Hör uff, Man! How a Student Teacher Turned Bullies into Graduates

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BJU student Rahel Villiger set her books down on her desk and surveyed the 20 students seated in front of her. One was chewing gum, another stared vacantly out the window, and the third began taunting her in Swiss German. She calmly brushed her hair out of her face and breathed. She knew she had her work cut out for her.

The Problem Class

When these 20 senior high school students bullied the previous teacher out of the classroom, Rahel, a junior early childhood education major at Bob Jones University, stepped in to teach them for the remainder of the semester. Though she was only 19, she taught the group of 15- to 17-year-olds classes in English, French, German, math, music, history, geography and art. (Incidentally, her students didn’t know her real age until the semester ended; they imagined she was 26!)

Freedom to Improvise

Teaching any class presents its own challenges, but pulling a rowdy class of dysfunctional students through their last two months of school required a special kind of grace—and freedom.

Switzerland has fewer restrictions on what the teacher can and can’t do within the classroom. And Rahel was given even greater freedom since she had the most difficult students. She changed the students’ order of classes from day to day depending on what subjects were holding their attention best. For instance, if her students weren’t focusing on English one morning, she would stop and teach math instead or even give them a soccer break.

In the end, one student eventually had to be expelled by the principal, but even he got to come back and take his final. And all of Rahel’s students passed without a problem. Now the principal wants her to teach again.

Ties to BJU

Rahel has family ties to BJU. Two siblings were already studying at the University before she started as a freshman, and one more has come since. So her choice was simple.

But there was another aspect in her family’s choice, a religious one. The Villigers were looking to enroll in a Christian university. And while Swiss academics are generally better than U.S. academics, there are no Christian universities in Switzerland. So Rahel’s family looked to BJU.

Also, because Rahel is an education major, she needs teacher certification. It is faster and easier to get certified at BJU than in Switzerland. And Switzerland surprisingly accepts U.S. teacher certification.

This semester, Rahel is teaching elementary school students for her practicum. She hopes eventually to be able to return to Switzerland and teach, but younger students next time. She hopes to observe a Swiss kindergarten to learn the differences in teaching methods. With all the experience she’s gaining in the United States and abroad, she’ll be able to combine the best of both worlds in her own classroom wherever she goes.

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Lauren Heilman is a content marketing intern for BJU’s Marketing Communications.