Why I Teach? - An Interview with Prof. Dr. Lisa Anderson-Umaña

What is your academic background?

Lisa: I sat in the locker room of a public school during my semester of practicum teaching High School students Health, Physical Education and Sports Medicine (my major at Penn State University). I asked myself: "Can I see myself doing this 5 years from now?" Startled by my own immediate response of “NO,” I then asked: "Well Lord, what do you want me to do?" That conversation led me a Mission Conference, “Urbana,” (1982) and one year later I was in Costa Rica learning Spanish in preparation to work at a Christian camp outside of Mexico City.

Fast forward several years, now working as the Director of Training for Christian Camping International, Latin America, I discovered that I did not know how people learned. I was writing curriculum, teaching training courses for camping leaders, but I had reached the level of “conscious incompetence.” Wheaton College Graduate School was just what I needed and God used the professors to shape my philosophy of education and forever change my approach to teaching. Years later, I realized that after 25 years on the mission field, I was “conscious of my competence” and that frightened me. I did not want to rest on my laurels or settle into a rut, so I started my eight-year journey of commuting from Honduras to Chicago (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) to get my Ph.D. in Educational Studies, with a focus on leadership and culture.

What course do you teach?

Lisa: At BGU, my first course will be leading, with Dr. Bryan McCabe, the 2023 Immersion to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where I live. We look forward to exposing the students to the Latin American culture, to innovative ways to minister both in and out of church settings, and to the unique role experiential learning can play through camping and contact with God’s creation.

What is your teaching style?

Lisa: I tend toward more of a discussion approach, asking questions, inviting the students to opine. My own recreational, adventure, camping background inclines me to bring novelty into the classroom and use experiential learning methodology. I believe solid content is essential to good discussions, leading to wondering out loud what difference the truths learned would make in one’s daily living. Ultimately, I believe the Holy Spirit is the Inner teacher, capable of transforming our hearts and minds for it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Phil. 2:13).

What motivates you to teach?

Lisa: I tend to be a person who loves to turn thoughts into actions. I am a relentless learner, collecting, arranging, giving ideas away. So, teaching is a natural space for me to give away ideas and help others turn their thoughts into actions.

What is unique in the way you teach?

Lisa: One of the strongest influences on how I teach is James 1:22-25 (NLT)

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

I teach with a strong bent towards the application and providing opportunities to practice of what is taught, lest I unintentionally become an accomplice to deceiving or fooling a student into thinking they “know” something only by listening.

What brings joy to your heart?

Lisa: I love developing leaders to work with children and young people in Christian camping, which involves writing and creating formative experiences. Since I am child of God, I find fulfillment in pleasing Him. God has given me a wonderful husband, with whom I love sharing the journey as my life partner. I found great joy in raising our two children, who are now young adults, for whom we developed strong roots in both Honduras, my husband’s home country, and Pittsburgh, the city where I was raised. I have found delight in building relationships, and I cherish reliable friends and treasure close co-workers. Lastly, the research I did for my Ph.D. dissertation, I now share in a book called, Latin American Voices on Leadership. And it makes me very happy to tell the stories of a group of Latin Americans and how they emerged and grew as leaders and how the culture both helped and hindered these processes.

Read Lisa's bio HERE.