Derek Wilson’s teaching prowess covers a great span: from the most rigorous, post-AP course offered at GAC to the most fundamental, traditional course offered to high school students, many of them who are new to the United States.
The post-AP course is called Scholar Capstone, a research and writing course that challenges students to delve into weighty subjects such as the ethics of race, gender, disability, war, reproductive technology, and genetics technology, among others. Students read college-level course material and discuss the finer points together seminar-style. They are required to write a 15-18 page term thesis paper on a topic of their choice, and after fine-tuning it over a period of months, present their paper to a panel comprised of teachers, deans, principals, and students.
Paper topics run the entire gamut: from the morality of bio-enhancement to the use of genetic engineering on embryos to the Christology of second-generation immigrants. While it may sound intimidating, Derek says, “It’s a really neat and good experience for them, and next year, students will be able to earn three hours of dual college credit for the course.”
The bell rings, and Derek is able to switch gears to teaching with an entirely different paradigm. Bible 101, a class developed to meet the unique needs of GAC’s international students. “Students come in not knowing anything about Jesus. Most of them think Jesus is a white American. Or they think that most Christians aren’t intellectual. What they learn at GAC is mindblowing,” Derek explains. During the course, these students are paired up with an American student, who helps them understand what it means to believe. This relationship is mutually beneficial, fostering a sense of understanding and new perspective for each student.
Derek has been teaching Bible to high school students for the last 10 years (the last five of which he has served as the Department Chair). He majored in Spanish Language and Literature and minored in Bible at Harding University and also earned a Master’s degree in Christian Ministry at Abilene Christian University in 2014. Currently, he is working on his Doctorate in Educational Ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary.
Derek discovered his calling in 2006 when he took a job teaching English at an institute in China while also working as a missionary with an underground church. He returned to the States in 2007 to begin teaching at GAC. “I knew that I wanted to influence students’ lives and make a difference for the Kingdom. I had several teachers and mentors that were incredibly influential in my life, and I wanted to be able to pass that along to my students. After teaching my first year, I knew I loved it, and that it was something I wanted to continue.”
Derek is able to switch gears in yet another way: hands-on mission work and leadership. In 2009, he helped found the Atlanta Mission Junior Board, Atlanta’s oldest and most established homeless shelter which connects suburban students with homeless men. During the summer of 2010, Derek worked in Kosovo in an outreach to Muslims. He leads several mission trips each year, and these take him to China, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, with groups ranging from 20-70 students.
Derek has proven himself to be a deep thinker and a well-rounded servant. No matter who you are, what your background is, or what your intellectual or spiritual pursuit is, Derek Wilson has something meaningful to offer every GAC student who is lucky enough to enter his classroom or work beside him.