(Photos courtesy of The Rock Church San Diego)
Q&A: Dr. Katina Evans
By Sarah Komisky
Everyone loves a good story. Especially when it is about overcoming obstacles. MM Editor in Chief Sarah Komisky sat down with Dr. Katina Evans who is no stranger to this tale. The current Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at San Diego Christian College and former law school student put herself through college while living in a homeless shelter. Now, the educator and mom of two recently spoke at the college’s free seminar for parents entitled, “Parenting Online-Learning and Succeeding.” Here is an inside look at her journey and life wisdom that is inspiring her community in this personal profile parents, students, teachers, and the like will not want to miss.
Dr. Evans, so great to meet you! I first wanted to thank you for sharing such a vulnerable personal life story. When I read it, I was so inspired by what you’ve overcome and what you’ve achieved. I felt like I had to share your story with our readers as I believe it will inspire them as well. Courageously, you put yourself through law school while still living in a homeless shelter. Can you walk us through some of your story?
Dr. Evans: Law School was a leap of faith. For years, I sensed that I was not finished with school and I feared that God was calling me to a desire I abandoned early in life, to attend law school. Too much time had passed. My marriage was rocky. My daughters were little. Plus the only accredited law school with a part-time day program was in San Diego. I was sure God was wrong because my plans were not to leave North Carolina. Turns out that God’s plans were different from my own.
Fast forward, we relocated to San Diego in November 2007. I started studying for the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) while we were living in a roach infested motel. I borrowed prep books from the local library because I could not afford the material or classes to prepare me for the LSAT. I received my acceptance letter shortly after my family and I moved to the first homeless shelter that was in walking distance from the law school. By the time I started law school, we were living in our second shelter. So, I would leave the shelter each day, catch the trolley and walk to school while my husband took our daughters to school. In 2010, while still in law school, my marriage finally reached its breaking point. In November of that year, my spouse returned to North Carolina for a year. God opened the door for my daughters and I to move to a studio apartment. I continued with law school while single parenting and God allowed me to complete my degree in December 2012.
You are no you stranger to adversity, and this coming school year, parents, students, and teachers are in a significantly challenging time trying to navigate school in a pandemic season. What word would you share with teens, parents, and teachers specifically on prevailing through this challenging new school year?
Dr. Evans: The good news is that there is no “How to” book for parenting and virtual school during a pandemic. This means that each family can write their own story. We should invite open communication, especially for those that do not feel empowered in communicating difficult messages. As parents, we have to create the space for our children to let us know what they need and do not need from us without the fear of sounding disrespectful. This is a great time for parents to ask teachers how parents can support educators.
This month at Marked Ministry our issue theme is “Uniqueness.” With the majority of students learning online this year as school has not re-opened, it is safe to say that this school year is definitely a unique one. How would you encourage students to embrace the uniqueness of school this year?
Dr. Evans: This truly is a unique year, what a great label for 2020! If you think about it, educators and students are more accessible now than ever before. I’m sitting at my desk right now. Students can text me or place a video call. We can embrace the resources we have at our disposal and look for ways to have real connections through digital mediums. One of the things that I started doing was creating video responses to complicated emails. I simply pull up the document(s) I need to use to respond to a student. I record over the screen and sometimes have a video of myself at the bottom. I think it is important for our students to hear us as often as possible. This is one way to create authentic connections through digital platforms.
Teachers are uniquely position for this time to offer an extra amount of support and encouragement to their students in this new venture that has been hard and stressful. How do you think teachers can use this time as a unique time to lean in and pour into their students?
Dr. Evans: I think teachers underestimate their impact. One of the reasons I am who I am today is because of the affirmations I heard from my teachers at an early age. I had so much respect for them. When they said great things about me, I believed them even if it took time for me to believe the words spoken over me. This is a great time for students to see teachers as humans. We are parents, caregivers, spouses, and many other things outside of the classroom. Yet, our hearts are with these students. I think it is okay if we deviate from the lesson plans now and then to simple check-in starting with being transparent (appropriately) regarding how we are on that day. Students will know they are not alone. These students love us as much as we love them. Being real in the classroom gives students the opportunity to show support to teachers.
What are some unique ways teachers can engage with their students with virtual platforms?
