Haley Briggs: Changing the world by positively influencing youth

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Haley Briggs teaches fourth grade reading, writing and social studies at Oak Woods School in Granbury. She is one of nine public school educators who received the 2020 BEST—Baptist Educators Serving Texans—award. Briggs is a member of Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury. From deep in the heart of one Texan, she shares her background and thoughts on being a Christian in public education.

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Background

How long have you taught for Granbury Independent School District?

I am starting my third year of teaching in Granbury ISD, and I absolutely love my school district.



Where else have you served, and what were your positions there?

While completing my undergraduate degree at Dallas Baptist University, I served as the student coordinator of the University Writing Center. After graduating, I was hired as a fourth grade math teacher in Red Oak.

Where did you grow up?

Godley.

How did you come to faith in Christ?

I accepted Christ as my Savior at age 7 while attending a Vacation Bible School at Acton Baptist Church.



Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?

I received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Dallas Baptist University in 2017. I currently am working on obtaining a msaster’s degree in curriculum and instruction from DBU, as well.

About education

Why do you feel called into education?

When I was a freshman at DBU, I was a nursing major aspiring to obtain a career in pediatric nursing. I always had dreamed of working with children, and I longed to serve in the medical mission field. I quickly learned, however, nursing was not the profession the Lord had planned for me.

During college, I went on a mission trip to Corro, Venezuela, where I led a Bible study within a youth camp. I remember having the freedom to think creatively and design engaging lessons that would make the material interesting to the students at the camp, all while building close-knit relationships—which still are prospering to this day thanks to Facebook.


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After that trip, it was clear to me that working with children was what the Lord had in store for me all along. I immediately changed my career path and was excited to become a teacher. My desire to change the world around me by positively influencing our youth remains strong to this day.

How does being a Christian influence your work in education?

As a Christian, I view my classroom as a mission field. While it obviously is my responsibility to teach and deliver course content, God has blessed me with an opportunity to influence young lives in a greater way by demonstrating his love through my words and actions as a teacher.

While I cannot share the gospel message with students openly, I can plant seeds by demonstrating Christlike character throughout everyday activities. My faith in Christ directly impacts the way I treat my students and their families, and it is my prayer God will use these positive relationships for his glory.



What is your favorite aspect of education? Why?

Working with children truly is my favorite aspect of education. I really do think children are a gift from the Lord, and I am honored he allows me to influence them in positive ways.

What one aspect of education gives you the greatest joy?

Building relationships with my students is the most enjoyable part of my job, since I know the way I treat my students will be the only thing they remember about me when they are grown.

Trying to teach a child without doing what it takes to build a relationship beforehand is a waste of time. I’d be lying if I said understanding the psyche of an elementary student was easy, but I honestly can’t imagine what kind of teacher I’d be without knowing what I know about each and every one of my students.



What interests them, what sets them off and what they experience at home all play enormous roles in what I do and say in my classroom, which is why I love seeing them outside of our typical educational setting—whether by eating lunch with them, having a class outing to the movie theater, or playing alongside them at recess.

Honestly, it is shocking to know how much I have in common with these kiddos. At the end of the day, no matter what it says on any report card or data sheet, my students know my classroom is a place where they are safe, loved and appreciated, and I find joy in that.

What is your favorite class to teach? Why?

Language arts is my favorite subject to teach. I love helping students find their voice through writing.

What one aspect of education would you like to change?

If I could change anything about the field of education, it would be our state standardized testing. I don’t believe one test fits all students, and I wish we could allow students to demonstrate their growth in alternate ways.

How has your place in education or your perspective on education changed?

Although I have been a classroom teacher for just three short years, I am very passionate and interested in curriculum and instruction, which is why I currently am working on a master’s degree at DBU.

My family always has been involved in missions, and now that I am an adult, I feel God is calling me to take my experience in the field of education to other parts of the world as a missionary. It is my dream to serve in schools internationally, training teachers on best practices in education while leading others to Christ.

About Haley

Why are you Baptist?

I was born and raised in the Baptist church, and honestly, it is all I have ever known. I believe in the symbolism of baptism and the act of publicly professing your faith in Christ. I also believe my relationship with the Lord should be biblically based, and I like the emphasis the Baptist church places on spiritual growth and discipleship.

Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?

My parents, Mike and Amy Briggs, are my biggest role models and mentors. From a very young age, I have watched them both model what it looks like to use their jobs as ministries to others. They have taught me what hard work and determination look like, and they have instilled in me a heart of service and a love for missions. I thank God for my parents every day.

My grandfather, Ronald Blackett, was my best friend and confidant until his passing in 2019. A military man, he was hardworking, dedicated and a model citizen. He lived a life of passion and taught me always to see the best in others.

Ka Riley, director of DBU’s University Writing Center, gave me the opportunity to hone my written language skills by becoming a writing consultant. She also taught me how to lead, and she did this mostly by being a great leader herself. She demonstrates such grace in her position as director, and she truly cares for her staff members as if they are her own. I know she always will be there for me in times of need.

Martha Oldenburg, assistant dean of the College of Education, and Judy Abercrombie, professor in the College of Education, have mentored me in more ways than I thought possible. Teaching is not an easy profession, and I often reach out to these women for counsel and advice. Not only do they model best practices while teaching future educators at DBU, they demonstrate the love of Christ through all they do. I truly am grateful for their friendship and constant influence in my life.

Other than the Bible, name some of your favorite books or authors, and explain why.

One of my favorite books is Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis Majors. In this book, Katie tells her story of how she skipped out on college to pursue her dream of becoming a missionary in Uganda. I love and admire her passion for missions.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

I love Ephesians 2:10, which states, “… for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Isn’t it comforting to know we were created on purpose by God? This verse reminds me he made us all differently, equipping us with our own set of unique skills that can be used to lead others to Christ. It encourages me to trust the skills he has given me and to be bold in my faith.

Who is your favorite person in the Bible, other than Jesus? Why?

My favorite person in the Bible is the Apostle Paul, because he serves as a constant example that God can use anyone for his glory. I love how passionate Paul was about sharing the good news after becoming a Christian. I believe all Christians should share the gospel with the same sense of urgency as Paul.


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