10 receive Christian Education certification


Ten MACUCC church members received their Christian Education certification at the 216th Annual Meeting on June 13th, 2015. To receive certification, educators must complete six required classes and two electives. Learn more here. 

This year's recipients were:

Janet Brown
---Janet began in her current position as the Director of Children & Family Ministries at Agawam Congregational Church in June of 2011. She seeks to teach and nurture faith in people of all ages, and prayerfully designs and leads programs that will meet the needs of today’s families.  Janet oversees the administration of the Sunday School and nursery care programs, leads 'Joy' Fellowship for the high school students, and implements 'Faithful Friends,' an intergenerational ministry that pairs senior adults with children for monthly activities.  Additionally, she works with the Agawam Family & Community Program to oversee a weekly playgroup for the community as well as other “inreach” opportunities for family education.  She enjoys working with a team to design an intergenerational worship service each month, and works with several families to provide encouragement and support.  In the summer months, Janet leads Vacation Bible School each year.  Before joining the ACC family, Janet worked in the classroom as a public school teacher, as well as in the non-profit community, supporting children and their families in their educational goals. Her next adventure begins in August as she pursues a Master of Arts in Children, Family and Youth Ministry.  Janet lives in Southwick with her husband, Randy  and loves spending time with her two young children, Jaxson and Madelyn.  Janet is excited to see what the future holds for her as she continues to serve. 

Stephanie Collins--- Stephanie began working as the Director of Christian Education at the First Congregational Church of Paxton, UCC in August of 2013 after teaching Sunday School there for many years.  She worked as an electrical engineer for Digital Equipment Corporation for 11 years before becoming a full time mom.  She and her husband, Mike, were members of the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Leominster, where they were actively involved with the Youth Group and Christian Education programs.   After their third daughter was born in 1997 they moved and joined First Congregational Church of Paxton.  Stephanie feels blessed to have a supportive church community as well as to have an opportunity to follow her passion to pass on the Christian faith to both children and adults.  The leadership and other Christian Educators she has met throughout this CE Certification process have shared SO MANY exciting ways to connect with children and share faith, Stephanie has discovered that the enthusiasm is infectious and “catching.”

Sheryl Ellis---Sheryl Ellis was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic.  When she was a young adult, she filed for divorce and was told to leave the church.  Sheryl then began her search for her own faith.  She found a good fit within the United Church of Christ.   Sheryl has been a Sunday school teacher for 40 years.  During that time, she has taught in 4 states; California, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  She has also taught in Iceland.  While in New Hampshire, Sheryl’s youngest son moved out of Sunday school and into Confirmation class.  She then created a Grade 3 “Learn-to-use-the-Bible” class that guides them once they have received their Bibles.  In 2010 Sheryl was hired by Brookline Community Church to be the Superintendent of Sunday School.   After a year she was promoted to Director of Christian Education.  She continued to work for them until 2013 when she was hired by the United Parish of Auburndale to be the Director of Religious Education where she is currently employed.  Sheryl  has learned that as she teaches, her faith grows with her students and she is looking forward to the rest of the journey.

Hannah Shailer ---Hannah is 16 years old and has been serving as a Sunday school teacher for 2 years at Brookfield Congregational Church.   She teaches the PreK- 1st grade class using the Spark-Lectionary curriculum and she also teaches 2nd & 3rd grades with the Spark- Rotational Teaching- Art program.  Hannah also recently went on her first mission trip to Chile and she has been active with the Brookfield CC  youth group as well as many other school activities and missions supported by our church and community, such as Socks for Siberia, Crop Walk for Hunger, Heifer International and Dismas Farm in Oakham.

Jennifer Healy---Though Jennifer didn’t grow up in a church, she has always had a self-proclaimed “thing for Jesus” that found a home and a place to grow at the Church of the Pilgrimage, Plymouth in 1998. She has always also had a passion for working with children from early babysitting experiences to child care and teaching at New England Home for Little Wanderers to running the crib room and co-chairing the Board of Christian Education. Even with a degree in a self-designed major from Clark University and a Masters of Education from Wheelock College, she has loved being at home with her two kids (now both teenagers) and baking bread for the Plymouth Farmers Market as well as various church events. Now Jenny’s "thing" for Jesus and her formal education find a happy marriage in this newly created position of Director of Christian Education.  

Rachel Karstunen---Rachel is a member of the First Church in Pembroke where she serves on the Christian Education committee.  She is also the lead teacher and the Sunday school superintendent. She has been attending her church's mission trip to West Virginia for the past 10 years. She holds a degree from Westfield State University in Elementary Education and enjoys working with children.