Dr. Evans: There are some very creative teachers out there. A teacher at one of our partner schools, The Rock Academy, uses social media to engage his students. They are excited to participate in the videos. For those that are not as savvy with creating videos, finding light hearted videos to share during class can bring personality through instruction. Honestly, our students may be the best resources for maximizing impact through virtual platforms. Teachers can give students the opportunity to create content in virtual groups. I used this option in the spring and it worked well.
In what ways do you think flexibility can be a strength for students this year?
Dr. Evans: Starting with the knowledge that each day will require flexibility may help us welcome challenges. Students may discover new gifts and talents when they have to be creative to overcome challenges. A flexible attitude also calls for honest communication. Flexibility, at times, may mean that a student has to wrap up a day early to regain balance and that is okay.
You have said, “I would never have chosen my path — to be stripped of everything,” offers Dr. Evans. “But I’m so glad to have it to offer my students and fuel my heartfelt advocacy of their ambitions. If I can do it, they can do it. Because with God all things are possible.” Expand on what this means to you and how you think it can encourage students to overcome in this current time?
Dr. Evans: Students are shocked when I share my story. At the same time, I think they see themselves through my story. They see their challenges and believe that they can overcome whatever is standing in their way. My family was not the only family living in the shelter. My family was not the only family waiting in line at the food bank. A student is not the only student subject to fear and anxiety that stems from COVID-19. Their family is not the only family that experienced job loss, sickness, or death. Yet, the pain, confusion, and anxiety are very real for each and every student and we must acknowledge it. This is a great time to look for support. However, I want students to be seek healthy support systems, many of which are found through the church as well as their teachers.
Looking back to that time of struggle, you said that you asked “God, why me?” and now, you see how God provided for you. I want to say that this time is painful and acknowledge that what you went through was painful as well. So, for those in that very place of pain, hardship, and struggle, what would you want them to know about the goodness of God?
Dr. Evans: I think I felt God the most intimately when I was in the worst places in my life. He is a very present Father and comforter. Despite how difficult, worship in the midst of pain is a medicine for our souls. During the seasons of hardship, it was hard for me to worship, to simply lift up my hands. I recall that it was physically hard to lift my hands while I was listening to a worship song at home. I thought I was lifting 600-pound weights. However, as soon as my hands went above my head I sensed that I turned over some of my burdens to the burden-barrier.
You have experienced unique circumstances of hardship. Many have experienced loss and hardship as well during this time and felt shame from it. Loss affects children and parents alike. What would you want to say when it comes to shedding shame and overcoming to families facing unique circumstances of hardship in this season?
Dr. Evans: There is power in the name we give to situations and circumstances. I spent a great deal of time writing in my prayer journal. I started paying attention to how I was labeling situations in my life. I drew a chart in my journal. I listed every negative thought and label on one side. On the other side, I wrote scriptures that combatted each negative thought. Once I finished writing, I asked myself which side was true. If the left side with the negative words were true that meant that God’s word was a lie. Since God can’t lie, the labels on the left had to be lies and they also could not have been from God. This was not a one-time fix. Some of us have to practice believing God each day during difficult seasons. Since God’s word is true, there was no way that the hard times would last forever. God has a plan for each of us and the hard times may be the biggest part of His plan. I would have never met some of the wonderful people I’ve met if not for sharing a part of my life that could be called the most shameful season of my life. It’s just like God to take something that could have overpowered us and use it to empower others.
Dr. Evans: Honestly, I want every parent to walk away with peace and permission to adjust the plan. I hope that parents do not feel that they have to have all the answers. Even as we are searching for answers as parents, we can enlist the help of our children. The second take-away is communication. I’ve had to ask my boss for margin because I became overwhelmed working crazy hours from home while my daughters were attending high school online. I felt like my work world and my parent world collided and I could not find my balance. I had to honestly communicate to him that I needed to find more time during my workday to check in on my kids and to simply take a quick walk to silence my mind. He could have taken my request to believe that I could not perform my job. Instead, he opened the floor to all of our leaders and asked “Who’s tired?” Everyone said yes. He was also transparent. He said he was also tired. The honesty depressurized our leadership team.
Find out more about Dr.Evans and tune into SDCC’s seminar by visiting webevent.pagedemo.co