Burney Culpepper joined the BMA staff as principal in 2019. In addition to being principal, he teaches personal finance, physical education, and coaches the Aerial Aires gymnastics team. He and his wife have four children, two horses, and two dogs.
When asked about his philosophy of education, this is what he says:
“If you have good sense, instruction will help you to have even better sense. And if you live right, education will help you to know even more.” Proverbs 9:9 CEV
Nearly 23 years of academy experience has shown me that education is a dynamic and fluid experience requiring educators to continually grow and adapt. While I could outline some of the many important lessons concerning education and more importantly student learning, there are four foundational principles that form the backbone of my educational philosophy.
At risk of sounding trite, my immediate thoughts turn toward the spiritual side of learning. I have experienced that this is what makes Adventist education the most effective. Spirituality, like our devotion to God, must be first in whatever it is we do. While important in any SDA education setting, this is particularly critical in an academy institution where students are at such an important time of their lives.
Following closely behind, but not surpassing it in importance, involves identifying the appropriate pedagogical strategies that will prepare students for continued success. I would say that teaching cannot be confined to one style or comfort zone, as much learning is accomplished when students are encouraged to explore outside of where they are most confident. Whereas one teaching discipline may work best in a classroom setting, others must need to take on a more creative approach. Students must be encouraged to make the education being given, shared or explored, as their own. Thus engaged, true learning retention may occur.
Our role in education should also teach students the value of attempting difficult things. Without a strong foundational work ethic, academic learning is of minimal value. It is my estimation that an SDA school should be perfectly arranged to allow the students the safe environment for both success and temporary failure. Without this ethic, many students may never proceed past the basic learning of the academic world.
Learning does not stop with school, but increases as a person enters the workforce and throughout the their lives. We are told that we will be ever learning in Heaven and this process should begin here.
The final area of importance comes in the form of all the other non-measurable aspects of learning. Student interaction with community, abiding in the government of the school, social experiences with other students and staff all help to form the character for future growth. These are the experiences that many times the students fondly remember as having a positive influence on the direction of their lives.
The mandate given to our schools is to prepare our students to serve their families, church and community. A program that emphasizes spirituality, academics, work ethic and the social aspect will achieve this mandate.
One of the most famous quotes from the pen of Ellen White is found in the book Education:
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men(and women)-men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, mean who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right thigh the heavens fall.”
This sounds good, but how is this done?
“A noble character is the result of self-discipline of the subjection of the lower to the higher nature-the surrender of self for the service of love to God and man.” Education pg. 57.
This is my prayer for all of our schools. May God bless and guide as we seek to prepare students for this life and the next.