PhD Student, Curriculum & Instruction
Chris is studying education because he truly believes in its transformational power.
The best advice Baylor University doctorate student Chris Lemley has for the next generation of educators is to stop letting what they love to do define their search for a career.
“You should stop looking for what you love to do, and do what you believe in,” Lemley said. “Because regardless of what you do, at some point it’s going to be tough, and if you only do it because it’s fun, when it’s not fun, it’s not going to be worth it anymore. But if it’s what you believe in, then it’ll be worth it.”
A Lorena, Texas, native, Lemley found what he believes in inside Guatemalan classrooms—the power of education.
Lemley said, “The great thing about education is that every day is a new day. You’ve got a new class who needs you that day. I wish that everybody felt like somebody needed them every day. I think a lot of people don’t get to have that experience. The great thing about education is that we get to need each other.”
In 2013, Lemley accepted a teaching position at Inter-American School in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. He taught classes in world geography, world history, U.S. history and economics for two years.
Lemley passionately believes social change begins with conversations inside the classroom.
“Social studies are not just history, they’re not just economics and they are not just government,” Lemley said. “Social studies are how we relate to the rest of the world. It was my goal that at the beginning and end of every single lesson, I explicitly stated, ‘So right now, here’s why we need to care about something like the French Revolution, because we’re seeing a revolution happening right now. We can learn from this and apply this right now, today.’”
In Guatemala, Lemley implemented social change into the classroom through encouraging democratic relationships inside class, challenging students to open their minds toward members of their community, focusing the content of lessons and conversation on intentional world topics, and teaching students how to apply information to the world around them.
During his time in Guatemala, Lemley helped students to grapple with social issues through several projects.
For many Guatemalans, the recent history of the Guatemalan Civil War (spanning from 1960 to 1996) is a sensitive topic. It is typically not a subject discussed in Inter-American School. To help his students begin engaging with this topic in a respectful, yet educational, way, Lemley started an oral history project.
“My students interviewed people who were involved in the armed conflict,” Lemley said. “We transcribed, translated those interviews and they’re now being stored at the Human Rights Documentation Initiative at the University of Texas in Austin.”
Another project developed out of an elective Lemley taught called community service. During Lemley’s first year at Inter-American School, his students found a school in the Quetzaltenango community in need of a roof replacement. To raise the funds, Lemley’s students designed and implemented a running race in the middle of the city. After raising enough money, families of Lemley’s students helped build the new roof.
The following year, Lemley’s community service class held another race and raised more money, allowing them to fund construction of a small health clinic in their community.
Lemley also started the National History Day Program in Inter-American School. Lemley wanted to give students the opportunity to be part of a program that had influenced his life positively as a student. The first year of the program involved a history fair. The second year, more schools around Guatemala became involved, and seven students from the schools represented Guatemala at the National History Day Finals in Washington, D.C.
The last big project Lemley started began when the principal of Inter-American School approaching Lemley about starting a summer camp for children who lived around the school. Lemley then brought the idea to his community service students and received an enthusiastic response.
“Our students designed all of the activities, and then they served as the counselors for this camp that was run for the benefit of students that surround the school,” Lemley said.
After Lemley’s two years in Guatemala, Dr. Tony Talbert, professor for Baylor’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, recruited Lemley to come back to Baylor to pursue a doctorate in curriculum & teaching.
Lemley said the support Baylor School of Education offered was far beyond that at several other universities he was considering.
Lemley graduated from Baylor in 2006 with a bachelor’s in secondary education with an emphasis on social studies. That’s where he first met Talbert, who now serves as Lemley’s faculty mentor. In 2007, Lemley obtained a master’s from the University of Houston in curriculum instruction with an emphasis in social education. After completing his master’s, Lemley taught and coached at Duncanville High School for five years.
When he finishes his doctorate, Lemley hopes to invest in the next generation of teachers, because he sees the power of education to change the world by changing people. In fact, it’s something he believes in deeply.
—By Molly Meeker