An Opportunity Planned in Heaven

For Arthur Crusoe GS’18, his experience in Bethel’s M.A. in Education K-12 program is leading to opportunities he never could have imagined. As he continues his mission to improve rural education in Liberia, he’s now helping train future teachers at the University of Liberia, while also modeling a relational style of leadership he learned at Bethel.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

June 23, 2021 | 12:45 p.m.

Arthur Crusoe GS’18

Arthur Crusoe GS’18 poses outside the V.S. Tubman College of Education at the University of Liberia. Since Crusoe attended Bethel with the help of several people on campus, he’s enjoyed new possibilities at home in Liberia, including an offer to begin training future educators at the university.

When Arthur Crusoe GS’18 graduated with a Master of Arts in Education K-12, the milestone reflected his hard work and the support he received at Bethel. Today, those opportunities continue paying huge dividends. “I graduated from Bethel in 2018 and my life and career have changed for the better since,” he says.

When he first enrolled at Bethel, Crusoe was a principal at Gianda Elementary and Junior High in Zondo, a community in rural Liberia. He lacked the money to pay for tuition and the technology and housing to facilitate his studies. But Dean of Academic Programs Barrett Fisher and his wife, Amy, who co-formed a nonprofit that supported Crusoe’s school, invited Crusoe to share their home for the duration of the 15-month program. They arranged for him to receive a full scholarship, a personal laptop, and several face-to-face, hands-on opportunities to observe rural education in Minnesota. “The support I received from Bethel was planned in heaven,” Crusoe says. “I will not stop thanking God for the opportunity.”

Crusoe was featured in the Summer 2018 edition of Bethel Magazine. We caught up with him to highlight some ways his Bethel experience has helped him continue following his calling:

His Bethel education opened new opportunities.

Crusoe compares the gifts he received at Bethel to the man who received five talents in the Gospel of Matthew, saying he wants to multiply his talents and build on his experience. “The people I encountered at Bethel walked with dignity. They talked with love and acted professionally,” he says. “I am under obligation to make my life sublime and help others do same.”

On top of earning a better salary and having an improved quality of life, Crusoe also found new avenues to pursue his goal to serve rural schools and students in Liberia. He now teaches at the V.S. Tubman College of Education at the University of Liberia and is pursuing ideas to form a rural school network. His education at Bethel helped grow his confidence and expertise, placing him in a position to help seek change. “I'm also in a better position to voice my opinion on what I believe is educationally good for my people and policymakers,” he says. “I do so with great confidence because my stay at Bethel deepened my insight.”

Crusoe was also recently helped 100 high school students with their English skills to prepare for a pre-med entrance exam, which Barrett calls a sign of how his Bethel degree expanded his opportunities. “Arthur's Bethel degree opens opportunities not only because of the knowledge and skills it has given him but also because of the prestige that such credentialing provides,” Barret says.

Crusoe continues following a calling to serve rural schools.

As Crusoe was completing his M.A., he began exploring ways to best serve as an educator in Liberia, including ways to use his gifts beyond the Zondo school. During his Bethel studies, Crusoe’s professors arranged for him to visit rural Minnesota schools to learn about how they operate, and he even connected with the Minnesota Rural Education Association. It inspired him to plan a similar rural school network in Liberia. After discussing his dream with the Fishers and others, Crusoe transitioning into an advisory role at the school in Zondo to pursue his goal to form an organization to benefit rural schools, though doors haven’t opened yet to pave way for such a network.

Crusoe is now training future teachers.

For now, Crusoe’s passion for rural schools to train teachers. He sees a need to help bolster the pedagogical skills of their students from a rural setting, giving them the tools and abilities to transform their communities. “I am using the platform the Lord has placed before me,” he says. And at the university, he has also discussed his ideas with the dean. “She believes I can be a quiet revolutionary, influencing rural students to form an association for the purpose of building one another up,” he says. Face-to-face classes have resumed after COVID-19, and this past semester Crusoe taught Introduction to Linguistics, Teaching Elementary Social Studies, Teaching Elementary Reading, and Curriculum Innovation.

It’s been exciting for the Fishers and others to follow his journey.

“I don’t think he ever dreamed that he would be teaching at the University of Liberia, but there he is, using an empathetic, student-centered approach for teaching that was modeled for him by his Bethel professors."

— Amy Fisher

He is still serving Zondo, the community where he grew up.

Crusoe is still connected to Zondo and its school, noting the town will “always be in my genes.” He was born and raised there, and his grandparents were among the first converts when missionaries arrived in 1931. They went on to lead Zondo’s church, his grandfather as the pastor and his grandmother as a Sunday school teacher. “I feel compelled to walk in their steps,” he says. Crusoe visits periodically to support the school and community. He also helping school leaders look into ways to expand the school. A road is being built to connect Zondo to motor traffic, which will make the school eligible to apply for a World Bank grant to expand and build the high school. It would create opportunities for rural students, especially for female students, to continue their education.

Amy sees Bethel’s influence in how Crusoe mentors other educators. Not only has he been a mentor for Jerry Peterson, a candidate to become the newest principal in Zondo, but he is also currently caring for him and helping raise funds for an operation after Peterson injured his back.

Arthur Crusoe GS’18

Arthur Crusoe GS’18 (right) helps a group of students with their pedagogical skills at the V.S. Tubman College of Education at the University of Liberia.

Crusoe is modeling a different form of leadership.

The Fishers describe Crusoe as a leader who is committed to others and has a genuine love and concern for learners. “He absolutely is oriented toward others rather than himself,” Amy says. Barrett agrees, describing Crusoe as an enthusiastic, optimistic, and positive educator. “As a leader, he is highly responsible as well as collaborative; he values the perspectives, contributions, and gifts of those with whom he works,” he says.

Crusoe credits his Bethel professors for modeling that kind of leadership in the way they treated Crusoe and his fellow students. His professors visited him to sit and talk, drove him to witness different kinds of schools in Minnesota, invited him to their homes, and more. This support contrast starkly with how leadership looks in Liberia, where positional power is the norm. “Here, the boss is the boss,” Crusoe says. “He or she has a certain power that goes with the position.” That means it’s often frowned upon to challenge authority, and leaders often see apologies and admitting their mistakes as a sign of weakness.

But Crusoe is drawn to the relational style of leadership he witnessed at Bethel, and he is modeling it as he trains future teachers. He has witnessed teachers who only utilize positional power, and he says they view students like blank slates to be written on—students learn and follow rules as they dictate. But as a relational teacher sees students as slates with their own stories already inscribed. “Relational teachers study the messages and work with the students to make the various messages clearer, louder, richer, and stronger,” he says.

Study education at Bethel.

The M.A. in Education K-12 program helps teachers with a K-12 teaching license improve their skills and expand their leadership opportunities. Bethel offers several education programs for traditional undergraduate, adult undergraduate, and graduate students to pursue their callings as teachers and education leaders. 

Learn more