The Unexpected Comment that Changed Everything
Mitch Evans, Class of 1997
What seemed to be an offhand comment at a high school football game, turned out to be life-changing for Mitch Evans, Class of 1997.
Mitch was a freshman studying biology at the University of Florida when he returned to The First Academy to watch a football game and catch up with friends. As he stood along the fenceline, Headmaster Ed Gamble stopped by to see how things were going at college and to tell Mitch that he was going to hire him one day.
Mitch laughed it off and went on to finish his bachelor’s degree. But before he could find a job in his field, an opening came up for a long-term substitute teacher at The First Academy, a private Christian school in Orlando, FL.
“I taught English, and I actually enjoyed it,” said Mitch, who hadn’t really considered teaching until the headmaster’s remark. “Then, there was an opening to teach biology the next year.”
And Mitch just never stopped teaching. It was the “aha” moments when a student grasped a new concept that made him keep renewing his teaching contract.
“I enjoy discussing ideas,” he said, “and the process of getting students to learn. I fell in love with teaching.”
Mitch clearly saw God’s leading as he continued teaching. In his nine years teaching at TFA, Mitch met and married his wife, Dawn, who taught across the hall. He also developed a mentor relationship with Dr. Scott Toenges, who taught the Christian Studies class when Mitch was a student and continues to teach and serve as the campus pastor.
“Dr. Toenges taught us that the Christian faith is a reasonable faith. It is a defensible faith that can stand on its own,” said Mitch, who went on to earn his master’s of education and doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The First Academy taught me that I don’t have to sacrifice being a Christian in order to pursue higher academics.”
Mitch shared this philosophy when he spoke recently at a national conference about spiritual formation in the classroom and spent three years researching and writing a chapter about helping schools flourish for the Association of Christian Schools International, which is an accrediting agency for TFA.
Now, after teaching biology for 12 years at North Raleigh Christian Academy, he is following in Dr. Toenges’ footsteps and teaching Christian Studies in North Carolina.
“Obviously, I relate to TFA’s aspiration of becoming a devoted Christ follower,” Mitch said. “I see teaching as a way to advance God’s kingdom.”
“… I relate to TFA’s aspiration of becoming a devoted Christ follower. I see teaching as a way to advance God’s kingdom.”
But studying Christianity isn’t enough. Mitch wants his students in North Carolina to apply what they’re learning.
“How can we get them serving?” he asked. “I want to know, ‘What is your passion? And how can we take those gifts and use them in service for the kingdom?’ TFA instilled that in me.”
TFA prepared him for an excellent college and career, Mitch said. But — just as important — TFA taught him to be open to God’s leading, even when it’s an unexpected direction.
“I owe TFA so much.”
Do you know of other TFA alumni who are using their passions in service for the kingdom? Share their stories with Megan Fleming, Creative Marketing & Alumni Manager, at (407) 206-8609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.