Carla Provost---Carla has served as a Christian Education Director at the First Congregational Church of Randolph (FCCR) since 2010.  She taught Sunday School for 7 years (2003 – 2010) ranging from K – Grade 7.  She is hearing impaired due to a birth defect from maternal German Measles during the epidemic in the 1960’s.  Carla wears one hearing aid and her other ear is deaf.  She has learned some American Sign Language (ASL) and sometimes uses it with her Sunday School students.  Carla has been very grateful to her Sunday School Teachers and Teacher Helpers to hear for her at times when she couldn’t comprehend what the Sunday School students were saying.  It has been Carla’s dream to be an Elementary School Teacher and being involved in the C. E. program has made part of her dream come true.  Carla has been involved with her local PTO.  She is a Box Tops For Education co-Coordinator for Randolph Community Middle School and she is a Boy Scouts Committee member for Troop 47 Randolph.  Carla’s husband, Tom, is a Deacon at the FCCR and a Troop 47 Asst. Scoutmaster.  They have 2 sons – Logan, an Eagle Scout and a freshman at UMass Lowell; and Erik, a Troop 47 Patrol Leader and a junior at Randolph H.S.  Carla was raised in a Catholic family, but in the early 1990’s, she joined the FCCR partly because her late father was Protestant.  Carla received her 1st Bible at the FCCR because she needed it to prepare her Sunday School lessons and ever since then, she has been reading the beautiful Bible stories with her Sunday School students.  Carla has worked hard to bring the Bible stories to life for her Sunday School students and the rewards she receives is seeing the awe and joy on the children’s faces.  Carla looks forward to snuggling in her comforter with a good book at the end of a busy day especially on a Sunday!

Nancy Sides---“Let the children come unto me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” These words from the Gospel of Matthew have guided Nancy Sides’ ministry in Christian Education for the past 39 years.   A graduate of Clemson University, she began working with youth in the late 70’s as a volunteer advisor at the Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson, South Carolina.  She immediately fell in love with youth work in the church.  She continued volunteer youth work as she moved to Amherst, MA, Potsdam, NY, Harvard, MA, and finally Westminster, MA. She led the Star Island United Church of Christ Youth Conference for 8 years and co-led the adult conference with her husband for 3 years.  The calling to serve the church grew stronger and clearer.  Nancy participated in Massachusetts Conference workshops and programs such as Partners in Education at Andover Newton in the late 80s and early 90s, completing the PIE program in 1992, the year in which she also completed the national UCC certification program and was officially certified as a Designated Church Educator.  These additional qualifications led to the First Congregational Church of Westminster, where she had volunteered as a church school teacher, youth group advisor, and church school superintendent, to create the paid position of Christian Education Coordinator, which she has had the honor and joy to serve as for the past 23 years.  In this position, she is responsible for all aspects of Christian education in her church, birth through high school.  Beginning in 2000, the First Congregational Church of Westminster was one of the first churches in Massachusetts to adopt the rotation model, based on Howard Gardner’s multiple dimensional teaching and learning strategies, for its church school program.  Based on her experience, Nancy has been a long time promoter of the program and has assisted many churches throughout the state in understanding and starting their own rotation models.  She also co-leads the confirmation program—one of her greatest joys—with the pastor.  And since its beginning seven years ago, she has co-led a Community of Practice for Christian Educators for the Central Area of the Mass Conference.   Serving God through the children and youth in the local church is one of Nancy’s greatest passions, planting seeds, making disciples, and watching children and youth explore and grow in their faith.  Nancy feels that she has been blessed with the opportunities that life has provided to answer God’s “call to serve” through Christian education.   Nancy lives in Westminster with her husband of almost 41 years.  They have two adult children and 4 cats!  Her free time is filled with yoga, biking, mandalas, and creative cooking.  

Beverly Smith---Bev is a member of West Parish Church in Andover, Ma. She was baptized at West Parish in 1954 and grew up in that church with her three siblings. Coming back to West Parish in 1990 with her son, Andy, then 5 years old, she taught in the pre-school Sunday school class for 8 years. She then spent two years as the CE Director. After a few years off, she again started teaching the pre-K and Kindergarten class in 2005. Sunday school at West Parish became Sunday COOL -'Children of our Lord'. As the number of children attending started to fall, West Parish went to a 'One Room Schoolhouse' model with a class of children from age 4 through 5th grade. Bev continued to be one of several teachers in that class until 2013. In September of 2013, the CE Ministry created a paid position called 'Sunday COOL Lead Teacher' and hired Bev for that position in which she currently continues with regular parent helpers each week. Having been around West Parish Sunday school for quite some time, Bev is waiting, happily, for that inevitable day when she teaches the child of a child she taught in the past.....the next generation. Joyful, joyful...children are amazing and are windows to God.

Margaret Sullivan---Peggy has been serving as a Sunday school teacher at Brookfield Congregational Church for several years and has been Superintendent of Sunday School for one year.  She has a strong passion for helping young children understand what it is to be a disciple of our Lord.  Allowing children to be involved in missions at every opportunity possible helps them understand first hand, what it must have been like to be Jesus, to love and to care for all others.  Peggy also assists with the youth ministry and teen outreach in the Brookfield community.


All of the recipients of the Certification in Christian Education are members of the Association of Church Educators (AUCE) and Christian Education Communities of Practice.

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