The Inter-American Division hosted an Education Virtual Council where more than 120 teachers, principles and educators gathered to the historic online event on November 16, 2013, in Miami, Florida. The five-hour online event drew thousands of viewers from across primary and secondary school sites as well as auditoriums and conference rooms throughout the IAD territory. Images by Libna Stevens/IAD

November 19, 2013 – Miami, Florida, United States…Libna Stevens/IAD

The Seventh-day Adventist leadership in Inter-America connected with thousands of teachers, principals and educators to reaffirm an on-going commitment to Adventist education during a virtual council held on Nov. 16, 2013, at the Inter-American Division (IAD) headquarters in Miami, Florida.

The five-hour live program brought more than 120 educators from Adventist schools throughout the 22 church regions in the territory. Thousands more watched the online event from dozens of primary and secondary school sites as well as auditoriums and conference rooms throughout the IAD.

IAD Education Director Dr. Gamaliel Florez (left) and associate director Faye Patterson welcome educators across the 22 church regions in Inter-America during the online council. Dr. Florez said the event was meant to strengthen commitment to God, to the church and to leading children and young people to the feet of Jesus. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“Today we want to acknowledge and strengthen our commitment to God, our commitment to the church and our commitment to leading children and young people to the feet of Jesus and prepare them for the Kingdom,” said Dr. Gamaliel Florez, education director for the church in Inter-America as the online program began.

Teachers were encouraged to continue seeking God’s wisdom and commit to elevated responsibility and accountability as they continue to grow, develop, and expand Adventist education and impact the lives of thousands of students.

“The IAD has dedicated this quinquennium from 2010-2015 toward improving education and working to give every Adventist child and young person the opportunity to receive an Adventist education,” said Florez, as he thanked IAD administrators. Florez recognized administrators for their committed efforts to strengthening education by improving school campuses, strengthening the quality of education, training teachers, offering new Bible school books, and more.

Dr. Lisa Beardsley, education director for the Adventist world church, congratulated church leaders and educators for the strides made in improving education across the Inter-American Division and spoke on the core principles of Adventist education.

Dr. Lisa Beardsley, education director for the Adventist world church, challenged church leaders and teachers to continue fostering education programs focused on the mission of the Adventist Church. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“Adventist education imparts more than academic knowledge, it transforms, it fosters a balanced development of the whole person, spiritually, intellectually, physically and socially,” said Dr. Beardsley.

Dr. Beardsley challenged church leaders and educators to continue fostering education programs focused on the mission of the Adventist Church, maintaining meaningful connection with Adventist students who are not attending Adventist institutions, fostering the development of a training pipeline to prepare future educational leaders to serve within the Adventist system, employing more Adventist teachers and ensuring children and youth are trained to fulfill the mission of the church in carrying the gospel to all the world.

IAD President Pastor Israel Leito reminded teachers of their role as key partners with parents in building the character of students in a challenging world.

“Parents entrust their children into your care every day, they are trusting the church and the organization in this partnership of the home and school,” said Pastor Leito. “Your church recognizes your value, and knows that without your influence this generation would be difficult to save.”

IAD President Pastor Israel Leito encouraged teachers to continue their work to make sure “children who come into your hands leave trusting in God.” Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“Continue with the good work you are doing, trust in the Lord and make sure the children who come into your hands leave trusting in God,” he added.

Ensuring a strong Adventist education is what prompted top church administrators to tackle challenges and pour millions of dollars into supporting educational institutions throughout the IAD territory.

Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer for the church in Inter-America, presented the growth of Adventist education throughout the IAD since 1920s and the challenges facing the educational system. Verduzco also highlighted the commitment of church administrators to confronting those challenges.

Among the 30 commitments made to improve Adventist education were: Increase student enrollment, study membership growth patterns, prepare students to learn the mission concept, increase the number of Adventist teachers with Adventist preparation, improve school campuses, offer leadership training for teachers, incorporate more community outreach projects into the curriculum, promote professional development, improve integration between faith and learning, market schools better and make them more affordable, and make every school a center of influence in the community.

“We are committed to preparing students so they can be of service [for the church] and have a wider service in the world and the one to come,” said Verduzco.

Dr. Gamaliel Florez (right) awards a plaque to Pastor Cesario Acevedo, president of the church in the Dominican Republic for his leadership to implement revolutionary strategies to improving education on the island. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

That mission is what has driven the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic to improve their schools and school administrations, said Pastor Cesario Acevedo, president of the church in the Dominican Republic.

Hundreds of teachers have left the Adventist school system in the Dominican Republic for higher paying public school jobs. This has led to the restructuring of the church’s school system on the island, said Pastor Acevedo.

