Introduction: We are excited to continue our Educator Spotlight series, which regularly will bring you inside the classroom of one of our exceptional educators. In doing so, the series will offer you a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, preparing them for college and beyond while forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community. Today, we are spotlighting Theology Educator Austin Faur. Our first spotlight was on English Educator Maria Hill.
Students racing past Room 117 in the theology hallway in between classes on a recent Monday morning, stop for the briefest of moments, to high-five with Theology Educator Austin Faur. Not all of them are his current students, but they all seem to know Faur, who has been teaching at Gibbons for just two years.
The bell rings and the freshmen file into his Theology 9 Introduction to Catholicism Class. For the next 45 minutes Faur brings Scripture to life through music. Using lyrics by singer-songwriter Taylor Swift he drives home the point of today’s class: the importance of understanding context and genre to become better interpreters of God’s word.
“The hope,” he adds, “is that the students will see how different genres of literature can dramatically change our understanding of what we are reading.”
No easy task. But Faur meets the challenge by dimming the lights and playing Swift’s video for “Look What You Made Me Do.” Instantly, the entire class is captivated. For the next 15 plus minutes, as the images flash on the screen, Faur walks up and down the rows of desks illustrating how Swift sprinkled historical and cultural references throughout the song, much the same way as the writers of the Gospels did. The key to interpreting both the song or Scripture, he tells the class, is grasping the references contained within them. The students turn to one another and whisper their agreement.
The video ends, the lights are turned on, and Faur, not missing a beat, presents the students with an intriguing assignment: Thinking like the Gospel writers, craft a first-person account, using references, text, and images, of what it was like to be students during their first month at Gibbons.
Within minutes the students take out their laptops, form small groups, and are hard at work. Meanwhile, Faur moves between desks to answer questions, provide clarification, or offer a helpful hint or two on how to get started. Amid the excited chatter and lively conversation emanating from the groups, proclamations of, “I get it Mr. Faur,” from one after another of the students, can be heard. It is clear they are engaging with their faith.