The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The Christian Teacher’s Network gathers 400 people in the Czech Republic, the most secular country in Europe. They aim to share vision and resources with teachers in other countries.
Who would have guessed that in one of the most secular, non-religious countries in Europe, there is an active and growing network of Christians who teach in public and private elementary and secondary schools.
The Czech Republic is grappling with significant decisions regarding how to develop their education system, and Christians involved in education are able to make important contributions to this ongoing discussion.
An interview with Ladislav Hanuš, director of the Czech Christian Teacher's Network (Sít’ krest’anských ucitelu).
Question. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you become a teacher?
Answer. I am Ladislav Hanuš, from East Bohemia in the Czech Republic. I am a teacher, as well as the coordinator of the Christian Teacher's Network in the Czech Republic. I have been a High School teacher for over 12 years, and coordinator of this network for only 1 ½ years. I studied ecology, because I wanted to work in environmental protection.
But when I was 30, I decided to work more for people than for nature. I am a teacher of high school subjects focused on the environment – landscape ecology, forestry, waste management, land reclamation. But I place a higher value on my students than on my subjects. I am glad when I can help a student develop as a person, to become more capable for life. With my wife Marta we have 2 daughters, Elizabeth and Joan). I say that “Jesus is my teacher and I am his teacher,” meaning that as a teacher, I belong to Jesus.
Q. How did you come to faith in Christ? How does your Christian faith make a difference in how you approach your career in education?
A. I became a Christian because Jesus’ words took me from my old life to a new life - Jesus words from the Bible.
I grew up in a Roman Catholic family. I played organ in church when I was 10 years old, I was even a leader at summer programs for children. But, the first step with the Bible… I had a schoolmate, Radka, who believed in Jesus. This schoolmate was the first person I met who really believed. At school I didn’t know anyone before who really believed – only some others like me who were Catholics because of our families. Radka was going to grammar school with a Bible, read the Bible on the train and marked what she read using different colors. It was interesting for me. I wanted to discuss with her things about Roman Catholicism – about the calendar, the colors in church, many things like that, but she didn’t want to argue with me about Catholicism. She and her reading inspired me to start reading the Bible. I soon recognized that I didn’t really know Jesus.
I started reading the Bible daily, and Jesus by his words led me into the Kingdom of God. It was still a process. First, I believed in Jesus as a teacher, when I was about 20. After some more years I believed in Jesus as healer – Jesus healed me from allergies and from a back disease (bone marrow syndrome). In the end I believed in Jesus as the Savior. Before, I believed that God was good, but that it was not necessary for Jesus to die on the cross. In the end I believed that Jesus is the savior, that he is the only way, and that he did indeed die for our sins.
Q. How has your relationship with Jesus changed or affected how you teach?
A. My relationship with Jesus re-oriented my life toward God. He has helped me recognize that my purpose is to help and to serve people, to be God’s servant and God’s teacher – a teacher who belongs to God. I receive God’s love, Jesus gives me opportunities to see how God is true, and I can bring that to my students.
Q. What is the Czech Teacher's Network, and how did it get started?
A. Our Christian Teachers Network in the Czech Republic was founded in 2010. It was founded by the Czech Evangelical Alliance and Josiah Venture in the Czech Republic. I was not part of the founding network. In the beginning the founders thought it could be like other networks that exist here, for example the network for Christian lawyers and a network for health care workers. But the teacher’s network really grew – it is much larger than the other networks. Today it has 400 official members.
About two years ago, a brother of mine wrote to me about the position of the coordinator of the Christian Teachers Network. I had been praying for years, “Heavenly Father, please give me a place to work that can be somehow a combination of mission and teaching.” I was at the time both a teacher and a street preacher.
I thank God for answering my prayers. In this position I am able to serve Christian teachers who are working in public schools and those working in Christian schools.
Q. What are some of the challenges faced by Christians who are teachers in public education in the Czech Republic?
A. First, to teach about Jesus. And second, to demonstrate good life values – ethical, moral values, to have a good story, a good testimony.
It is still possible to tell, to teach about Jesus in the Czech Republic. I was surprised that each subject at school gives opportunities to mention or teach about Jesus. For example, in my subject, landscape ecology. Last year I was teaching landscape ecology for high school students, 17 year-olds. I was talking about government programs and payments for rural development, and about one subprogram that involved the Roma community. During my teaching I remembered my Christian brother who is a Gypsy. And the students, when I mentioned Gypsies... they had some comments. One girl mentioned she had been at a Gypsy wedding, and I thought I had an opportunity to tell them a little about Jesus. My friends Mattias had been in prison, had owned some night clubs, and met some Christians who came to his prison to talk about Jesus. Jesus changed his life, he is now a servant who goes to other prisons to help them. It was just a short moment. Students were surprised I spoke about Jesus, and I was as well. But the opportunities are there to make these kinds of connections.
