By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Lisa Bernier wears glasses. Not just any glasses — "God glasses." Literally.
That’s her motto.
Bernier is an open-hearted woman with a cheerful smile and a great spirit she uses to teach her College of Education students at Grand Canyon University.
“That’s just who she is,” student Shauna Becker said. “She loves God so much it overflows through her.”
For instance, before arriving at GCU, Bernier came across a student who had been placed in her special education class because of his troubling behavior. But then, as Bernier began to learn more about the student, she quickly realized that what the student needed was beyond the classroom. The teen had been carrying his troubling home life to school with him.
“School is already hard enough,” Bernier said. “He was 17 years old, he had no parents and I could tell he was desperate to build his life around the Lord.”
Bernier developed a remarkable relationship with the teen — attending parent-teacher conferences and answering questions about school, dating and life in general, all while encouraging God’s word. Three years later, he still calls her "Mom" and is pursuing a degree in Biblical studies.
“Being a Christian educator means pouring more than knowledge over the head,” Bernier said. “Everything I do, I do with God glasses — that means doing life with my students and showing them how to stand without watering down one inch of the curriculum. The world doesn’t want us to see each other beyond our doubts, but we are all the family of God and we need to think about everyone needing Jesus Christ.”
Every day at GCU, Bernier leads her classroom with devotions, prayer and spiritual reflection and wraps it around classroom instruction.
“Students get to share five minutes about what the Lord has been teaching them through the Scripture and how it applies to them as developing teachers,” Bernier said. “I do this so that my students can start applying God’s word into their lives because it’s God’s word that transforms us.”
Brian Long is a junior studying elementary and special education. He believes what he learns in Bernier’s classroom will help him in the future.
“When Lisa talks about putting on our God glasses, it gives me a different way of looking at the kids,” Long said. “I’ve learned that I have been put on this path to be a minister to them and show them that they are more than labels.”
As a member of Indopartners Agency, Bernier also connects with her students by reaching into her desk for a pair of printable goggles — God glasses — and helping students discover teaching opportunities overseas.
“I never thought that I would be going on a trip to teach English in another country and show God’s love through it also,” Long said. “Lisa has opened my eyes to teaching beyond the front of the classroom.”
In April, Bernier is taking a group of 10 Education majors to work in outreach to the region of Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
During the trip GCU students will perform English instruction using Indonesian curriculum and Western teaching methods to Indonesian students between seventh and 12th grade. They also will spend time serving a special needs school, an orphanage and a local church. On the final three days of the trip, the group will fly to Bali, Indonesia, for a team retreat to discuss their unique encounters and experiences.
Becker was among a group of eight girls who took part in the trip to Indonesia last spring, and she will be participating again this year.
“There are no words for what this trip means to me,” Becker said. “I have people who tell me they would be surprised if I come back, but that’s where my heart is and I’m OK with God’s plan for me.
“I think that those of us who went grew a lot in maturity, faith and in our teaching abilities because before this trip some of us had never stepped inside of a classroom. I had a classroom of 56 eighth graders who couldn’t speak any English, and yet I could hold their attention.”
The group also spread their faith and helped whenever and wherever they could.
“After visiting the orphanage, we sat around at dinner and nobody wanted to eat,” Bernier remembers. “They said they didn’t have to eat and that they would much rather take food to the kids at the orphanage, and so we did.
“At the end of the day, my ultimate goal as a teacher is to stand back and trust that they will be OK if I walk away – I’ve watched my students go from young boys to men and I have watched my girls grow into women.”
Becker agrees wholeheartedly.
“So often we are taught to teach with technology and follow a set of standards, but when you are teaching in a foreign country, you see that the students are just happy to have you there,” she said. “Every day one of my little girls would bring me a bucket of water to wash my hands in after writing on the chalkboard — their appreciation was out of this world.”
Becker and her group had countless moments of laughter, love and tears, but she said she believes her biggest opportunity was at the orphanage.
“Growing up with alcoholic parents, (I found that) that moment touched home in a lot of ways,” Becker said. “I got to love on a lot of kids, and that was definitely life-changing.”
And there is a young boy, Orpha, she can’t wait to hold again.
“I think some day I would like to adopt him and make him my own,” she said.
Although Bernier is enlightening in the classroom, she said there will always be more to be done and experienced outside of it.
“I can’t tell them everything. Telling isn’t teaching. If you’re just going to tell them something, let them read it in a book,” she said.
But it doesn't hurt to hand them a pair of God glasses, too.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]