Bluefield College alumna Beth McMillion Craig, a 1992 graduate of the BC teacher education program, is enjoying a very successful career in teaching. But it’s the ways in which she’s using her gifts and talents to serve students on mission in Ethiopia that are giving her the most fulfillment in life.
A four-year student-athlete and frequent member of the Academic Dean’s list at Bluefield College, Craig is a first grade teacher at Ecoff Elementary School in Chester, Virginia, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 2011 and received an REB Award from the Community Foundation of Richmond, Virginia, for “teacher excellence” and “inspiring classroom performance.”
“Beth is one of the most naturally gifted teachers I have ever worked with,” said one of Craig’s co-workers at Ecoff. “Students in her classroom believe they can achieve anything, because their teacher believes this.”
Craig acquired that inspirational attitude, she said, in part through the lessons she learned from professors at Bluefield College. In addition to developing a passion to teach at Bluefield, she said BC professors taught her how to be professional, to have a strong work ethic, and to believe in what she was doing. Most of all, she said, they instilled in her a desire to use her teaching gifts in service to others.
“BC professors cared about me as a person first,” said Craig, a native of Bluefield, Virginia, whose 24 years of teaching also includes stints at Dudley Primary School in Bluefield and Falling Creek Elementary School in Richmond. “I developed so many relationships with them, and they made sure I knew that they cared.”
It’s that same sense of caring and servant leadership that inspired Craig to use her teaching skills outside of the traditional classroom on mission with students who need it most in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. The mission trips are sponsored by Project Hope, a non-profit organization started by the Cornerstone Assembly of God in North Chesterfield, Virginia, for the purpose of bringing practical aid and the Gospel to the community of Dire Dawa. One particular aid provided by Project Hope: the teaching of English and reading comprehension – directly in the center of Craig’s wheelhouse of gifts – to Ethiopian children who wouldn’t be able to continue schooling without such skills.
“Right at that moment my heart leaped out of my chest,” said Craig recalling the moment she learned about being a part of the Project Hope mission. “My heart was pounding, and I just heard God saying, ‘you, you, you.’”
In fact, Craig has now travelled twice to Ethiopia for summer Project Hope missions, serving children in the village of Gendetsfa. While there, her team’s primary focus is to teach English as a second language as it is necessary for the Ethiopian students to be able to continue their schooling, which in turn greatly impacts their future.
“We held an English camp,” she said. “Students must pass a written exam in English to continue beyond eighth grade. So, we taught grades six through eight English and reading comprehension skills.”
In addition to teaching the students, Craig’s team hosted professional development sessions for local teachers where they shared successful teaching styles and practices for the classroom. Throughout the whole process and in the face of great odds, she said she learned to trust God even in ways that didn’t seem possible and that a teacher can teach with just a small amount of supplies, a classroom, and a barely usable chalkboard.
“Being in God’s presence and seeing Him work on the front lines,” Craig said was one of her favorite parts of the mission work. “It was miracle after miracle. I have never felt so close to Him. It was tangible. It is indescribable!”
Her love for what she does mixed with a love and desire to serve changed her life and forever changed the lives of those she teaches now at Ecoff and those she taught in Ethiopia.
“I learned more from those children than I taught them,” said Craig. “I love those children. I love those families and teachers. My heart will be there forever.”