on faculty since 2004
M.Ed., University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, 2002
B.S., Trinity Christian College,, Palos Heights, Illinois, 1999
As a graduate of the Trinity Christian College education program and now a working professional who must juggle family, work, and school, Kelly Lenarz, assistant professor of Adult Studies education, can certainly identify with her students. In fact, her greatest satisfaction, she said, comes from her ability to relate to the Adult Studies students.
“I can relate to them on an academic level since I am a graduate of Trinity’s education program,” Lenarz said. “I can also relate to them on a personal level. This creates an empathy and understanding between my students and me that positively affects the students’ performance in the classroom, opens them up to learning and sharing with and from me, and extends the student-teacher relationships we form beyond the classroom.”
Many Adult Studies students do not have experience in the classroom, but as a professor, Lenarz said her personal successes, struggles, and subject knowledge, as well as professional achievements and connections, can be a first step for them to start building similar types of experiences. And because of the small cohort sizes and the way the program is set up, she is able to get to know all students personally–their backgrounds, strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
“I am able to evaluate what each student needs in order to experience success in my course,” she said. “Once I know what those needs are, I can attempt to meet those needs. Trinity’s program allows me to do this and, as a result, provides each student a chance to learn in the manner they learn best.”
Lenarz operates with a mindset of excellence, but she defines this word differently than most. While today the word “excellence” is often tied to competition, personal achievement, and worldly success, she said, she has embraced a biblical way to define excellence in her life, thanks to her study of Resurrecting Excellence, by L. Gregory Jones and Kevin R. Armstrong who refer “to a way of excelling by embodying God’s love manifest in Jesus Christ.”
“It is a way of life that Paul calls us to as he did the Corinthians,” Lenarz said. “This is an excellence that is not about our efforts or our culturally-defined expectations, but rather is modeled after God’s excellence, fostered by the new life in Christ, to which we are all called in the power of the Holy Spirit. That means on a daily basis, teaching in the classroom, meeting with students, researching current trends in education, and interacting with my colleagues, my standard of excellence finds it source in the Triune God and a Reformed Christian worldview.”
Her thoughts stem from the education department’s vision statement of “Serving with Excellence in Education,” encouraging educators to work effectively in P-12 schools. That statement is part of a conceptual framework that provides direction for all education programs, courses, teaching, candidate performance, scholarship, and service. Lenarz is a product of the College’s education department and is now faithfully preparing those in the Adult Studies program to serve with excellence, too.
“I feel so blessed to be able to teach at the institution that I graduated from,” Lenarz said. “Having been a student in the education program myself and seeing what a positive impact that has had on my professional and personal life, it is my goal to provide such an experience to my students.”
Outside of the classroom, Lenarz participates in a book club with former colleagues at Timothy Christian High School, where she taught prior to Trinity, and enjoys exercising. She and her husband, Josh, who is Trinity’s assistant athletics director and serves as head women’s soccer coach, worship at Harvest Bible Chapel and live in Palos Heights, Illinois. They have four children: Peyton, Casey, Dylan, and Ryder.