“Our objectives were to improve our schools academically, provide better salaries for the teachers and protect the philosophy of Adventist education all managed under an administrative body of educators,” said Acevedo. According to Acevedo, all of the 90 primary and secondary schools will be managed by a national office of education responsible for overseeing regional offices – much like a government would run its ministry of education. The national office would unify funds and ensure payment to its 1,000 teachers consistently and allow for more direct professional development and incentives, he explained.

Adolfo Rolando Salazar of El Progreso Adventist School in Guatemla City, Guatemala, proudly holds his certificate and awards for being the top winner of the church’s math challenge. Salazar competed against dozens of students from 24 secondary schools in Guatemala during this year’s competition. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“We believe that this would be a better structure where educators oversee it and pastors can dedicate more of their time to evangelizing,” added Acevedo.

It was for the revolutionary strategies to improving education in the Dominican Republic that led top leaders to award the church leadership on the island with a special plaque of recognition.

The North Mexican Union leadership was the second recipient of a special plaque for investing large funds in education, for establishing a new educational model, standardizing salaries for teachers through the overseeing local fields and for taking a serious commitment to improving education a priority.

Questions ranging from how to make Adventist education more affordable to how to increase enrollment were brought up to top church leaders and educators during a special forum segment.

The online event also saw finalists of a math challenge competition which took place throughout Adventist high schools in 12 unions in Inter-America earlier this year.

More than 300 students participated in the competition, said Faye Patterson, associate education director for the church in Inter-America, and organizer of the challenge.

“We wanted to motivate students to look at math differently, challenge them to advance in math and improve their test scores,” said Patterson. Patterson said the math challenge was embraced well throughout schools and shed light on the good image of the schools.

Winners received a trophy award, a full scholarship to the nearest Adventist University in their country or region, a tablet computer, and an all expenses paid trip to the virtual event.

As a sign of dedication to improving Adventist education, teachers from primary and secondary level read and signed a commitment on behalf of thousands of teachers in the Spanish, English and French territory.

Dozens of teachers gather at Ignacio Zaragoza Adventist School in Veracruz, Mexico to watch the virtual council on Nov. 16, 2013. Image courtesy of Colegio Ignacio Zaragoza/IAD.

For more than 35 years, Rachelle Romain has been a teacher in the Adventist system in the French Antilles territory. She traveled from College Lycee La Perseverance junior high school in Guadeloupe, and is glad to hear that church leaders are serious about hiring more Adventist teachers in church schools.

“Our mission has never been clearer as teachers,” said Romain. “Our passion continues to be about touching the lives of our students with God’s love.”

Iraida Lopez of Andrews Bello Adventist School in Bolivar, Venezuela, was excited to travel to Miami for the event. For 21 years she has been teaching in the Adventist system and is convinced that the love of Jesus she portrays can make the difference in a student’s life. As a first grade teacher, Lopez has seen students become doctors and seen their children of students come through her classroom.

“I praise God for giving me the opportunity to mold children for the eternal kingdom,” said Lopez.

Thirty-four teachers gather to view the live program at the East Salvador Conference office in El Salvador. Image by Adam Herrera/IAD

Anique Adams of Adventist Secondary School in Antigua is convinced that teaching is her calling. A former bank manager, Adams took up teaching four years ago understands the life she must lead in order to be effective as a Christian teacher. This was a key message she took from the live event.

“I must model Christ every day of my life, the way I interact with students, with colleagues, depending on the Holy Spirit everyday,” said Adams. Adams believes that modeling the Christian life will propel teachers to share with parents and church members the importance of Adventist education for their children.

That is exactly what teaching is, said Dr. Florez. “It’s about planting seeds and developing characters to make persons who they are and will be.”

Group photo of Adventist educators and leaders at Inter-America’s Education Virtual Council, held at the Inter-American Division Headquarters in Miami, Florida, on November 16, 2013. Image by Libna Stevens/IAD

“God has made us teachers so that we can work together to build the church, to aim for the commitment of the mission of the church in sharing the gospel,” Florez challenged .

Brief reports came in from dozens of sites viewing the live program. More than 400 teachers gathered in several regional sites throughout Guatemala, some 420 teachers gathered throughout Chiapas, in Mexico, over 39 schools were connected across the Inter-Oceanic region in Mexico, hundreds connected in Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, the Caribbean, the French Antilles, and more.

Leaders are happy that more than 400 unique connections were identified during the online event from 37 countries, 32 of which were from across Inter-America, 5 others from around the world connected to view the program on Saturday.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America operates nearly 1,000 primary, secondary and tertiary schools, oversees nearly 10,000 teachers and more than 153,000 students.

To view a photo gallery of the event, Click HERE

Inter-America’s Education Virtual Council will be available to view online at vimeo.com/interamerica

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