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"All schools teach academics but we also try to teach Christian character and values," said Patricia Henderson, above, Minnesota Association of Christian Schools teacher of the year. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

First Baptist's Henderson is MACS elementary teacher of the year

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Patricia Henderson, teacher at First Baptist Christian School, has been named 2011 Minnesota Association of Christian Schools teacher of the year.

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"I was surprised," she said. "I actually wasn't able to go to the convention in September and found out later by e-mail."

Henderson has taught at First Baptist Christian School since 1974 when the pastor of First Baptist Church felt God's leading to start a Christian school. Henderson volunteered to be the kindergarten teacher "just for a little while" that year. She stopped teaching in that class in 1988. After that she became principal and continued to teach.

Throughout her 14 years as the kindergarten teacher, Henderson influenced young children for Christ. Many people in town that the current pastor, Joshua Hawn, has met remember "Mrs. Henderson" and smile, he said.

"She is always quiet, but very firm. She always took an instructing, rather than a rebuking tone," Hahn wrote in his nomination letter for Henderson.

She was not teaching reading; she was teaching children and that included all aspects of what it meant to be a boy or girl of character.

After leaving her duties as kindergarten teacher in 1988 she stepped up and became the principal, a role she has had to this day.

Henderson was so committed to the school that she went back to school to get her degree in education so that the school would have credibility.

The promotion didn't mean a pay increase but Henderson didn't mind.

"She has told me in the past that often she received whatever parents could or would give, which was often nothing," Hawn said.

Despite this, Hawn said, Pat has been not only an advocate for Christian education in our town, but a tremendous influence over those who have been students.

This year the school's numbers are few and there is only one class of three kindergarten students.

"When it looked like the school might close its doors it was Mrs. Henderson who volunteered to teach that kindergarten class with no compensation," Hahn said.

Over the years, Henderson said the biggest change in education has been the students themselves.

"There's much more pressure now in society and family," she said. "There's such a variety of needs and individualized teaching."

The Christian aspect of First Baptist's school sets it apart from public schools, Henderson said.

"All schools teach academics but we also try to teach Christian character and values to our students," she said. "To me, if you have God woven into the teaching then the student will become a complete person."

She has always had a love for students and said, "there's just something so very, very rewarding about teaching and seeing students learn."

Henderson isn't sure how long she will continue teaching but said she can't imagine what it's like not to teach.

"I will continue for however long the Lord wants me to teach," she said.

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