2020 was a year for the history books!
In a year filled with tragedies like a world-wide pandemic, widespread fires, hurricanes and social injustice (just to name a few) we’ve learned that dramatic change is not only possible, but more likely necessary. Throughout history we’ve learned that major disruptions, while sometimes painful, can bring about growth. I think we can all agree that 2020 brought major disruption in many ways. So, what does this mean for Lutheran Special Education Ministries? The honest answer is… we don’t know yet. Joshua spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, carefully discerning God’s will until he and the people of Israel were called into the land they’d been promised. In those forty years they celebrated some successes, but they also strayed from the path at times and suffered the consequences. Each time God gently guided them back toward the goal and kept His promise to deliver them from their suffering. While I don’t believe we’ll wander for forty years, it will take us some time to figure out exactly what lessons God would have us learn during this time of disruption. Things will most definitely change. We too will have successes and failures, but God keeps His promises, and His ways are always good. So, we will pray for eyes to see the doors He is opening for us and to be bold enough to follow the course He has set for us. Today we draw inspiration from the good people of LSEM who have gone before us. In 2023 we will celebrate 150 years in ministry! 150 YEARS! Over those years we have always endeavored to meet the needs of those around us, first by opening our doors to orphans of the Civil War. Eventually it was recognized that many of those orphans were hearing impaired, so we transitioned into a deaf school – becoming Lutheran School for the Deaf in Detroit. When legislation changed, we modified our approach yet again to expand our support to students with other learning needs, not just the deaf community. Today we stand at the precipice of expansion and we’re enthusiastic about the future and whatever that may bring. As we continue to expand our reach to meet the needs of students in Christian schools, we will continue to need your sup-port in big ways and small. Student instruction has taken a more hybrid approach and requires more technology than ever before. While our teachers are very skilled at altering their instruction to promote the success of all our learners, they will need our support in many ways. Please continue to pray for our teachers and students. Please continue to share your talents and treasures, being confident that your help makes a big difference, no matter the size of the gift. We are grateful for all you do for us and we look forward to celebrating BIG with you along the way to 150 years and beyond!
Stacy J. Hoeft
LSEM teachers continued to provide outstanding instruction and support for their students throughout the unprecedented time of school closures last spring and the variety of learning environ-ments this Fall! All teachers across the country had to adapt quickly to a vitual format, but our teachers faced an even greater challenge with the many grade levels of students on their caseload and meeting indi-vidual student needs. In some cases, they also discovered that what they had spent hours preparing the night before did not work for a specific student, or the student did not do well using a certain modality. The only aspect of our teachers’ work over the last year that didn’t change is that they have continued to go above and beyond to determine what works best for each student, and they are constantly adapting. LSEM has been able to provide additional resources and materials as needed by the teachers. In cases where schools are wanting students to stay in one classroom and have the teachers move instead, something as simple as a rolling cart to transport supplies can make the lives of our teachers’ easier. LSEM teachers have been even more committed to providing for the individual needs of students over the last year, and they have each done an exemplary job!
One year ago, who would have imagined how the last 10 months of 2020 would have played out? With a world-wide pandemic impacting everybody on the planet, LSEM adapted and continued to serve children who have learning needs. Our teachers innovated and developed new skills to meet the needs of our students whether they were meeting in-person, meeting virtually, or a hybrid of these two approaches. Children who struggle under the best of conditions were facing challenges beyond anything they had ever experienced. But our LSEM teachers, our students, their parents, and our LSEM friends and supporters rose to the occasion and met this challenge! Thank you for your part – whether you made a financial gift or pledge, supported our golf outing, joined our Christmas Tea, included LSEM in your estate plan, networked on our behalf, or prayed for us – we did this together! Thank you for working with us so that, in spite of a world-wide pandemic, our children would have the in-person and virtual resources they need to continue to receive the specialized instruction they need and the Christian education they desire!
Programs and Services
God continued to bless LSEM during 2020 with a fifth consecutive year of growth. We grew by increasing our FTE in schools by 6%. As of the start of the 2020-21 school year, we have 71 partnerships, serving schools in 15 states as well as in Vietnam. We were also able to grow in knowledge as Kara Bratton, LSEM’s Director of Special Education earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education Leadership degree from Concordia University Chicago. The number of educators listening to our Lutheran Education Podcast grew in 2020, providing insight and information to teachers around the world. Finally, our teachers showed tremendous growth in their mastery of educational technology as they met the challenges of COVID-19 in their schools. But while the methods of instructional delivery changed, the teachers continued to provide our students with instructional support, stability, and the love of Jesus Christ. This has been true for 148 years, and we are all honored to continue the important work of this ministry.
In July, LSEM relocated its National Office to available space within the Michigan District, LCMS office in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since 1873, LSEM has helped thousands of children to know Jesus and lead fulfilling lives, but there are tens of thousands yet to be served. We are excited and very thankful for the new opportunities as we move into the future!