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Karen Spain Joins the 25-Year Club

posted Aug 30, 2012, 5:31 PM by Faith Academy Alumni Coordinator   [ updated Aug 30, 2012, 5:31 PM by Sites Admin ]
A Top 10 Tribute to a Ministry of Faithfulness

~ by Heather Book , F.A. Class of ‘89 


What is so special about this number? Aside from the common mathematical reasons like it is the fifth square number and the thirteenth odd number, there are other special reasons for celebrating the number 25. Did you know that cows drink about 25 gallons of water a day or that a swordfish’s lifespan is estimated at 25 years? 25 is the minimum age of candidates for election to the United States House of Representatives and in the Bible, Levites could begin their ministries in the Tent of Meeting at this same age. 

Karen Spain Day 

Thursday, April 12, 2012, was another special event stemming from the number 25. This was a day set aside for honoring a faithful minister for her 25 years of service to Faith Academy. The day began with the entire school gathering at the flagpoles to the tune of “Teddy Bear’s Picnic.” All staff wore teddy bear fabric and the elementary students had created pennants, which they handed out to every middle and high school student. Tom Hardeman declared the day as “Karen Spain Day” and the elementary students, led by Kim Abels, gave a resounding cheer.

 As students were dismissed to their classes, the elementary students and staff gathered in the library for a Teddy Bear’s Picnic. All the kids had brought their favorite teddy bears to school and Sarah Stallsmith led the students in a song to the tune of “Oh, How I Love Jesus,” with new words written by Kay Abelman. Meg Cosper had created a beautiful video of the students declaring their love and respect for Miss Spain. Carol Foutz wrote a meaningful story and read that aloud during a special story time. As the students were dismissed for merienda, Miss Spain handed out small bags of teddy bear crackers to the students. 

Following that special time, there was an Elementary Staff Merienda in the library where Karen was then presented with gifts representing her many spheres of ministry over these past 25 years. Later, after school, there was a special reception in Tipunan Hall where Tom Hardeman gave Karen a 25-year club plaque. Kristen McKay then presented Karen with a memory book and a slide show was shown of tributes from many present and former staff and students.

Top 10 Tribute 

In preparing to write this article, I wondered how I could pay tribute when so many words of honor had already been spoken. I began interviewing many people and gleaned stories and examples of Karen’s faithfulness in ministry and those are the topics I wanted to capitalize on. So…I give you my Top Ten List of Significant Honorable Mentions of 25 in the Ministry of Karen Spain. 

10. Port 25 is the usual TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) Port for SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). For those of you who don’t know what this is (I had to ask my I.T. husband), SMTP is the protocol for Email. Email is all about connection and communication. For those of you who are close to Karen, you will understand that this describes her very well. According to Kristen MacKay, relationships are the most important thing to Karen. She follows the Lord in this aspect very closely: seeking peace in every relationship, admitting when she is wrong; working through the conflict; and standing firm for what she believes in. Over the years, Karen has opened her heart year after year to new staff members, not closing them off because they came to serve for only one or two years. She has often had people into her home for brunches and meals and was especially proactive in this aspect when she was Personnel Director for one year. 

9. 25 is the sum of the first five odd numbers. When I asked Karen who were the most influential people in her life, she quickly named off these five names: Joy Limberg, her mission mentor; Kay Abelman, her educational mentor; Diane Morris, her role model; Craig Cook and Sally Mittlestadt, each mentors in their own spheres of influence. Since relationships are so important to Karen, she has cultivated around herself key people that challenge her and grow her. Just like 25 is the sum of the first five odd numbers, Karen is a sum of the influence of these role models in her life. 

8. Pachisi, Hindi for 25, is the National Game of India. Pachisi is an ancient Indian game for four people playing in two pairs, and to win, the pair must play as a partnership. We derive our games of Ludo and Parcheesi from this game. Karen partners with her kids in fun ways. She will use whatever it takes to help kids learn. Over and over as the students spoke of her, they used the word “collaborative learning” and this quality is indicative of Karen’s desires. She wants to work with the kids and have them learn how to work with each other. She told me that her favorite class was one that other teachers really disliked, but she loved them for this very reason. They would work so well together. Now in her present role, she will say to the students, “Come play a game with me” to get them into her office where it is safe to talk. Karen has mastered the art of “game-learning” over these last 25 years. 

7. There are 25 chapters in the book of 2 Kings. One of the main themes of this book of the Bible is God’s faithfulness, both to His chosen people and to His promise to David. This word “faithfulness” was also used many times throughout the ceremonies surrounding Karen Spain Day; its theme alone was “Faithful Friend.” I asked Karen to name a specific time where God had shown His faithfulness to her and after much thought, she said it would have to be when she took on the home-school coordinator position for the idea was very opposed and there were many challenges in those six years for her to overcome. She mentioned that if it were not for her two-year contract, she would have been very ready to stop after two, but God was faithful to her and strengthened her for the task. 

