Teacher Perspectives: Why I Traded a Career in Education for a Vocation in Teaching

We recently asked our Middle School History Teacher Don Hoyer to share about his life story and how God led him to join the faculty at Holy Spirit Prep. In the second post in our new Teacher Perspectives Series, learn how Mr. Hoyer went from working at an archaeology firm in West Virginia to teaching history in Atlanta, and how he felt God calling him to a vocation in teaching.

From Archeologist to Educator

Don Hoyer and his wife Stephanie celebrate their daughter Josie’s birthday

I took my first job in education in September of 1999, and, frankly, it was a means to an end. I had been working for an archeology firm and had progressed quickly through the ranks of the company from “shovel bumming” to leading some of the company’s largest acreage archaeological surveys. I liked to write, loved being in the woods, and could navigate the terrain in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. A single person with this combination of skills was highly valued in the company, and I was encouraged to advance. So, I moved to Georgia in order to pursue a master’s degree in archeology, (a program which was not available in southern West Virginia), and began a job in education as a temporary measure, with a plan to return to archeology. 

Slowly, the work with students proved compelling. My new job was different from the plan I had envisioned, but its challenges were still fun to take on. Not only did I find it to be good, honest work that was truly gratifying, but I also realized how important it is, which is why I have remained in the education sector for 22 years.

The State of Modern Education: Where is the focus?  

Working in education was a very rewarding experience, but over time I gradually became more of a small businessman and less of a teacher – focusing more on performance than learning. I had helped students improve their skills, raise their test scores, receive top scholarships… but what were they doing with these new skills and opportunities? I knew that learning was more than a means to an end. I felt compelled to impact lives beyond what the outcome-based approach to education has become.

Don Hoyer leads a group of 7th & 8th grade students on a trip along the Conasauga River

So, after the learning center that I was with had safely weathered the storm of 2020 and 2021, I felt that I could in good conscience take on a new challenge, trusting that the program I had built would continue on. I knew that I had more to offer people than the educational system (as I had come to know it) provided.

I was convinced that it was time for me to move out of education. All the job leads that I pursued were for non-teaching roles within charity organizations, with one exception: I applied for a teaching position at Holy Spirit Preparatory School. On my visits to campus during the interview process, something struck me: the chapel is the center of everything, literally and figuratively. The chapel is situated at the center of the main hall in the Lower School and all campus life radiates from there. As I followed along on a campus tour, I watched students pause as they walked past the chapel to show a sign of reverence and respect, and when I sat in on classes, I listened as teachers began by leading students in heartfelt prayer. I knew that at this school, God was the primary focus.

Enriching Minds, Bodies, and Souls by Teaching His Story

Don Hoyer on a family camping trip in the Cohutta Wilderness

At HSP, teachers are charged with the formation of a whole person: mind, body, and soul. It is a daunting task and an exhilarating challenge. Certainly, we help students sharpen skills, ace tests, and obtain new opportunities – but we do this so they are best equipped to answer the call to the great adventure God has in store for each one of them. With equal focus and effort, we enrich imaginations, build character, nurture a love of learning, and praise God as we encourage students to be scholars and saints. To do this, I must apply my whole mind, body, and soul to the task. Teaching history at HSP has enabled me to focus primarily on expanding students’ knowledge of God and how His plan for us has been masterfully unfolding since the beginning of time.

Part of the calculus that kept me out of the classroom for so long was that I worried that there was no room for me to teach history in the way I understand it. History is not a chain of cause and effect, and certainly not chaos, as too many seem to think in our society. History is a story – the story of God’s Divine Providence and man’s exercise of his freewill in order to participate in God’s plan. With our model of classical education, grounding in the Deposit of Faith, and respect for learning history as good in and of itself, HSP not only permits me to teach history as I understand it, but it challenges me to do so at a high level. It is good, honest work that is truly edifying.

I’ve always appreciated God’s sense of humor. He has sent me on some unexpected adventures. They seldom led down the path I thought I would be taking, were often more of a challenge than I anticipated, and were always more fun than I imagined. Having found a place at HSP, I can’t help but be amused by the way God had me trade my career in education for a vocation in teaching.

Don Hoyer is a middle school history teacher at Holy Spirit Preparatory School.

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