Long before he built a legacy as dean of the Baylor School of Education, Dr. Jon Engelhardt was a middle school math teacher in Arizona. He was young and just out of college, and few might have guessed the impact those early days in the classroom would have on Baylor students today. Engelhardt was shaped by the joys and challenges of working with students of varying abilities and the highs and lows of everything that comes along with being a teacher.
“Every day I’d come home and my knees would be sore,” he remembers. But he wasn’t sore from standing in front of the class for hours on end. His knees were sore from kneeling at desks dozens of times, to find out where students needed help. After each visit, he’d hop up, move over a desk or two, and kneel down again for personalized instruction with another student.
“I realized teaching wasn’t about the sage on the stage, talking from on high,” Engelhardt said. “It’s teaching small groups and individuals as they are learning and helping individuals understand when it appears they are having trouble.”
The image of a young Engelhardt kneeling down is a fitting one for a man whose servant leadership at Baylor has been marked by helping others — Baylor students, teachers and superintendents in the community, and his colleagues in higher education.
As Engelhardt retires after eight years of leadership in the School of Education, his colleagues are honoring his legacy through a gift that will benefit future students. The Jon M. Engelhardt Endowed Scholarship in Education was started this year by an anonymous donor, and the effort was matched by members of the School of Education faculty, staff and advisory board members — individuals who saw firsthand Engelhardt’s servant leadership.
“Dr. Engelhardt has given of himself personally and professionally to the education of future leaders,” said Dr. John Wilson, an SOE clinical professor and donor to the fund. “This scholarship celebrates his contributions in a way that is in keeping with the spirit of his servant leadership. It will make a difference, and that’s what he has done.”
In the School of Education is a wall of photos of every former SOE dean. Engelhardt laughs as he acknowledges that he’s always called it the “rogues gallery” and that his picture will soon hang there. While his image will always be there, he’s thankful that the scholarship will allow a piece of him to continue his legacy in a way that will help aspiring teachers receive a distinct Baylor education.
“I’d rather not just be a picture on the wall. I’d rather have something demonstrable that’s still touching the lives of students. I’m grateful this scholarship can use me as an excuse to raise money for what’s really important — helping Baylor students who will someday make a difference in the lives of their own students.” — by Derek Smith