John Elder

John began his online teaching with Grand Canyon University in January, 2010 and combined that in August with teaching on campus as well. Currently completing his doctoral project in Transitional Ministry, he anticipates receiving the Doctor of Ministry degree in May of 2013 from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, California. Being raised in Missouri and Kansas provided John a strong Bible Belt values system and understanding of the Bible. When contemplating college, the direction of God moved John from Nuclear Physics and into Ministry/Communications. Southwest Baptist University allowed him to participate on the collegiate speech and debate squad while allowing him to speak in area churches as a student. Completing his Masters of Divinity degree at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., John moved his family to the Carolinas where he served two churches and his family grew to three children.
During his tenure there, John helped establish a ministerial training school and became one of its founding instructors. He also volunteered as a Field Mentor to young seminary students.

Missouri roots, family ties, and the moving of God led John to return to Missouri where he pastored two churches and served as 2nd Vice President of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Continuing his love for mentoring, he found other seminary students who needed a Field Supervisor. His children completing high school and college, the next move was west to Arizona. For 8 years he pastored the Green Valley Baptist Church. He also served two terms as President of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. The Elders moved to the Phoenix valley where John became President of the Arizona Baptist Children's Services. With the economic downturn, change resulted in John returning to the pastoral ministry at Love Baptist Church of Phoenix where he continues to serve. His desire to assist and pay forward to the next generations caused him to apply as an adjunct online teaching position at Grand Canyon University, where he continues to stay busy.

John and his wife currently live in Surprise, Arizona and recently celebrated their 41st Wedding Anniversary.

How has facilitating online courses at GCU helped you find your purpose?

Years ago, I discovered a talent for sharing with others out of the abundance of blessings that have occurred in my life. I have studied under wonderful, caring teachers who have filled me with information and inspiration. I have discovered that part of my purpose is to be that kind of caring, informative professor I have experienced from others. I can never give enough to repay those mentors in my life. The joy that I have found is being what others have been for me - someone who will listen to their calls for help whether in the subject matter or issues of life. Many of my students are non-traditional students who have a yearning to obtain a degree that will elevate them in their career choices and allow them to earn more salary for their family. I attempt to affirm them in their decisions and let them use their skills to their fullest in achieving their educational goals.

What is one effective teaching strategy you use in your online classes?

I facilitate online as if we were all in the same room by: visualizing each student and learning their names and a bit about them from the Cyber Café; taking notes and attempting to remember where they currently live; trying to draw them out in the Discussion Forums by individualizing my responses as best I can from what I know about them; and encouraging them to see me as an asset to their learning rather than a roadblock. The academics are inherent in the course design, and I attempt to personalize my approach so each student truly understands that I am there to assist them in any way possible through phone calls, emails, and attempts to stay in constant contact with all the students in the class. Often I will be online when a student sends me a question. I pause what I am doing and immediately provide them with a response. They are generally shocked to see a reply so quickly, but pleased they can move forward with the project and not be waiting for me to give delayed guidance.

What is a GCU online student success story you can share?

I remember a student who began the class with less than rudimentary skills in writing and spelling. My class was their first venture in online learning at GCU - or anywhere for that matter. Basically they wrote just like they talked - which did not recognize any grammar rules or spelling/accuracy. From the first posting in the Cyber Café, I could tell this student would need extra encouragement. I phoned them and we discussed why they were going back to college at this point in their life. We discussed options at excellence including a local tutor, the Student Success Center and all the GCU online assistance. By the midterm in the course, they had chosen to work hard and get a lot of help. Their writing style improved, grammar improved, and understanding of the basics they would need to succeed as a student improved. Even more than anything I could do for them, they were open and ready to be shown the way to achieve their goals. I will be so proud when I hear they have completed the degree program and are ready to be a teacher to their hometown children. Students like this are why I choose to continue as an online professor!