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Education | 8 Minutes

The Power of Truth and the Online Classroom

Written by VP Admin
The Power of Truth and the Online Classroom

Trisha Williams

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.

JOHN MILTON, Areopagitica

The phone call came in the middle of an early spring afternoon in 2012. The signs of spring were outside my window and in my heart. A new chapter was beginning. I could sense it. My graduate studies were completed. A job offer at a local classical school was on the table. Two years prior I left four years of missionary service teaching in Guatemala. I completed my graduate studies in hopes of a posting in Spain, where I could continue teaching and serving. Through a series of events God closed the doors to international ministry. I was disappointed but expectant. God had long established a pattern of closing doors to open new adventures in my life. I answered the phone.

“This is Veritas Press Scholars Academy, and if you teach for us you won’t ever want to go back to a brick and mortar school again,” said the unknown but strangely familiar voice on the other end. Thus started my new adventure as an online instructor teaching Omnibus for VPSA.

My passion for theology, literature, and history, my reading addiction, my homeschool background, and my eagerness to learn new ways to approach education made me uniquely suited to teach Omnibus—the great conversation of Western civilization. Omnibus I Secondary (the literature to help illustrate the ideas of the ancient world), Omnibus III Primary and Secondary (the two courses comprising the literature, history, and theology of the Reformation to modern world) were my courses that first year. The reading load (over sixty titles) was rich and interesting, my class preparation never more demanding, but the best part of all was getting to know my students and their families.

My students came into our online classroom from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, South and Central America, and even Asia. Drawn by the rigor of classical education, the prestige of Veritas Press Scholars Academy, the flexibility of the online format, and the promise of an excellent education and future prospects, these students and their families quickly impressed me with their hard work ethic, their curiosity, their excitement for learning, and their love for the conversation and debate of great ideas. Unlike any other teaching environment, I was offered immediate windows into the rhythms and patterns of my students’ homes and relationships with their parents and siblings. These microcosms would gather together twice a week for ninety minutes of Socratic discussion about ideas and stories that change us and that have changed the world. Because the online classroom is archived and students and parents are accustomed to communicating through e-mail and phone with the teacher, I quickly came to understand and appreciate that I was truly partnering with parents in the education of their children. This partnership brought great joy, purpose and accountability to my teaching.
VPSA approaches education through a uniquely and unapologetically Christian lens. Whether we are studying Socrates, The Odyssey, Lewis’ Narnia, the Foundational American Documents, Communism, Transcendentalism or Rousseau’s The Social Contract, every thought is brought into subjection to the Word of God. Scripture teaches us to love the Lord our God with our hearts and souls and minds and to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control steadfastness, and to steadfastness godliness, and to godliness brotherly affection, and to brotherly affection love. Victor Hugo said that “Virtue has a veil, vice a mask.” I want my students as they seek to love God more and love their neighbors more to be able to lift the veil of virtue, and discern vice for what it is. But I also recognize that not all students and their parents begin the Great Conversation wearing the same lens of understanding. I do not presume that all my students know Truth, though we discuss Him in every class.

In a class of extraordinary students “Karen” stood out. English was her third language, and every time she came on webcam the features and sounds of her beautiful Asian home stimulated our senses. She clearly loved the class. She was an overachiever and was always prepared for class discussion with not only answers but questions of her own. Though her answers were excellent, there was always something rather unsettled about her ideas that I could not quite put my finger on. We were reading the rather controversial book by R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God. I say controversial because this book asks young middle school students to take a stand on whether they believe God is sovereign even over matters of salvation. In our debate on this topic I asked the students to use Scripture to defend every argument they made. If they were not able to use Scripture they could not participate. This was the first time I noticed Karen struggle. She clearly was not familiar with Scripture and very unfamiliar with discerning context of passages. Struggling in the classroom was clearly unknown territory for her. I noted her struggle, but was not concerned because struggle is necessary for growth. Two weeks after the debate I received an e-mail from Karen’s mother that provided the background to all my questions:

“Dear Miss Williams, I write to tell you that Karen, myself, my husband and our other children have become believers in Jesus Christ. We left the Muslim faith two years ago and signed up for VPSA classes in hopes of our children attending prestigious American universities. We have all been listening to your class and reading Karen’s books including the Bible together as a family. While reading and discussing these ideas the Holy Spirit lifted the veil and revealed Truth. Thank you for teaching.” Joy! What joy! What a gift. In that moment I saw that God had not closed the door on international teaching, but through the internet and VPSA had provided a wider and broader audience than I could have hoped for. I went to my local missions pastor in Illinois to tell him about Karen and her family. His excitement grew as he heard where they lived. Having previously served in that area of the world he knew of local churches who could help Karen’s family grow in their newfound faith. I sent the contact information for this local community of believers to Karen’s family and was informed by them that this church was within walking distance from their home. Paul said in Philippians that his joy would be complete when the church was of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Complete joy certainly characterized that particular Omnibus class after Karen’s classmates greeted her as their sister in faith when she shared her testimony of her conversion and subsequent baptism.

I have completed three years of joyful teaching with VPSA. My class load has grown, as have the stories of Truth prevailing. As I look toward my fourth year as an Omnibus teacher, I hope to continue faithfully engaging my students in these great conversations that have the potential to change lives. John Milton said about God’s act of creation in his epic Paradise Lost, “Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined; Till at his second bidding darkness fled, Light shone, and order from disorder sprung.” Veritas Press Scholars Academy seeks to proclaim the excellences of him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light from one online classroom after another into the hearts and minds of students around the world.

By Trisha Williams

Trisha Williams teaches Omnibus at VPSA and is passionate about helping students demonstrate love for God and his Word by helping them understand the world around them and their purpose in it. The rhetoric of literature, history, and theology are the means she uses to engage students in this grand undertaking. Her love for learning and passion for classical education was passed on to her and her ten siblings from her educationally minded parents. She graduated from LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, with a B.A. in English Literature and Language and minor in Biblical Studies in 2005. She became a missionary to Guatemala in 2006, and taught all levels of high school English classes at the International Christian Academy of Guatemala for four years. She also helped coach a Harvard University sponsored debate team working to promote democracy amongst the Americas and saw them compete in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Ecuador. While in Guatemala, she helped establish ESL classes at local churches, as well as encouraging the literacy efforts of fellow missionaries to indigenous Mayan groups. Ms. Williams now resides in Wheaton, Illinois, after finishing a Master of Arts in Teaching from Wheaton College. She loves being close to her thirty-two nieces and nephews. She teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible study classes at College Church, and when not leading short term mission trips to various parts of the globe, spends as much time as possible tutoring refugees and immigrants through World Relief.

If you are interested in learning more about the courses that Trisha teaches, you can find the Omnibus courses that she teaches HERE in the 2015-16 course listing.