My first encounter with Dr. Ward was in 1995 at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. I had been accepted into the doctoral program in Educational Studies and Dr. Ward was a major reason why I decided on this program. I first heard about Ted from Dr. Jim Pluddeman, my academic adviser at Wheaton College (IL). Dr. Pluddeman would constantly give credit to Dr. Ward for certain educational ideas and concepts in the classroom. I was already very pleased with my experience at Wheaton College and began to wonder about this Dr. Ward who had left such a positive and lasting impression on one of his former Ph.D. students at Michigan State University.
Learning from Jesus as Teacher: Fast forward to September 1995 to find me now sitting in my first class with Dr. Ward, learning about how high conformity limits discovery learning. From the very first class, it was clear to me how deeply Dr Ward was immersed in the Scriptures and how much he admired Jesus’ teachings. He often pointed to how Jesus’ greatness could be seen in his teachings, as well as in his style of teaching. Jesus moved around a lot, and taught in diverse settings on various occasions while eating, walking, sitting down, traveling by boat, and so on. Parables, metaphors, similes and other literary devices were often employed to help his audiences learn. He often communicated complex truths using simple imagery. He used metaphors to draw people into a discovery process, and invite thinking and learning. Dr. Ward helped me understand the great value and power of nonformal education, and offered me a fresh and biblical perspective on Christian education that has had an impact on my own philosophy of ministry ever since.
Later, when I was preparing for my dissertation and Dr. Ward had graciously agreed to be my first reader, I began to see and understand that asking good questions can lead to new findings and perspectives. It was then that I realized what had made Dr. Ward such an outstanding teacher – it was not only his deep desire to follow Jesus, but also his willingness to be challenged by Jesus’ teaching and to ask how they apply in day-to-day life situations. Dr. Ward believed in first observing with his mouth closed before asking questions. In other words, he taught us to control our biases in order to see and hear what is actually going on in the Scriptures or around us. Then, we may look for patterns – things that are happening, not necessarily by chance. By keeping track of our observations, we may then discover possible meanings and identify plausible relationships. Finally we are to reexamine our observations so that our conclusions can be as objective and clear as possible. This was a discipline that I was personally lacking at the time. Dr. Ward helped me to learn and apply these steps in my work.
Clear Focus: During my final year in the PhD program, when the process of dissertation writing could be very hard at times, Dr. Ward would constantly remind me of yet another important concept:“zoom in and zoom out.” I still remember his words: “Adrian, do not forget to zoom in to make sure the necessary details are all in, but then you need to zoom out to make sure you are staying on the main course and to keep moving forward.” I knew what he was talking about. As a Program Fellow, I have seen many ABD (All But Dissertation) Ph.D. students who are so concerned with zooming in that they forget to zoom out and see the big picture. Others fail to zoom in enough on the important details in their work.
I love and cherish Dr. Ward for who he was as a follower of Christ called to be an educator whose life and work have inspired so many others. For the way he instilled in me the desire to be the person God has called me to be, I will be ever grateful.