Things I've Learned

by Sue Ney, associate professor of art

Originally adapted from a speech given Sunday, February 10, 2002.

There are five minutes each morning when the sun is at precisely the right place in the sky so that the lake and trees reach their peak of clarity and intense color. To capture this in a photo I must be prepared. At this time of the year that means down vest, fur lined boots, and camera in hand so I can venture out on my icy dock to snap the picture. As the season changes so does this slot of opportunity to capture the picture of utmost beauty.

The last few weeks, in addition to a perfect reflection of the trees, I’ve had patches of floating ice along with the ever-present flock of noisy mallards to include in the photos. The last snowstorm convinced the Coots to fly south. The flock of Ruddy Ducks remains, evidentially for the entire winter. But, long gone are the fall visitors of Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Common Mergansers, Canvas Backs, Hooded Mergansers, Killdeers, Gulls, Willets, and Sandpipers. They have moved down to warmer climes, as did my colleagues Diana Glyer and Chris Flannery.

I’m beginning my 6th month of living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each morning I look out the window of my lake front cottage at Bass Lake and thank God for the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place. Bass Lake is about a half hour drive from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. I am privileged to teach in APU’s newest program, The Great Works Program, which is offered at Emerald Cove Camp at Bass Lake.

The Great Works Program, as we have worked out the details, entails team teaching three plenaries each week followed by small group seminars in various specific content areas. We do the content integration for the students in the one-and-a-half plenaries. Each student attends these sessions so the entire group has that underlying common core of learning to share. Because the faculty live in the area we eat meals with the students, we attend chapel, we go to church, we lead worship each of the class days, we also play with the students; hiking, water skiing, snow skiing, whatever we enjoy doing. This semester the girls and I are making a quilt for the prayer chapel. The girls especially enjoy it when I just have to go to the mall in the city (Fresno), and need some company. They do not have cars, nor do they hold jobs off campus, nor do they have cell phone reception or TV.

The result of all these circumstances is that we quickly build a strong sense of community. Our family style dinners encourage conversation, which often is on the subject of that day’s lecture. We are building a community of learners. In one short semester we see students grow into life-long learners and also firm up their spiritual lives. We faculty also need to grow strong so we can be Christian role models. We can hide nothing when we live so close with the students. We know them, but they also know us well. Luke 6:40 says, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” I ask myself if I am modeling Christ closely enough for my students to model themselves after me?

So in what ways has my 6 months in the mountains changed me?