them succeed at things, teaching them new things, watching them find things that click for them, and just watching their growth.” Marquis was a substitute teacher for one and a half years before becoming a full-time teacher at North Union Elementary School located in Richwood, Ohio. As an alumna of North Union herself, Marquis knew it was a good school that offered a solid education and a healthy environment. She wanted to be able to give back to the community that she was raised in. Marquis had student-taught at a private school, but decided that her heart was with the kids in the public school. “I just felt like I could give more and that they needed more than the kids in the private school setting. My heart really is for that low group of kids when I teach in the classroom. If we had to decide who got IEP kids or who took the gifted group, I always chose the former. My heart was in working with those kids who are very needy or those kids who just need something extra and somebody extra to love on them.”

As a Christian, Marquis is aware of the setbacks a Christian teacher can often come across in a public school. Marquis said she never really thought about her faith getting in the way of her teaching. “I’m just a Christian – that’s who I am so that’s going to be with me in my job or what I’m doing in life and I’m going to do it from that point of view.” Marquis mentioned that faith in schools, especially rural schools, has changed since she first started teaching in ‘98. She has had to be more careful about what she says and how she says it. If a student were to ask a question, Marquis would answer from a Christian perspective and maybe mention God, just as long as she did not initiate it. “My whole thing was just showing kindness and love and really giving the help that I could to those kids who needed it. I mean just that right there is showing a Christian testimony.” Fortunately for Marquis, she has never experienced any faith-based discrimination or teaching setbacks in her field. “I can see as a science or history teacher it would definitely have brought on some other discussions, especially science. If I had to teach evolution or lessons like that I think that there could have been a greater conflict.”

After 18 years, Marquis decided to leave her teaching job at the public school. “It really was just a matter of the direction the public education was taking at a national and state level as well as the stress and pressures it was putting on teachers. We also had some administration come in that was enforcing some of this in ways that weren’t healthy education and so it just became a real hard thing for me to be able to continue under the regulations and such.” Marquis had been praying about her decision for a while, and near the end of her last year at North Union, Delaware Christian, a nearby private school, offered her a teaching position. “It was like one of those things where it was very obvious that God opened this door as an answer to prayer.” 

“I am not a teacher but an awakener.”

-Robert Frost

Marquis said there is a huge difference between the private school and the public. “The kids that come to the private school tend to have a respect for education where for my kids at public school it was just about survival skills. Some of those kids didn’t even necessarily know if they’re gonna have a meal besides their school lunch, if there was even going to be anybody at home, or if they had to take care of their younger siblings. So how are they going to do homework when they’re taking care of them all night? This is really two different ends of the spectrum as far as family dynamics.” 

Marquis is grateful that at the private school, she has more freedom with her faith and is able to teach and help kids from a Christian worldview. However, she does miss being able to help and love kids who maybe did not have anyone else in their lives to do that for them. Marquis is very happy with her position now, but she still has an immense heart for the underdogs and her kids she left behind. Although she is in a different place, she will continue to show the love of Christ through her teaching.

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