6. In science, 25 is the atomic number of manganese. Manganese is a mineral used in the treatment of rust and corrosion. It is also particularly essential in the detoxification of free radicals. Low levels of manganese in the body can lead to bone malformation and weakness. Everyone I interviewed for this article made similar statements about Karen’s love for the kids: “She’s about the kids”, “She always goes to bat for the kids”, Karen equals kids”, “She puts the needs of students above anything else.” In particular, Karen was commended for her ability to work with “difficult” kids, students that other teachers cannot seem to manage or understand. Karen is a manganese type of teacher, one who treats the “rust” in kids’ lives that can lead to corrosion. She is able to detoxify that difficult student, diffusing anger and harmful behavior. Additionally, she sees the “malformations” in certain students, sets high standards for them, building them up in the process so they no longer feel weak. She does not allow a student to wiggle out of her expectations or to fall behind. 

5. Wild turkeys can run up to 25 miles per hour. Many of you may not know that the turkey was Ben Franklin’s choice for America’s national bird, instead of the eagle. He felt the turkey was more “native” than the eagle, and nobler, plus it was used in thanksgiving feasts all over America. Karen has not, in fact, adopted Ben Franklin’s view of the turkey, but she has a favorite personal animal: the teddy bear. She loves teddy bears and when I asked her how this came to be, she said it started when she began teaching third grade. Many students would give her teddy bears as thank-you gifts and over the years, her collection mushroomed. Today, she uses the teddy bears in her counseling and in talks that she gives. Her students know this and honored her fully by bringing in their favorite teddy bears on Karen Spain Day. 

4. Silver and irises are gifts that are given on a 25th anniversary. Silver is very malleable and is the highest thermal conductor of any metal. It also has the highest electrical conductivity of any metal. One character quality that came out in my interviews was Karen’s flexibility and her passion for being a team player. Karen, like silver, is very malleable and therefore, very useful to the Lord. Additionally, she conducts a huge amount of warmth to her students and co-workers, and an obvious spiritual current to whomever she meets.  

Iris, in Greek, actually means “rainbow” and as I look at Karen’s ministry, I see a rainbow of talents and abilities. She is good at a lot of different things and is able to please God and her fellow men with the color of her life. A blue iris’s meaning is one of wisdom. One co-teacher said of Karen that her greatest gift to Faith Academy was her wisdom. She knows kids and knows how to apply God’s truth to their lives. She has a very long history of affecting students with her knowledge and the exciting way she applies it in learning. 

3. The sun takes 25 days to do a complete rotation on itself. The sun is not a solid body, so it spins differentially. This means that the equator rotates at a different time than the poles. This rotation is observed by tracking its sunspots, temporary phenomena that appear dark on the solar surface because they are cooler than the surrounding photosphere. These sunspots are also areas of intense magnetic activity. When life at Faith Academy is spinning around differentially, and spin it does, Karen is a “sunspot.” She is able to remain cool under pressure and this is so attractive to the students and other faculty that they are magnetically drawn to her. She is able to dispense encouragement even amidst the intense heat of classroom pressures. She loves to draw kids into the safety of her office, puts an emotional band-aide on their emotional wounds, and sends them back to the rotation cool, calm, and collected. Faith is very fortunate to have such a haven in the midst of the heat. 

2. In Bible numerology, the number 25 is associated with the forgiveness of sins and the expectancy of receiving divine grace from God. Karen tells the story of a young third grader who was disobedient and wouldn’t own up to his bad behavior. Karen kept after him, letting him know that he needed to take responsibility for his actions. Eventually he had to learn to forgive, which was life changing for him. He wrote in the memory book given to Karen, “You didn’t always understand, but you’re a great teacher. After you, everyone had your example to follow.” Karen remembers this student with clarity, remembering that “ah-hah” moment when he understood forgiveness and grace and was able to extend that to someone else. 

1. The Holy Spirit is quoted 25 times in the Gospel of John. The Holy Spirit was an integral Person to John, a needed Counselor and Guide. In the same way, Karen relies on the Holy Spirit to be a counselor through her, a guide for those God has place in her sphere of influence. Karen recalled a story to me about a young Korean student who was being naughty so was sent out into the hall. The Holy Spirit prompted Karen to ask, “Do you want to be a Christian?” He said, “Yes,” and accepted the Lord on the spot. Karen said that his behavior completely changed within 2 weeks. When the boy graduated from high school, Karen was touched when the mother hugged her and thanked her for her input all those years before when she was open to the Holy Spirit’s leading and her boy was transformed. 

And so ends my top 10 tribute except for one of a personal nature. Karen Spain came to Faith the same year I began attending ninth grade in 1985. She would often come and dorm-sit in our dorm, which is now the Ballentyne dorm, spending time and talking with us. The people who were her colleagues over the years were my mentors and it is in part due to the influence of Karen and others like her, that I desired to return to Faith as a missionary. I owe my shaping and my calling to faithful women and men like Karen Spain. She is indeed the epitome of a Faithful Friend. Welcome indeed, Karen, to the Twenty-Five Year Club.