Faculty Spotlight | Dr. David Handyside

Editor’s note: As the semester comes to a close, Dr. Handyside will be stepping down from his role as Dean of the School of Education and we look forward to having Dr. Tom Graham take his place. Dr. Handyside has influenced many in his time at Maranatha and this is published in honor of his legacy. 

Dr. David Handyside, MBU’s Dean of the School of Education, has been a constant presence to MBU students and faculty alike for the past twenty-two years. He has devoted over fifty years to education and has experienced a diverse career. His journey is one of learning—not only in the educational sense, but also in learning to trust God, follow His path, and bloom wherever God has planted him. From public school to private, junior high to university, Dr. Handyside has experienced many facets of education that led him to where he is today.  

How did you become interested in education? 

I started working at a LeTourneau Christian Camp in Rushville, New York when I was sixteen years old. I loved working there in the summer, and I eventually went on to become a full-time counselor. I worked with kids, and I liked that. It seemed like I was doing something important, and the campers responded. In addition, I met an individual there whose family was very instrumental in me going to Cedarville University. He was the Bible teacher at the camp, and he taught science at a public school down the road from Cedarville. He was such a good Bible teacher that I thought, “Wow, I wish I could teach like him”. He had a lot to do with getting the concept of teaching into my mind. Also, I liked teaching children, and by working at a camp for several years, I came to a place where I thought, “I need to be a teacher”. 

What is your educational background? 

I went to Cedarville University for my undergraduate degree. I initially went as a Bible major with a business minor, but I eventually changed to Elementary Education. After I received my degree, I taught junior high math and science in Greenview, Ohio. I moved to Illinois because my future wife was from Illinois. I also taught junior high math and science there for two years in Milford, Illinois. In addition, I taught Bible to the youth on Sunday nights at our local church. I thought again about going into the ministry, so, I went to Tennessee Temple University and was accepted into the seminary. After I was down there for three weeks, I realized that it wasn’t what God wanted me to do. I didn’t have peace about it, so I came back to Illinois. At that time, a Christian secondary school was being started in Danville, and I became the first administrator/teacher of Hope Christian School. My wife also taught at the school. After that, I went back to public school—Cissna Park Elementary—and taught sixth grade for six years. During that time, I went back to college and got my master’s degree in Administration from the University of Illinois.  

What did you do before you came to MBU? 

Since I was getting my Administrative degree, I began to consider Christian education. The Christian elementary school in Danville, Illinois—First Baptist Christian School—needed a principal. I became the administrator there, and I stayed for twenty-two years. When Hope Christian School closed, we added a junior high and high school. It was a very good experience, and my wife and I got to teach together again. While I was a principal, I learned a lot about how to be a good teacher from some of the teachers on the staff. They helped make that school very successful. I also learned a lot about special education—conditions like ADHD. I learned how to work with parents and teachers. I had to make sure I was supporting all those people so that students could learn. Of course, glorifying God was the result.  

How did you grow spiritually during this time? 

First, I grew spiritually because of the preaching I listened to from the pulpit. I also grew spiritually because my own walk with God had to be growing for me to be able to do my ministry properly. My own personal devotional life grew. Also, I had the encouragement of other people, and I grew through that fellowship.  

What brought you to MBU? 

During those twenty-two years as a principal at First Baptist Christian School, I’d gotten to know some of the people who worked at MBU. When our children got older and graduated from school themselves, I felt this urge—which, in truth, I had been feeling since I’d gotten out of college—to teach at a Christian college. I realized that if I didn’t do it now, I’d be too old to do it. Just about that time, Maranatha had an opening for the Director of Student Teaching. Our children were out of the house by this time, so I contacted Dr. John Brock, the Academic Dean at MBU, and they had me come up for an interview. I got the job in 2000, and my wife got a job in the same office, working with sophomore fieldwork and junior practicum.  

How did you become the Dean of the School of Education? 

After several years of directing student teaching, the university wanted me to teach some classes. So, I taught classes like Foundations of Education, Curriculum and Methods in Social Studies, and Secondary and Middle school Teaching Methods. After several years of teaching, in the summer of 2014, I became the Dean of the School of Education when Dr. Licht stepped down from that position and became the Academic Dean of the university.  

What are some of your favorite memories at MBU? 

I enjoyed seeing how successful the young teachers are, watching them grow and seeing how well they teach. I have learned a lot from the student teachers on how to be a good teacher. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the students and working with the faculty. We have great people here at Maranatha, and the people in the School of Education are wonderful. They’re smart, they’re engaged, and they care about the students. They really give themselves to this ministry. Giving of yourself to God is something that I’ve gotten out of this ministry that is of great value.   

In addition, we did eight education summits where we brought in outside educators who talked to our students and faculty about different educational topics. Some of those people were our grads. It was fun seeing the alumni coming back. The education summits kept our faculty and students up to date on current educational needs and strategies. We received grant money from the government that added education resources to our library and made the summits possible.  

I will always remember submitting new program approvals to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This has been a truly collaborative experience for our School of Education faculty. The new programs have enabled MBU to offer high-quality teacher training to Education students through a variety of program offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergrad programs have been streamlined to better fit the four-year model, offering education students good value for their money.  

You received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2019; tell me a little about that.

Well, I can tell you that Dr. Marriott surprised me with that—not at the time it happened, but a couple months before. He told my wife and me. It came out of nowhere. I was very grateful. I had never pictured getting a doctorate that way. It’s a lot of work to get a doctorate, and for them to do that—I thought it was very kind of them. I appreciated it, and I’ll cherish it. I think they did it because I was coming up on my fiftieth year of being in education, so I think they coincided the doctorate with that, and because I’d been here for a while.  

What is your salvation testimony? 

From the time I was six years old, I thought I was a believer. It was one of those things where I raised my hand in junior church when I was little. But when I was thirteen years old, I knew God was getting ahold of me in a different way. I was raised in church, and I knew what salvation was. I just could not sleep one night—it was the work of the Holy Spirit, where God says, “Now’s the time.” I got up and looked in the mirror and thought, what’s happening? I hadn’t realized previously I was in a spot where I wasn’t really saved yet. I realized that I needed to get on my knees and ask Christ to save me. So, I did, and I knew what to do. I know that was the time when it made a difference in my life. 

Who is your biggest supporter? 

My wife Margaret is awesome. She has always been supportive and is one of the biggest influences in my life. I also have a daughter and a son, and we have five granddaughters, and everyone knows Christ as their Savior. I’m just really thankful for them.  

Do you have any advice for prospective students? 

Be as yielded to God as possible and listen to what the Bible says. Realize it’s real, and that God is real, and just yield your life to Him. It’s amazing if you yield to the Holy Spirit what He will do with you. There have been times in all our lives where we didn’t do that, and we get off track. God’s always trying to get us back on track. If you don’t keep submitting yourself to God, you will end up getting off track permanently. So, my advice is to continue to submit yourself to God.  

Dr. Handyside has a separate interview on Maranatha’s On Mission podcast. Listen here