Terry James brings care, experience to OBU

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

If you were to sit in on one of associate professor of education and director of teacher education Dr. Terry James’s education classes, you would probably hear him say, “I think the teacher is the most important person in society today.”

James values education, learning and most of all, students.

James originally came to Oklahoma Baptist University in 2008 and served as an assistant professor of education.

During his time as an undergraduate student, James studied at Indiana State University and obtained a bachelor’s degree.

He completed a master’s program at Indiana University, and ultimately, a doctorate program at the University of Oklahoma.

James has always respected the profession of teaching and the function that it serves for society.

“I really decided in the eighth or ninth grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” James said. “I liked my teachers. I respected them. I thought that what they were doing was important. I guess I was fortunate, in a way, that I decided early.”

James is originally from Indiana, where he went to school.

“I majored in English, and taught English, Physical Education and coached some football and track in Indiana, then moved out to Oklahoma,” James said.

James has had many roles in the education system that vary in responsibility.

He taught in the public school system for many years, worked as both assistant superintendent and superintendent in different school districts.

When he was teaching in the public school, James taught English because of his love for literature.

“I thought, if I’m going to have to read all of this material, why not let it be something interesting and fun to read,” James said. “Would I rather read a chapter of a history textbook or would I rather read Dickens or Wordsworth? I’m actually reading the Canterbury Tales right now. I thought it would be more interesting and fun to read things that are considered great literature.”

James came to OBU after he retired from the public school system. He said he is very happy to be here working with future teachers.

“I can think of no greater privilege than to get to work with my future colleagues,” James said. “I am absolutely convinced that the teacher is the most important person in education.”

James is passionate about education as a system and as a deep need in our society. He said he believes that teachers are becoming even more influential and needed in society because of the functions that the schools serve today.

“I believe that the teacher is the most important person in our society right now, with everything that they are expected to do,” James said. “Teachers now have to analyze the deepest needs of a student and figure out how to respond to them. I have seen the role of the school increase over time, and the importance of the teacher, which was always important. So, what greater privilege is there than to get to work with my future colleagues?”

James currently teaches many education classes at OBU. He also serves as the director of the Teacher Education department.

Dr. James loves OBU and its students. He strongly believes that OBU prepares students to become great teachers.

“I think you all are wonderful,” James said. “I was involved in hiring maybe a thousand teachers over my career. I would hire you all in a second. I think the average OBU student is mature, a person of integrity, responsible and dependable. I just respect the students here, just who they are as people.”

Teacher Education students seem to appreciate Dr. James for all he does for the program.

“Dr. James really cares about you as a person and wants you to succeed,” freshman elementary education major Sadi Hostettler said. “I have learned so much more about our education system a how to become a great teacher.”

Foster care and adoption give families more to love

By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor

Foster care and adoption are extremely important to so many children and families around the Shawnee area, and all around the world.

For a few Oklahoma Baptist University faculty and staff members, foster care and adoption have completely changed lives.

Kami Fullingim is an HR administrator on campus and recently adopted three children that she and her family had been fostering.

“It definitely has its ups and downs, emotionally and physically,” Fullingim said. “It’s fun and rewarding, advocating for these kids is probably the biggest part of it, advocating for them and their needs.”

The journey towards fostering and adopting had been a long one for their family.

“My husband and I both had been introduced to fostering, and we wanted to years ago,” Fullingim said. “Because we have four biological children of our own, we wanted to wait until they were older. We kept putting it off, and then finally obeyed the Lord and His calling in telling us that foster care was what we needed to be doing. We finally started the process. It was definitely something that we thought that God was calling us to do.”

Foster care can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding for the families that invest themselves into the lives of children in need.

“The most rewarding [thing] is just knowing that they have a stable home forever, and that they are loved, cared for and safe,” Fullingim said. “I don’t have to have their return love, although they seem to like it where they’re at… They seem to be happy and thriving where they’re at. We were their fifth home when they came to us, and they had only been in the foster system for a year. Within six months their behavior and everything they had been dealing with they were doing better than they had in their previous homes.”

Fullingim and her husband have four older biological children who welcomed their new siblings into the family.

“Being a part of our family with our four biological children at home gives them someone to look up to…It’s really neat to see my big kids, whenever it came time to say: ‘These kids are available for adoption, do we want to adopt them?’ And to see my big kids say ‘absolutely, they’re already our siblings’”.

Dr. Krista Hands is an associate professor of mathematics at OBU also has plenty of experience with the foster care system, as well as with adoption. Currently, she and her family are fostering two children.

“We have three adopted kids that we adopted internationally from Ethiopia, and we have one biological daughter as well.”

Dr. Hands found out unexpectedly that she was expecting a child about two years ago.

“I ended up miscarrying,” Hands said. “As hard as that was and as crazy as it was to find out that I was expecting, obviously miscarrying was even harder. One of the things that came out of it, through that process was that it caused my husband and I to analyze: ‘are we done? Is four what we are going to stop with, or do we want more? And if we do want more, what’s that going to look like?’”

Hands stresses that the Lord’s plan is vitally important to consider as a family is beginning to consider foster care and adoption.

“I really felt like the Lord was telling me that we were supposed to add two more children, very specifically, two to our family, and that it would be through foster care,” Hands said. “We started the paperwork process about a year and a half ago with the intent to adopt.”

Hands had been contacted by an acquaintance who asked if Hands and her family would provide respite care for two little girls. The Hands family said yes.

“We ended up, through lots of prayer, because it was not what we were planning or intending to, to jump into foster care,” Hands said. “We had a conversion to our paperwork to become a foster care home instead of just an adoptive placement home. We ended up getting two children, who were four years old and nine years old at the time.”

Dr. Hands wants those who are or are not considering fostering to think deeply about their reasonings.

“You just have to be very careful to be aware that you may think you know where God is calling you to , and He may be calling you to where He thinks you can handle it right now, and you might find yourself in a different position later on,” she said.

According to Patti Jensen, an employee at the Department of Human Services of Pottawatomie County, there are currently 237 children in the foster care system in this county. Jensen and her family also have fostered children in their home.

“When a child comes into custody of the state of Oklahoma, there are a couple of options,” Jensen said. “We always try to look for a family member because that is less traumatic for the child. That’s called a kinship placement, someone that knew the child before they went into custody. The next plan is to use a traditional home. In Pottawatomie County, DHS has 22 [traditional] homes. If a child comes into custody and we cannot find a placement for them, we have 22 possibilities in Pottawatomie County.”

There is currently a great need for foster parents, especially for larger sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs.

For more information regarding foster care and adoption in the state of Oklahoma, please visit http://www.okfosters.org. For information regarding foster care in Pottawatomie County, contact Cailyn Colwell at cailyn.colwell@okdhs.org