Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – 2001-02

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After ten years of teaching at Redwood Christian High School, my family and I are off to Kansas, where I’ll be starting law school in a few short months. I can’t express how grateful I am for these years at Redwood, and living in the Bay Area, where I’ve made lots of good friends and started my own family. I was thinking back over the years at Redwood, and had a few reflections.

My First Year – 2001-02

I began at Redwood by teaching Life of Christ to 9th graders and Theology/ Romans to 12th graders. It was a privilege then, and continues to be a privilege now, to teach seniors. I felt fortunate to get them. I wasn’t so sure how I would handle freshmen, but I ended up enjoying my freshman classes more than I thought I would. It was also cool to teach both seniors and freshmen because, after three years, I had taught just about every kid on campus, which made being there a true joy.

We were not very far into my first year when 9/11 happened. I remember that my older sister had called me that morning, having heard the news report, and left me a message, but I never dreamed that airliners had been flown into the Trade Towers. Of course, when I arrived on campus the news was already starting to get around. I didn’t actually see the footage until noon, but I do remember the terror attacks drew my attention to the latter chapters of Isaiah, where God again and again says words to the effect of, “I am God and there is no other; from beginning to end, I am He.” And I thought these words from God appropriate at the time. I felt my students should be reassured of God’s sovereignty, so these are the Scriptures we looked at that day.

Some highlights from the year included going to see “Stomp” in San Francisco with the seniors, assistant coaching for the varsity baseball team (we had a phenomenal season and made the playoffs, which Redwood baseball teams rarely did), helping to head up the Student Council, coaching the junior high boys softball team (and having one of my players rip his jersey off on the field after we lost our last game), beating the no. 1 seed in the softball playoffs, having nowhere to live over the Christmas Break, and thus having to move all my stuff into my classroom until I could find a new apartment, and hanging out with one of the Spanish teachers, Rich Guerrero.

The most gracious thing God did that first year, in my limited view, was to put me and another new teacher, Curt Russell (yes, of “Russell” and Duenes fame) right next to each other. Curt was teaching Junior High science and I would go and hang out in his room between classes. We also coached softball together that fall, and over the years, have become very good friends. It would take a phone book sized tome to describe how much I enjoy my friend and colleague Curt, and my gratitude for his friendship over the years cannot be measured. He is, quite simply, one of those friends “who sticks closer than a brother,” that the Bible talks about. If you get even one of these in a lifetime, you’re blessed. Nothing is harder for me to leave than my friend Curt.

I had a good number of students that year, but a few stand out to me. I got to know one of my seniors, Alexander Ricker, quite well, and we became friends. I have kept in touch with him over the years and it is a joy to see how he has grown into such a man of God. His family always welcomed me into their home as if I were another one of their sons. I enjoyed getting to know some of the baseball players like Chris Shaddle, Ryan Dole, and Brian Houghtelling (who took to making me look stupid by doctoring images of me on photoshop, one of which I still have on my classroom wall), as well as the coaches, Jim Cleveland and Tyler Savage. Two of my seniors that year ended up getting married and coming back to work at Redwood, which was a joy. The class valedictorian, Zach Bruno, went on to study at CAL and UOP, and he is now working on his doctorate at Boston University. I went to see him give a graduation address at CAL and have enjoyed staying in touch with him over the years as well.

Mostly I remember that I worked very hard that first year. I put together almost all of my own curriculum for senior Bible, and it got the lion’s share of my attention. I put more time into freshman Bible in subsequent years. I was often up late and up early, prepping for lessons and grading assignments. There were nights where I went home not knowing exactly what I would be teaching the next day. The Lord gave me a lot of energy for this my first year, but I’m glad such a pace did not continue. I really wanted to give my students a God-centered view of the Christian life, and I hope that I succeeded, by God’s grace. I often felt lonely that year, but I look back on it now and feel profound gratitude for the ways God sustained me, and the for the great thrill of getting to come into a classroom every day and open the Word of God to the students. I didn’t imagine then that I’d be at Redwood for ten years. I was glad to be coming back the next year, and the next year proved to be one of my favorites. More on that soon.

Thank you, Lord God, for bringing me to Redwood and letting me start well. Thank you for the blessings you gave me in opportunities and friendships in that first year. Thank you helping me to endure, and for giving me good ideas for my lessons. I pray, even now, that you would bless those students who sat in my classroom that year, that your Word would bear fruit in their lives. Amen.


Written by Michael Duenes

May 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

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