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81-year-old’s forte remains teaching children by example

PHOENIX, Ariz. (BP)–Leading by example is a way of life for Omer Wagahoft, 81, who has been teaching for 27 years in the preschool or children’s division at Royal Palms Baptist Church in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I made a commitment to the Lord to be a vessel for his work,” Wagahoft said. “If there is a need I can fill, then I do it.”
Wagahoft began teaching fifth grade boys in 1971. Early on, he learned an important teaching tip he has carried throughout the years: “I learned that it was good to use a visual aid to help the children remember the biblical concept being taught.”
Mike Wheeler, an active member of Royal Palms, was one of the first students to benefit from “Wag’s” teaching in that fifth-grade boys’ class.
“I remember him using a beaker and a funnel with a filter on the end of it,” Wheeler recounted. “Mr. Wagahoft took dirt and poured it into the funnel and then poured water through it; the funnel and the filter stopped the dirt, and the water remained clear.
“He told us that Christ was the filter that would keep our lives free from sin. I have never forgotten that illustration.”
With Wagahoft’s long tenure as a Sunday school teacher, he is now teaching the children of former pupils. Wheeler’s two youngest children, Samantha and Michael, are presently benefiting from Wagahoft’s caring teaching in the first- and second-grade department at Royal Palms.
In a tradition that has spanned his 27 years of teaching, Wagahoft calls all of his Sunday school class members each Saturday evening to encourage them to come to church. Mike Wheeler recalls that special memory every Saturday evening when the phone rings for his children.
Wagahoft believes that while biblical knowledge is important, the most important skills required to be a good teacher are dedication, caring, honesty, love and kindness.
“Children are very smart and can tell if you are not being truthful with them,” he said. “You need to let them know you love them.”
The highlight of his years of teaching has been watching the spiritual growth of his students — seeing them baptized and then serving the Lord as adults.
In addition to teaching Sunday school every week, Wagahoft calls all church members on their birthdays and is active in the LLL Senior Adult group at Royal Palms.
“As long as I am in good health and am able to serve, I’m going to do whatever God leads,” the octogenarian said.

Cravens is director of development for Arizona Baptist Children’s Services and a member of Royal Palms Baptist Church.

    About the Author

  • Shirley Cravens