“I try to teach by talking as little as possible,” Mr. Garvin explained, sharing some of his thoughts on teaching. He said that by opening the class up to discussion he gives students a chance to state their opinions, ideas, and questions. Students in his classroom say he transmits respect to students, making them feel valued.
It is very common to find other faculty at Hillcrest with Mr. Garvin's approach to the classroom. Mr. and Mrs. Preston, Mr. Peterson, Dawn Synstelien and Kendra Grothman were noted as a handful of teachers who listen well. These teachers are often found sitting at lunch or standing in front of a class with their mouth closed and eyes fixated on students who are sharing their thoughts, ideas, and questions.
The classroom care and attention boils over to other aspects of Hillcrest. Some students find themselves waking early to meet over coffee and scones at Café 116. Seven girls, ranging in age, meet every Tuesday morning for a group they call The Breakfast Club. Freshman Paige Schultz says the group of girls has built and strengthened their friendships. She shares that the consistency in meeting and attendance of the group is what opens the door for strong relationships. Each week the girls share and process their lives together. Hard questions are asked and stories are told, forming a special bond by listening to each other, being interested in each other, and caring about what one another has to say.
Other areas of student life continue the classroom theme of care and respect at Hillcrest. Students walk across the parking lot from Hillcrest to Bethel on Wednesday nights to continue their faith training. “It's nice to have a safe place to have deep conversations," started Karina Larson, a Senior who attends one of Bethel's small groups. She explained that youth group is having a big impact on her Hillcrest experience. "Since it's the same girls every week it really has built relationships.” Every week the girls in her group share their high and lows of the past week, talking through the good and the bad with each other. Hillcrest dean Kendra Grothmann leads the small group, creating a place for students to share life with one another. The group bonds, listening to the struggles and the joys of their week, closing by sharing prayer requests.
Teachers, like Mr. Garvin, do the selfless act of listening by letting students do the talking. As small group meets every Wednesday, or breakfast club every Tuesday morning, these relationship aren't just about the talking but the listening, it is about letting the other know that they are valued. This type of listening the kind that isn’t required, the listening that takes patience, the selfless listening to a friend or a child. The kind that brings no benefit to the listener, the listening that has no room for pride. This is the listening that has a deep purpose, that carries the most power, leaves the biggest impact, and that changes lives. This is the type of listening the students at Hillcrest get to experience and learn from.