Why I Teach? - An Interview with Prof. Dr. Joel Aguilar

Interviewer: What is your academic background?

Joel: I have a bachelor’s in theology from the Central American Theological Seminary. Then, I started a master’s in theology at the same institution, which I did not finish. I felt that I needed something a bit more concrete and relevant to everyday life. It was in 2009, when I had the opportunity to study at BGU, and I graduated from the master’s in global urban leadership. In 2020, I graduated from a PhD in Practical Theology through the University of Pretoria, in South Africa. Even though my studies have been mostly in theology, I consider myself an educator and sociologist at heart. I try to keep an interdisciplinary approach to theology, teaching, and research.

Interviewer: What course do you teach?

I am a dean at CETI Continental (the Community for Interdisciplinary Theological Studies by its initials in Spanish). We have a partnership with BGU to provide the MATL in Spanish. Within the CETI-BGU partnership, I teach a couple of courses. I teach Transformational Leadership and Global Narrative Theology in their Spanish versions. Outside of BGU, I teach courses in theology, mission, and hermeneutics.

Interviewer: What is your teaching style?

Joel: My teaching style comes from the tradition of Misión Integral and liberation theologies. It is a dialogical and conversational style where the professor is a facilitator for the participants to create their own knowledge and ways of knowing. I try to ask questions and create the space for the students to be disoriented and reoriented in community. I also take a pastoral approach that allows us to create a learning community where all voices are heard and respected. I welcome disagreement and discussion, so we can all learn from one another.

Interviewer: What motivates you to teach?

Joel: My motivation to teach comes from the students themselves. I love to see and experience people discovering their vocation and challenging their theologies. I am motivated by community and how we call each other forth through communal teaching and learning.

Interviewer: What is unique in the way you teach?

Joel: I don’t think there is something unique to the way I teach. I come from a long line of Latin American educators and teachers. I have been shaped and formed by mentors, pastors, and communities who have formed my teaching style. I am not unique: I am the result of a community calling forth a desire to teach and encourage others to discover who they are in the eyes of Jesus.

Interviewer: What brings joy to your heart?

Joel: One thing that brings joy to my heart is the process of seeing a student finding a topic that he or she is passionate about. It is exhilarating to see when the Spirit calls forth love and desire for theology and God’s word. I am filled with joy when people find a way of seeing that calls them from scarcity to abundance, a way of doing that calls them from theory to practice, a way of being that calls them from rivalry to peacemaking, and when people are free to love their city and seek its peace while doing things they never thought possible.

Dr. Joel Aguilar is a professor of the MATL in Spanish program that is offered by BGU's partnership with CETI.