Those who teach history and subjects in the humanities have many opportunities to speak about Jesus, it fits right into the program, into the curriculum.
Q. How does the Christian Teacher's Network help Christian teachers deal with these challenges?
A. We can ask other Christians for prayer. The challenge is not only to be a teacher at one school, like I was for 12 years, but to begin with new activities, to be a lecturer for other programs. I am a lecturer for a heritage program about Jan Hus, and I get to speak all across the Czech Republic.
Teachers need encouragement, affirmation, information, activities and materials for teaching. The encouragement and affirmation to be, in a good way, proud to be Christian. Encouragement to speak publicly at public school. Also in objective worldview, to realize they are not alone, there are many other believers. We can encourage them and we have some activities to do this. For example, we do a ‘Daniel Weekend’ for Christian teachers. Other teachers can nominate those who receive invitations, and we help them there to improve skills in areas like communication and relationships.
We send members an email newsletter, one per month, to let them know about upcoming events and what new materials are available.
We also hold conferences. We have a Spring Conference in Moravia, with about 160 participants, and an Autumn conference in Prague for about 60. Speakers are from Czech Republic and abroad. I am so happy the conference is organized in cooperation with two Christian schools, in Prague with the Christian International School of Prague and in Moravia with Beskydy Mountain Academy.
Q. I understand the Christian Teachers Network is more than just a support group. How is the network participating in the development of curriculum on a national level?
A. The Christian Teachers Network successfully applied at the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic for permission to teach Christian programs in the context of our national heritage. When we got permission we sent materials to teachers all over the Czech Republic. More than 10% of Czech schools used our program about Jan Hus, our famous reformer in the middle ages. The Christian Teachers Network cooperates with the network of Christian lawyers. They have a network of over 100 lawyers. And we are initiating a meeting with the network of Christian health care workers.
I am happy that we Czech Christian teachers can help in Slovakia as well. Slovak teachers asked us for lecturers for Christian programs. 10 or 20 of our members have been able to teach in Slovakia. And we have been able to serve Slovak teachers with our ‘Daniel Weekends’. For example, our last weekend, which was in Malenovice, near the Czech-Slovak border, was open for Slovaks as well.
Q. What other ways has the network found to serve local communities and churches?
A. The Christian Teachers Network builds bridges between local churches and local schools. We would like to see students in our communities communicating with both church and school. And we have a bridge built on the pillars of the work of Josiah Venture. The Christian Teachers Network is one pillar. The second pillar is ethics education, the third is a ‘lecturers academy’ which prepares teachers to lecture in schools on specific topics - crime prevention for example. And the fourth is materials – books, videos, comics and other kinds of materials for teachers to use with their students. We would like to see a movement, and our network is a movement.
We have a new event that we just started last year. Evenings for Christian teachers. It is a smaller meeting, for 10 to 20 teachers to spend about two hours sharing their situations, problems and struggles as well as examples of good practices. Then they pray and give thanks to God in prayer together. I am glad for our conferences, but am glad now for these local meetings. For example, in one town the meeting place is hosted by different churches each different month of the year.
Q. What words of encouragement can you offer to any Christians engaged in education?
A. I would like to say that 400 Christian teachers are praying for them and for their work. These teachers are willing to share testimonies and examples of good practices.
I want to encourage new teachers. And I want to encourage students studying to become teachers. I was so happy that one new member of our ‘Daniel Weekend’ is a student. She is in her third year at the faculty of pedagogy, and spent five years as an assistant in basic school. She will be with us, with teachers. So we can serve not only teachers, but students preparing to become teachers. We can encourage them to keep their dream alive. Many who graduate with a teaching degree leave teaching or go into a different career. We want to encourage aspiring teachers to go into this important mission field!
Q. How can someone who is interested find out more about the Christian Teachers Network in the Czech Republic?
A. Any teacher is welcome to join our conferences. We could meet at the conference in Prague that will be on 14 October, 2017. Some speakers will be English-speaking, most will be in Czech.
We have a website with an English version, www.situcitelu.cz. Perhaps someone wants to join us for a ‘Daniel Week’ on 13-19 August. Also, one could visit the Christian International School in Prague.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to add? Are there plans for the future?
A. We want to open the ‘Daniel Program’ for teachers from other European countries. It is now operating in cooperation with teachers from the Slovak Republic, but we have a dream to prepare a ‘Daniel Week’ or ‘Weekend’ during the summer especially for teachers from abroad. I think it will be a great opportunity to join together for such an activity.
It would be great to see the Christian Teachers Network from the Czech Republic leading the way in developing a European-wide network for Christian teachers.