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Studying CLA: Higher Up and Further In

March 22nd, 2011

By Sarah Pride

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722

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Dr. Laura McCollum in Pedagogy class

As a student teacher at Dominion Academy, a private Christian school in Leesburg, PHC senior Tricia Archer is intently engaged in a season of observation, daily scrutinizing the academy’s fourth-grade classroom processes. It’s part of her phased preparation into full-fledged teaching duties for a few weeks this spring, after which she will phase back and repeat the pattern with the sixth grade.

“I think the hardest part will be the stamina of getting through a whole day of directing classroom flow,” she notes, “the challenge of keeping students busy with their hands.”

Archer is a Classical Liberal Arts (CLA) major at Patrick Henry College, one of a small group who have taken the philosophy of the core curriculum and extended it into their upperclassmen years, in many cases translating it into exciting teaching opportunities. In the same way that PHC’s comprehensive core curriculum exposes all students to the same wide diversity of subjects, from literature to physics, CLA majors alone sample an upper-level selection of courses from at least five disciplines.

“Students major in CLA to begin pursuing the connections between all things,” explains Dr. Laura McCollum, Associate Professor of Education at PHC as well as the Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness & Strategic Initiatives.

“The major follows the same philosophy as the core, only ‘higher up and further in,’” she continues, quoting the Narnia series.

Before coming to PHC in 2006, Dr. McCollum, a mother of two, gained significant experience in accreditation processes and academic administration at other universities and authored over a dozen online education courses. She describes her zeal for the field of education as a passion discovered by “witnessing the power of mentorship.” As she enjoys explaining to her fellow faculty at PHC, students learn just as much from who their teacher is as from what he or she says.

“We are all actually teachers because we are in relationship with others—whether formally or not, we are all teaching and learning from each other,” she says. “Jesus is often held up as the master teacher, but people forget that He is also the master learner.”

In addition to the breadth of their study, CLA majors take Pedagogy I and II, each of which provide a broad overview of teaching philosophy, methodology, and the history of education. Jackquelyn Haws Veith, Adjunct Professor of Education, teaches the second class in the sequence, and Dr. McCollum the first.

Pedagogy class at PHC

“We believe that classical education is the most effective, but Pedagogy II also gives the whole continuum of methodologies out there,” says Veith. “If a future parent is considering where to send a child, he needs to know what it means for a school to have a certain policy on education.”

Teaching, says Veith, is “exhilarating, creative, exciting, and humbling all at once.” She started teaching foreign languages after college at the same time as she began her family with Dr. Gene Edward Veith, PHC’s future Provost. Their academic aspirations converged when her husband began exploring the topic of classical education and writing about it while her interests expanded into how people learn in general.

“Our interests coincided,” she explains.

Currently, although the College’s CLA major offers a broad academic foundation for future teachers, it isn’t officially an “Education” major per se. To achieve that, it will have to include classes in methodology, assessment, curriculum design, and more—a goal that Dr. McCollum and Mrs. Veith hope to incorporate in years to come.

PHC students nonetheless frequently make exceptional teachers—and CLA majors in particular seem to be excelling. Many northern Virginia-based Christian classical schools, in fact, actively recruit PHC students, while other alumni are busy in an array of teaching positions, including private tutoring, running a one-room schoolhouse, serving as a distance learning instructor, and managing a public school classroom.

In coming weeks we will feature some of our present and former CLA majors, as well as others who are taking advantage of the broad PHC education to teach, no matter their major. These include:


  • Katherine Kramer (CLA, ’10) currently works for Immanuel Lutheran School in Alexandria, VA. She teaches second grade and calls PHC “an excellent program for future teachers,” particularly for those who, like as herself, are “teachers of everything.” She especially enjoyed the “mixed episodes of laughter and mind-blowing educational philosophy” in Pedagogy I and II.


  • Christy Hailes (CLA, ’09) graduated from PHC a semester early, after helping Dr. McCollum and her team develop the curriculum for the Faith and Reason Portfolio that all PHC students are now expected to take. She works for Trinity Christian School in Fairfax, VA as its Middle and Upper School instructor for debate and theater arts. PHC prepared her, she says, to have “a hard head and a soft heart,” qualities essential for a “world where a sharp mind is essential to maintaining one’s faith while engaging the culture and making positive impact.”


  • Kirsten Etherton (CLA, ’06) also works at Trinity Christian School. Last year she volunteered at a classical private school in northern Iraq where, she recalls, the electricity often went out at sunset. She would go up on her rooftop, look out over the city, and pray for the people she knew and loved there. She explains that her preparation in PHC’s Eden Troupe allowed her to teach Iraqi children drama in addition to ancient history and world geography, and that her worldview training helped her see how Islam affected the way they thought.


  • Benjamin Guido (CLA, ’11) plans to attend graduate school to study philosophy, with the goal of teaching at the college level. As part of his apprenticeship credit at PHC, he interned at a local church, directed a play, and wrote a musical.


  • Juli Schuttger (CLA, ’09) manages a one-room schoolhouse for ten homeschooled students in Texas. Building on prior experience teaching in a university-model school and also helping to educate her six younger siblings, Schuttger sat down with several homeschool parents and laid out a curriculum. The school meets from 8:00am to 1:30pm in a converted mechanics barn.


  • Lillie Schmidt (Literature, ’10) didn’t graduate with plans to teach, but her Eden Troupe and soccer team participation at PHC led directly to two jobs—teaching history at Artios Academy, a homeschool program focused on the creative arts, and coaching soccer. PHC, she says, “enabled me to pursue areas other than my degree,” such as taking Pedagogy as an elective.


  • Lisa Adams (Literature, ’07) started teaching in high school. After graduating high school, she taught writing classes to homeschoolers in northern Virginia, using her private classes to help pay for her PHC degree. And for almost two years after college graduation, she taught fifth grade at Trinity Christian School. Now, as a young mom, she teaches private writing classes one day a week. She uses her PHC education, she says, “every time I teach.”


  • Caleb Jones (Government, ’08) found that 2008 wasn’t the best year to win a job as a Republican staffer, and so he returned home to Louisiana and earned a teaching certificate. As a public school teacher, he finds that “it is fun to absolutely blow a kid’s mind with simple facts about the world.” He has also published freelance writing locally and elsewhere, and he has ambitions to “go to law school, or maybe seminary,” but meanwhile he is finding enjoyment where he is. At PHC, he says, “I learned to love learning. By loving learning, I started loving teaching others and letting them learn.”


  • Jennifer Schlaudt (Literature, ’08) was surprised to find how much she enjoyed tutoring homeschool students after she graduated from PHC. When she returned to PHC for the 2009 Commencement, Dr. Michael Farris told her about a new initiative, the PHC Prep Academy. Since she had spent five semester in PHC’s distance learning program herself, she understood the possibilities of this new idea to teach Advanced Placement courses to homeschoolers. For the 2010-2011 school year, she served as a Classroom Teacher for the AP English Literature & Composition course.