July 30, 2014

Berkner Adds Experience to Education Faculty

Berkner’s passion and experience fills the classroom, inspiring future teachers as well.

Donna Berkner didn’t have far to go to join the faculty at Southwestern. In fact, she and her husband, Henry, have been married for 38 years and lived that entire time in the city of Keene. Today they have two grown children, daughter Bree and son Dayne.

Now an associate professor in the department of education, Berkner started off her career as a dental hygienist. When she decided that education was more to her liking, she returned to school and received her degree in education from Southwestern in 1992.

“I was a later bloomer,” she says. “God called me as an adult, but his timing is still perfect. Teaching was the career he wanted for me, and it happened when it was supposed to happen.”

For the next 17 years, Berkner taught at Keene Adventist Elementary School, the first three years with the first grade, six years with the eighth grade, and the final eight years as principal. Berkner also went on to receive graduate training, earning her Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix in 2012.

“I always had a heart for Adventist education,” she says. Her doctoral dissertation, “Attitudes of Seventh-day Adventist Teachers Toward Inclusion in the Classroom” focuses on making every student a part of that class’ learning environment.

Her new job calls for her to emphasize educational leadership. This semester she teaches arts and drama, math for the elementary school, social studies for the elementary school, as well as supervises two student teachers.

Her greatest reward as a teacher is seeing her former students be a success as adults. She recounts how recently she was visiting someone in the hospital, only to discover that one of the nurses there had been an eighth-grade student of hers. Another former student, Chloe Northrup, is now working on her Ph.D. at the University of North Texas.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to pray with my students,” she says. “When I first started teaching, three of my students died in a car accident. It meant a lot to be able to have the pastoral staff come in and visit the students. And we all prayed together.”

Her training, education and experience gives her a fresh perspective that she is eager to share with education students. “I tell students, ‘Don’t do this degree just because of June and July,’” she says. “It has to be a calling, what God puts in your heart.”

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Comments

  1. Luisa Manu says:

    This past summer while working switchboard I met Dr. Berkner and several other faculty members as they helped the freshman move in their luggage. Dr. Berkner was piercingly straight forward as she fired questions of what my name is, where I came from, etc. and for that I took a liking to her. She was different. Then one of her past students walked in. A well known figure on this campus, he was easily engaged with Dr. Berkner, speaking to her with comfort as if she were a friend and a motherly figure rather than one of his old teachers. She too spoke well of this young man as they reminisced and shared their “horror” stories.

    I guess that is why I write this comment. I am not an education major, but Dr. Berkner took an interest in me anyhow. To this day I can walk down the sidewalks of our school and see her and we’ll “chop it up” even though we met only for those brief moments.

    Dr. Berkner and many other faculty and staff bring a light to this campus in that she and many of the staff actually care about the students. This is a different dynamic to experience at the university level–to have MORE than a few professors and staff interested in success and well being of their students–and for this I am grateful & for this I praise God. Blessings, SWAU.

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