Two Stars and A Wish…

Tim Van SoelenThe CACE Roundtable1 Comment

I hope it is OK for me to dedicate this blog to one of the original thought leaders in the biblical framework for teaching that we call Teaching for Transformation or TfT. As some of you may know, CACE has been partnering with the Prairie Centre for Christian Education (PCCE) in developing and delivering TfT to schools in the United States. There are over thirty schools in the implementation process of TfT, challenging themselves to adopt the core practices of TfT amongst their faculty. Some schools have even challenged themselves to think how TfT changes the way they equip their athletic coaches or how the Throughlines of TfT should shape high school prom. But this post is not specifically about TfT, it is a tribute to our friend and colleague Doug Monsma who was taken to his heavenly home on October 2.

One of my most meaningful interactions with Doug was at a conference held at Dordt University in 2013, a collaborative event hosted by Dordt University’s Andreas Center for Reformed Scholarship and the good folks who make up the board of Christian Educators Journal (CEJ). There were a number of excellent presentations (here is a link to the October 2014 CEJ journal that documented those presentations) but one that really captured my imagination, as I continue to wrestle with the ideas of teaching Christianly, was given by this wonderfully engaging guy from the Prairie Centre for Christian Education, Doug Monsma. Doug’s story was one I was familiar with. A story of someone who has been blessed richly with Christian education but also impatiently optimistic about how Christian schools can be better. And those 90 minutes began the first chapter of the Doug Monsma and Center for the Advancement of Christian Education story. If you would like to read more about Doug’s influence on TfT, please get a copy of the October, 2018, issue of Christian Educators Journal. Here is a link to a recent interview I did with Doug that is included in this issue.

This unwritten but never to be forgotten story has lots of chapters, most take place in Christian schools around North America and a few take place in pubs where we would debrief after these trainings or presentations. This next story did take place in a pub after such a gathering. Doug, Darryl DeBoer (CACE Fellow and project manager for TfT), Matt Beimers (principal of Cloverdale Christian School) and I were conducting the post-game analysis of the day’s events and I suggested a formative assessment strategy known as “two stars and a wish.” It is a simple strategy were participants identify two positive aspects of a peer’s performance and then express a wish about what the peer might do the next time to improve another aspect of the work. When used in the classroom, teachers typically model this strategy several times, using samples of student work, and then students use the strategy in a small group or in pairs. I have also referred to this strategy, for those who give me feedback, as two flowers and a weed which tends to get a good laugh as we pull a few weeds. In the end, the strategy is helpful in improving my performance.

Apparently, two stars and a wish became a somewhat regular part of the Monsma home as Doug dealt with his illness. In that spirit, I offer these two stars and a wish as we mourn the loss of an incredible husband, father, grandfather, friend, and Christian educator, a person on whose shoulders we now stand. We will miss his voice but know that our loss is in some ways, simply our loss for his voice now blends with all those who came before us in the triumph song. His vocational calling to Christian education is one that we were privileged to experience and most thankful for.

Two Stars and a Wish for our friend, Doug Monsma

Until we meet again, we will be forever inspired by your passion for uncovering ways not only to help students see God’s story but ultimately to live God’s story.

Until we meet again, we will be forever grateful for your leadership in the development of the Teaching for Transformation framework, your shared vision for how teaching Christianly leads to joyful and responsible discipleship.

Actually, there is not final wish in Doug’s story. We are assured that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Doug’s final wish has already been granted, he is with His Savior, and there are “no more bells!”


  • Tim Van Soelen

    Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.

One Comment on “Two Stars and A Wish…”

  1. I, with my colleague Wendell Schaap, attended that same session in 2013. Just having come out of a strategic planning process with an imperative to “raise our tall pole” as a Christian school, we both instantly became excited about the new possibilities and thinking that Doug so passionately presented. Doug became our teacher and mentor, and his work changed the trajectory of our school’s teaching, and our students’ learning. I am extremely grateful for Doug’s humble, effective presentations–intersperse with some good humor and story– that impacted our faculty and leadership. And I thank God for Doug and his impact on the Christian education movement.

    Wendell Schaap and I were at that same conference

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