A Life of Education
Berkner’s Love For Teaching Inspires Students
Keene, Texas » Whether teaching first grade or college, Dr. Donna Berkner, Chair of the Education and Psychology Department, strives to share applicable, real-life knowledge. She offers mentorship and friendship whenever possible, drawing from years of experience and from her time as a Southwestern Adventist University student, class of 1992.
“I love teaching,” says Berkner. “I love the student interaction and watching students have an ‘aha’ moment. That happens whether teaching first grade or college.”
Berkner taught for twelve years at a variety of grade levels and eight years as the Keene Adventist Elementary School Principal. Her teaching style is inspired by Southwestern professors, but one professor in particular, Fran Mosely, stands out to Berkner.
“She was honest with us,” says Berkner. “She had a genuine love for education, and she lived what she said. I think of Dr. Fran Mosely often when I am with students. I want to give real-life experiences like she gave to me.”
Berkner takes pride in helping students succeed. As a first grade teacher, she taught children to read. One day, the students went on a field trip to a skating rink. One student worriedly told Berkner, “We can’t take our lunch boxes inside!” She looked up to see a sign that stated no food would be allowed on the ice. Happy that the child read on his own, outside of the classroom, Berkner told him that his lunch box was safe.
Teaching different ages and working as a principal offered unique challenges. Through it all, Berkner made it her mission, working at private Christian schools, to let students know that Jesus loves them. Christian education is important to Berkner. When Berkner decided to pursue a career as a college professor, her goal was to teach at Southwestern.
“Education sets the tone for our lives,” says Berkner. “That’s why Southwestern is important. I created friendships at Southwestern with both faculty and friends that set the tone for my life, and even my children’s lives. There’s a generational giveback that matters.”
Berkner started teaching at Southwestern in 2011. During her first year, she had an admittedly surreal experience. A large group of Berkner’s original, first grade students happened to be students at Southwestern that year. They got together and took a “class reunion” photo.
Berkner became chair of the Education and Psychology department in July 2017. She enjoys using social media to connect with friends and students. The hashtag #iamSWAU often appears on Berkner’s Instagram and Twitter posts. She even has photography competitions with fellow professors at Southwestern.
Ultimately, Berkner attributes her success to God. She wants to set a Godly example for students, and to be a mentor to help them make good choices.
“Students at all ages need affirmation and to know that there is someone fighting for them,” says Berkner. “They still need to know that they are loved and accepted. I want these young people to have adults in their lives that believe in them.
There is so much value in christian education. I pray that parents would prayerfully consider christian education at all levels.”
Learn more about the education and psychology undergraduate and graduate program at swau.edu/edpsych.