Senior Spotlight: Touching Lives Through Education

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Second in a weekly series of BJU senior profiles. Students were recommended by academic deans or department chairs.

Ever since Kristiann Knudsen was 5 years old, she knew she wanted to be a teacher. That desire remained strong throughout school. “I had many teachers who impacted me positively as I went through my elementary and high school years, (and that) only continued to reaffirm my desire to teach,” she said.

When she began considering a college major, she debated between music education and elementary education. Knudsen explained, “Both were passions of mine, both had equal pros and cons for me, both were exciting, and I could see myself in either major.” After much prayer, she knew God wanted her to pursue elementary education.

Pursuing a Passion

Because Knudsen has always loved children, elementary education is more than a career choice. It’s a passion. “They’re just so much fun. They think things that no one else would think and are so creative! (And) you end up learning more about yourself through the eyes of a child,” she said.

She particularly enjoys second and third graders because they are old enough to work independently but young enough to still love school and their teacher. “They are the perfect-aged children, in my opinion,” she said.

Knudsen fully realized her passion once she began the field experience. “When you are actually in a classroom with ‘real students,’ all of your classroom learning starts to combine into one enormous puzzle. Pieces start fitting together, and you are able to reap the benefits of all those hours of studying and observations,” she said.

One of the greatest benefits was seeing the “light bulb moments” which her BJU instructors often referred to. “I remember longing to see that moment,” Knudsen said. “When I did, wow, it changed everything. That is the moment where all your hard work, time and effort becomes infinitely worth it.”

Not only does Knudsen find enjoyment in teaching, but she also sees it as a ministry. “What I love about education is the fact that I get an opportunity each day to touch a heart and mind,” she said.

The biggest obstacle of her degree came when her student teaching was affected by the coronavirus. “I know this is not what any student-teacher wanted,” she said. But she knows God is still sovereign and is thankful for His continued blessings. Said Knudsen: “I am blessed to have a mentor teacher who keeps me posted and involved as much as possible. I am blessed to have a university that cares for its students and wants to see their success, even if it means doing all the things online. And I am especially blessed to have a loving Father who comforts us even in the deepest trials.”

Thriving Musically at BJU

Not only was Knudsen often in the Alumni Building for her education classes, but she also frequented the Gustafson Fine Arts Building.

Knudsen’s love for music began at an early age. “As the story was told to me,” she said, “I sat down at our piano when I was three and plunked out the melody to “Joy to the World.” I immediately looked at my mom and said, ‘Mommy! Joy to the World!’” She began lessons when she was four and has not stopped playing since. “It is my greatest earthly gift and one I love to use to worship and praise the One who blessed me,” she said. And it is a gift she has used constantly at BJU.

She minored in music, taking lessons her first two years. But she was involved in music beyond her minor’s requirement. She accompanied Lyric Choir, the Christmas Lighting Ceremony’s Dickens Carolers and many student lessons. She also was a member of USingers, Collegiate Choir, Chorale and Chamber Singers and even had the lead role in the student body play “Love is an Open Sore.” She shared music off campus as well, traveling on the Presidential Travel Team for three years. And she participated in many masterclasses where she met musicians from around the world.

The Impact of BJU’s Music Program

Having taken advantage of so many opportunities, the music program at BJU has greatly impacted her. Said Knudsen: “The level and quality of music at BJU is unparalleled among all other Christian universities. BJU was my top college choice because of this. Though I knew I would not be a music major, I knew that I wanted an atmosphere that would challenge me to grow and become better in my art.”

Accompanying lessons especially helped her grow. “My artistry was stretched, my mind was sharpened, and my skills were developed simply by being a ‘behind-the-scenes’ participant,” she said.

But music also impacted her relationships. She considers most of the faculty her friends, and she has made many life-long friends through accompanying students. Music even impacted her spiritually. “Having had those opportunities (like playing in chapel and other services) truly blows my mind,” she said. “God is so good to give undeserving servants opportunities to glorify Him.”

Taking Advantage of Other Extracurriculars

Further involvement at BJU also helped Knudsen grow and build relationships.

Last semester, Knudsen chose to take Women in the Bible, which would have been her last Bible elective before degree requirements changed. “I didn’t realize how much I needed that class,” she said. “(It) changed how I read my Bible now! There are so many things I learned that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

She also took Coaching Volleyball. “What a party of a class,” she said. “I played volleyball all throughout junior high and high school, and I had dreams of maybe coaching one day. This class put that dream one step closer to reality.”

Knudsen was involved in society as well, both as a pianist and as a life group leader. Those positions helped her build friendships and be a blessing to others.

Being a member of the University Educators Association also helped her grow. “Each (event) was designed to encourage us in our professional growth and development and gave us new information that we could use in our own classrooms one day,” she said.

Reflecting on Her Time at BJU

“I don’t know how you could go through BJU and not change,” Knudsen said. She saw herself grow academically, experiencing new ways to learn and study. “Without hard work, determination and effort, I would not see the grades I wanted,” she explained.

Having made friendships in so many places, she also grew personally. She learned how to maintain those friends despite being a town student and having a busy schedule. “Yes, grades matter in school,” she said, “but in the light of eternity, souls last.”

Her years at BJU impacted her spiritually, especially through services during chapel, welcome week and Bible Conference. Knudsen said, “God gripped my heart in so many ways and tore down so many of my idols, some that I did not even realize I had.”

She also learned the importance of scheduling Bible reading and prayer and growing alongside other believers. Said Knudsen: “I desperately needed prayer each day, … (and) without community, you truly are an island to yourself and that’s not how God designed us! (Ultimately), I can truly say that I am leaving BJU as a stronger believer who has gotten to know her God infinitely better.”