After teaching for 30 years and traveling around the globe, including mission work in Thailand, Susan Byers is lending her talents to the Division of Human Development. Byers has traveled from Thunderbird Adventist Academy in Arizona to come teach at Union. As Union graduate, she is looking forward to reconnecting with the friendly and the nurturing atmosphere the college provides.
Union: When did you realize your calling to be a teacher?
Byers: I always knew that teaching was a good fit for me. It was the game my siblings and I played so much while growing up on our farm in Nebraska. I owe choosing to be a music major to former Union band director, Francis Wada, and choosing an English major to my experience in Haad Yai, Thailand, as a student missionary.
Union: What was being a missionary in Thailand like?
Byers: I spent one year in Haad Yai English School on a five-person team, with three from Union that year, that taught conversational English to students of all ages. We had an early morning session for those who could come early. The afternoon session was much longer, 3:00-9:00, to catch students after school and professionals after work. During the middle of the day, we ran errands, prepared for class and rested.
The school offered free Bible classes to anyone interested. Students liked more opportunity to hear and speak English, so they would come. We could share the gospel story best at that time.
On weekends we would hold Friday night vespers for our students. It was a spiritual and social time. Students would often come just to practice their English skills. While there, they heard the good news of Jesus!
Student Missionaries get to travel while in the field for a year. During the year, we traveled 500 miles to Bangkok, stayed at the Adventist school there, and did some sight seeing. On one longer trip, we traveled 1000 miles north to Chaing Mai to visit the Adventist academy. While there, we took elephant rides and went by jeep to a jungle village to visit members of the Muang tribe.
It was a rich experience for me. I learned that God is everywhere—all around the world. He wants to reach people of all ages everywhere, and that He can use any person who is willing to go.
Union: Where have you worked since you graduated from Union?
Byers: My professional background includes a bachelor’s degree in music and English education from Union College and a Masters in Composition from Andrews University. I have taught English and music since 1986 in Midwest and West Coast Adventist schools.
Union: What are your best memories of being a student at Union?
Byers: I enjoyed the fellowship and easy-going spirit on campus. Specifically, though, I remember walking with friends on ice to Kwik Shop to buy ice cream in subzero weather. We had a delightful time!
Union: What makes you passionate about teaching?
Byers: Some people build businesses, while others build bridges and roads. Teachers help build humans. The daily experience of nurturing growth and health in the students in my class, regardless of their age, is fulfilling. I believe God is in the same business with each person on earth and I know that He is totally interested in all our classrooms. He is giving me the opportunity to join Him in this work. What an honor!
Union: What do you like best about Union?
Byers: I like the friendly atmosphere. It is very nurturing.
Union: Can you tell me a little about your family?
Byers: My husband, Scott, does IT Support for a company based in Portland, Oregon. Our daughter, Camryn, is an eighth grader at College View Academy this school year.
Union: What do you hope you’ll be doing in the near future?
Byers: I hope to be right here, finished with my PhD, and serving God and Union even more faithfully.
Union: What is something you would want all your students to know?
Byers: I want all students at Union to know that the world needs them. It needs the most spiritual, best educated, most honest, caring, diligent Christians possible—to show Jesus’ love—and that Union is a great place to become that person.
By Elizabeth bearden