Dana King honored

In this 2017 file photo, Shorter University President Don Dowless (right) presents the Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award to Dana King.

A veteran teacher turned college professor is being credited with leading the Shorter University School of Education into the upper echelon of Georgia’s teacher prep programs.

In her fourth year as dean, Dana King has put her mark on the Shorter School of Education that’s now ranked one of Georgia’s best based on professional teacher exams, employer reviews, first-year teacher surveys and classroom observations.

King said in an interview with The Christian Index that basic biblical principles are at the root of the teach prep program’s success.

“Teaching is a very important calling – one not to be entered into lightly,” she said. “We should mirror Christ in everything we do, in our dispositions especially, because in the public-school setting we don’t have the luxury to evangelize. But we don’t have to openly evangelize when people see the way we conduct ourselves and how we interact. Our dispositions speak volumes.”

King said the best teachers are the ones who never forget what it’s like to be students. That’s a tenet she works to instill in all of her future teachers because she knows there will be frustrating days when they will want to give up and walk away, and that they just might quit unless they remember how turbulent and confusing those growing-up years can be for their students.

“It’s important that we remember that, because teaching isn’t easy,” she said. “It’s hard. But it’s worth it because the time we spend in the classroom has an eternal impact on the lives of our students.”

Shorter University President Donald Dowless credits King’s attention to detail for the teacher preparation program’s rise in the rankings. In a presentation to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Administration Committee earlier this month, Dowless said King has touched every part of the education program, right down to the landscaping outside the building.

The landscaping came during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when King was making and selling tie-dyed masks, the proceeds from which she used to purchase Cyprus mulch and crepe myrtle trees to beautiful the campus around Shorter’s School of Education.

“I just think that, as Christians, we’re called to give our best,” said King, a Shorter graduate who went on to earn a master’s degree from Kennesaw State University, a certificate in educational leadership and administration from Jacksonville State University and a doctorate from Liberty University. “Our graduates are sought after by employers,” she said. “Typically, we receive multiple phone calls during the school year from principals who have vacancies. We’ve established those relationships where we’re one of the first places they call to help meet their hiring needs. I’d like to think we have a brand of education that is unique and graduates who, during their time here, learn Christian principles that set them apart in the classroom.”

Madison Wilfong, a sixth-grade teacher at West Central Elementary School in Rome and 2019 graduate of Shorter, said King and the education faculty had a great impact on her career.

“I am thankful for my years in the program at Shorter, and I feel the professors there instilled the motto of ‘learners first’ within my personal philosophy of education,” Wilfong said. “I am also grateful for the professionalism modeled and cultivated within the program.”

King, a teacher and assistant principal in private and public schools for some 21 years, said she’s especially pleased with the near 100 percent job placement rate from the Shorter School of Education.

“We’re in a teacher shortage right now, so placing students in jobs is not an issue,” she said.

King began her career at Excel Christian Academy in Cartersville, teaching there for six years before moving to Adairsville Middle School in Adairsville to begin her 15-year career as public school teacher and assistant principal.

“I recognized that God did not call me to be the keeper of the aquarium, but a fisher of men,” she said. “So, I took the public-school plunge.”

King, who has received a string of Teacher of the Year awards during her career, enjoys passing along to budding educators the lessons she has learned over the years.

“Never underestimate the power of relationships, whether you’re serving in private Christian schools or in the public school setting,” she said. Building and maintaining strong relationships is crucial with all stakeholders – students, parents, colleagues – as is being approachable and authentic. And never forget why you became a teacher to begin with. Reflect on that and hold that close. And remember anything worth doing is hard.”

Wilfong said discipline and rigor are cornerstones of the Shorter School of Education. She said the school instilled in her the resolve to work hard every day and to display Christian service and kindness.

“Shorter’s professors uphold those tenets among faculty and students alike,” she said.

King said she wants her graduates to see the value in every student and to understand that they have an opportunity to shape the lives of every student.

“Teachers have the opportunity to have a lasting impact on students,” she said. “That’s an incredible responsibility. It’s also a great privilege.”

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