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Retired math teacher continues ministry

A life of teaching does not easily end with retirement. For math teacher, Lonnie Godfrey, retirement is the next stage in his teaching career.

?I do not perceive myself as being retired,? Godfrey said, ?but rather as having changed the venue of ministry.?

Lonnie Godfrey retired from the campus math department in 2004 after 14 years of teaching. As of now Godfrey is involved in eight Bible studies a month and spends his free time with family.

?When I retired, I was not pleased as I felt I still had some teaching years left in me,? Godfrey said. ?But trusting in God has been a way of life for me for more than 50 years and He has never disappointed me.?

Most students remember Godfrey for his convicting devotions and individual teaching style. His numerous and diverse experiences helped draw in the zoned out students to learn.

Prior to coming to campus, Godfrey and his wife, Elsie, spent one year in Penang, Malaysia, as dormitory parents for 15 junior high boys who were sons of missionaries. The Godfrey?s also spent three years in Bangkok operating a guest home of 45 guests. Their guests were primarily missionaries and workers from various relief workers that were working in refugee camps in Thailand.

From 1958 to 1973 Godfrey taught in various private high schools, both secular and Christian. He also spent 10 years as a sales manager for a world wide consulting firm.

Godfrey is remembered by students as witty and inspirational. Fond memories of Godfrey?s unique ability to connect with students helped them enjoy work.

?Every morning he used to give a devotion that taught me something new,? April Fujihara, ?06, said. ?Some days he wouldn?t teach math at all and just took the period to tell us his testimony or something important that God had to say to us.?

Even while away from FC, Godfrey continues to offer advice to this year?s seniors. The class of 2006 is the last class to have had Godfrey as a teacher.

?One day my freshman year, Mr. Godfrey was five minutes late to class,? Erin Elmore, 06, said. ?It was a beautiful day outside with dew on the grass and it was bright and sunny. We begged him to let us go outside. He let us play Frisbee and frolic in the grass.?

Godfrey sends advice and wisdom taken from the Bible to this years graduating class to encourage them in the last phase of their high school lives. He also encourages students to work hard for a higher purpose.

Some of his favorite verses to share with students were Matthew 6:33 ?But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,? and Colossians 3:23 ?Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men.?

Other students recall Godfrey?s unique ability to see a gum chewer miles away. He seemed to have an omnipresent ability to always be around to catch these guilty lawbreakers.

Godfrey continues to teach at Fresno City College nine hours a week during the fall and spring semesters. During a year?s time, Godfrey teaches the equivalent of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry and a remedial arithmetic class.

Retirement for Godfrey may mean an end to one passion, but his career has become a lifestyle that he can never depart from. For him, teaching is more than being in a classroom and catching others, it is about being a good influence.

?Even at Fresno City,? Godfrey said, ?I?ve been able to share glimpses of my life of faith with students.?

Godfrey and his wife Elsie continue serving at Riverpark Bible Church. Both are involved in teaching Bible studies and mentoring young couples.

Retirement provides a more relaxed schedule for a teacher. Godfrey and his wife have had time to travel to Nova Scotia, Canada, for their 50th wedding anniversary.

?I am extremely pleased and excited about this current phase of my life,? Godfrey said. ?This stage is particularly exciting because I have more time to study and do things I enjoy most: teaching God?s Word, teaching mathematics, and being involved in the lives of people who are growing spiritually and intellectually.?

Godfrey works about 60% of a full time teacher?s load. He appreciates retirement and the fewer demands that are placed on him.

?Every stage of my walk with Jesus has been exciting, but I think now is the most exciting time of all,? Godfrey said. ?I get to teach math, and Bible, which I love. There are very little administrative hassles. I just show up and teach.?

Godfrey knew how to teach from different angles to reach each student?s unique learning style. He had a way with making math a somewhat spiritual experience.

When Godfrey came back to visit the students in 2004 and 2005 as a substitute teacher, he continued with moving stories and applicable words of wisdom. Even now he advises students on life after high school.

?Remember,? Godfrey said, ?it is safe to trust your life, career, your future, and your decisions to Jesus.?

Retirement is only the beginning of a new era for those who serve God. Despite missing the wonderful people that he worked with at FC, Godfrey finds contentment where he works now.

Godfrey is living proof to anyone in search of a meaningful life, that life is more than traditional cycles of work and retirement. Life is about using abilities to influence people, to help them grow and learn to be better influences themselves.

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  • S

    Sydney CarlsonAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I completely agree! WE LOVE PAPA!

  • H

    Hannah JosephAug 26, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I speak on behalf of every student and teacher at FC when I say, WE ARE GOING TO MISS YOU SO MUCH!

    Thank you for everything that you have done for us. God has blessed this campus with a generous and kind principal, and we will never forget you!