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Teaching for the Journey: An Interview with Steve Gibbs '04

By Steve Gibbs '04 on Friday, January 5, 2018

Gibbs family portrait

You will find Northwestern alumni in many different places and professions. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Steve Gibbs, the principal of Stewartville High School and Middle School and a 2004 graduate of Northwestern.

Q: How were you impacted by Northwestern?

A: Everything was done from a Christian worldview, which had a huge impact on me. The school did a great job of modeling the right way to act; they really walked the walk.

Q: Can you recall any specific examples of this?

A: Sure, after our first Victory Bowl in football. The game was in Canton, Ohio at Fawcett Stadium next to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was a back and forth game and we finally pulled away in the 4th quarter to win the game. It was so much fun to see our team receive validation for their hard work, but as we looked back on journey to get to that point we realized the real joy was in the experience. Coach Jimmy Miller pulled us together after the game, and talked about the mountain climb of a season that we had just undergone. The joy was in the climb, and the top was cold and windy. It reinforced to me that I needed to take joy in the journey, not the destination.

Q: How does the focus on the journey and not the destination affect what you are doing today?

A: With my role in education, I don’t view the end of the year as the main goal. I don’t stop serving my students at the end of the year. Even when my seniors graduate, I am not done serving them. I really try to continually pour into people. This is what I received during my time at Northwestern and has largely led me to want to give back in this way. I was recently at the homecoming game this fall and I had professors and even Dr. Cureton come up and ask me by name how I was doing. They are really quality people who have a lasting impact. I try to emulate that connection and personal impact.

Q: More specifically, how would you say that you grew as a person during your time at Northwestern?

A: Well, I can tell you that I never had a specific revelation of clarity from God. I am actually thankful for this. As I mentioned before, I have found it to be more about our progression and journey than the destination. I have a phrase I use with students and staff: “I don’t expect perfection, I expect progression.”

Q: So this mentality affects how you interact with students?

A: Absolutely. I expect the kids to grow and progress over time. I don’t expect them to fix everything right away. And we also believe in modeling progression and personal betterment as best we can for our students. I like to say that we are the string that pulls along the progress of our students.

Q: What would be the biggest way that you help and encourage students towards this?

A: Relationships. I want students to know that I care for them and am here for them, even when they make mistakes and mess up. Personal and academic progression will happen at different times in life for every person. I treat every kid who walks through my door as an individual; I want them to flourish and discover their gifts for who God made them to be.

Q: Going back to the broader picture for a moment, how did Northwestern impact the development of your Christian worldview?

A: I think the biggest thing was the expectations, such as chapel. I found Northwestern to be a place focused on spiritual learning and growth, and this was communicated very well. The classes were not just taught from a “how” perspective, but also from a “why” perspective. And the why is what really gets into your mission, vision, and passion. My mission and passion is to serve others.

Q: How do integrate your faith at work?

A: Obviously, given that I work in the school system, there are certain limitations on what I can say about my faith, so I think the biggest thing I can do is be available. Someone once told me “you might be the only Bible that someone reads.” I think it is incredibly important to be an example and a light. It’s like the old saying “preach the gospel continually, if necessary use words.” I’ve got 1100 kids in this building. I want them each to know I care about them.

Q: How does your faith manifest itself at home?

A: I think the biggest thing we do is to keep God at the center of things. I always tell my kids there are three things that are the most important in life: what you do with your faith in Jesus, how you treat people, and how hard you work. I try hard to make sure that my kids develop a faith of their own. I want them to focus on Jesus Christ, not my faith. I want their faith to be their own.

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