Teaching is a process. It’s about fostering relationships and
inspiring passion. It can take hours of individual communication and observation to do well but when it is, it can leave
an indelible mark on the students. This is especially true of
Christian teachers who have a responsibility not only to educate but also lead by example in matters of faith and morality. Today, however, those teachers face the challenge of
doing so in an environment where they cannot share their
Denis Lopes is the Vice Principal of Woburn Collegiate Institute in Toronto and his wife, Leonor Lopes, is the Vice Principal of Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute and Subway
Academy One, an alternative secondary school and part of
the Toronto District School Board. I spoke with them about
the rewards and difficulties of being Christian educators in
Mark Fisk (MF): What do you love about being a teacher?
Leonor: I love making a positive difference in the lives of
young people and watching their faces when they have
those “aha” moments. I also love preparing lessons that en-
Denis: Interacting with students and hearing their stories,
hopes and dreams. Also, seeing them acting on their enthu-
siastic and energetic ventures and succeeding.
MF: In what ways do you reach out to students who are
Leonor: By building relationships with them. Most students will respond well when they trust you. Teach them
an appropriate way to act and let them know they are valuable despite their behaviour. If their behaviour continues to
erode, they may have to go elsewhere. No one person’s behaviour should poison the atmosphere of the school.
MF: When things get really bad and a student nears suspen-
sion or expulsion what do you try to do?
Denis: Stay calm. Acting out of anger or impulse may end
in a loss of dignity, trust and respect. I also ask myself if the
student is testing me in areas of character, trust or faith and
if they’re acting out of frustration, fear or anger? What do
they need at this moment, someone to say “stop” or someone to listen?
MF: In what ways do you try to mentor your students and/
or fellow teachers?
Leonor: By being an example, even behind closed doors.
It is important to act with integrity and make fair decisions
and stick to them. I try to have the courage to do what is
right even if it’s unpopular while being mindful of student
and staff needs. It’s also important to try and speak scriptural truth without using Christian lingo. For example, I tell students they are valuable and that they have a future (Psalm
139 and Jeremiah 29: 11). Some students have never heard
such truth about themselves.
MF: In what ways do you see teaching as an act of love?
Leonor: Teachers have a phenomenal impact on the lives of
young people. We possess the power to build them up or
bring them down. Teachers don’t choose their students and
some are hard to love but we try to impact all students for
good, especially the ones that are difficult to love.
Denis: Teaching is relational, it does not exist outside of the
relationship between student and teacher. The teacher is
entrusted with the immense responsibility of guiding and
mentoring these young people and to do this, a teacher
must be selfless.
MF: As Christians how do you love people in an environ-
ment that doesn’t allow you to share your faith?
Leonor: A school environment provides ample opportuni-
ties to show God’s Love. Sharing my faith is not necessarily
speaking about Jesus but living His Love. This Love may be
A Word from our