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Two Columbia Union Teachers Receive Excellence in Teaching Awards

Story by Kaleigh Benge/Alumni Awards Foundation
Published 6/12/2012

The Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) recently presented two Columbia Union teachers with the 2012 Excellence in Teaching Awards. Norman Niles, chair of the Mathematics Department at Pine Forge Academy  (PFA) in Pine Forge, Pa., and Kimberly Terry, who teaches fifth-grade and technology classes at Potomac’s John Nevins Andrews School (JNA) in Takoma Park, Md., were award recipients. 

Principals, superintendents, colleagues and former students, from across the North American Division, nominated the teachers for this award. Ten were selected to receive the award. AAF board members and staff travel from coast to coast to present each teacher with a $2,000 gift, medallion and Certificate of Excellence during special events hosted by the recipients’ schools. Colleagues, students and community members also took the opportunity to publicly thank the teachers for the impact they’ve had in their local schools.

Niles Merges Math and Theology
Norman Niles was in his second year of graduate school for his PhD in mathematics when he heard God’s calling to ministry. At the time it was too late to apply for seminary and he would have to wait an entire year. He was disappointed, but God’s plan for ministry was different and he ended up at Pine Forge Academy as the math and Bible teacher.

In 2010, he coined the term Matheology. “It is seeing God, the author of all knowledge, in mathematics,” Niles explains. By the end of the year, each student must give a worship talk connecting one concept learned during the semester to God.

He has the largest honors course enrollment at PFA and is working on his credentials to offer dual enrollment classes in the future. He also created the first distance-learning course offered at PFA and utilizes Skype to connect with students off campus. Niles is a member of the Technology Specialist Team and the Standardized Test Prep Team; he also writes questions for College Board’s SATs.

“His students, parents, peers and supervisors have great respect for his talent and the spiritual difference he makes in the ministry of teaching,” said James Willis, Allegheny East Conference superintendent.

As class sponsor Niles led the students to raise enough money to build a classroom in Africa. He serves in multiple capacities at church and at school.

Niles says it is important that his students “know that they are capable of achieving excellence because they are created by an awesome God.”

Terry Refuses to Give Up on Technology
Terry was originally hired at JNA as the computer teacher and IT specialist. When financial challenges forced the school to discontinue the computer teacher position, she became the fifth-grade teacher. But she didn’t give up teaching technology. She took it upon herself to continue teaching computer skills and assists her peers with their use of technology while maintaining the computer lab. In addition, she provides technology in-service and has played an instrumental role in purchasing and installing video projectors and screens in several classrooms.

“She is a multi-talented, dedicated, Christ-like educator, a professional, great team player and a service-oriented person who loves the Lord and loves and cares about people, especially children and youth,” said Cavel Melbourne, JNA principal.

Terry makes learning fun for her students. In science, groups perform a “kingdom rap” about one of the five kingdoms of life. To learn how the colonists felt under Britain’s harsh laws, students must plan a party while complying with outrageous restrictions. Each year, students perform skits dealing with peer pressure, which Terry videotapes for later viewings. Terry is involved in many other areas around school.

“I choose to work in a system in which I wholeheartedly believe and to which I want to give back,” Terry said. “I would not choose to work anywhere else!”

Kimberly Terry, who teaches technology at John Nevins Andrews School, showcases her award.


From left to right: Riley Grave, Alumni Awards Foundation staff member; Norman Niles, 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient; and Delmas Campbell, Pine Forge Academy principal

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