Meet Dr. Cindy Lang, Ph.D., Chair of Carson-Newman University’s Department of Education, with a background in special education, and heart for guiding other educators in leading classrooms that foster a community of acceptance, grace, and love.
What is your professional background as an educator?
I was one of those who lined up my stuffed animals and dolls in rows and played “school.” But then, as I got older, I said I would never teach! It is funny how the Lord changes your heart and plans as time passes. Looking back, I fell into special education; it is clear how He was preparing my heart to do just that.
I graduated from Wheaton College in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and an Education emphasis. I loved Psychology and added the Education emphasis because I thought, well, why not? I student taught in the inner city of Chicago and enjoyed my time in that setting with my students. When I moved back to Tennessee, I began a position as an activities therapist at the Helen Ross McNabb Children & Youth Center in Knoxville.
I found that my psychology and education background had been excellent preparation. I worked with students with behavioral and emotional disorders and absolutely loved it. At the time, the University of Tennessee had a program to add a special education licensure endorsement, which I pursued so I could continue to work with this population but as a teacher. I taught at the Knoxville Adaptive Education Center until my husband returned to graduate school at Wheaton. While back in Illinois, I decided to continue my studies and seek my Master of Education degree from National-Louis University in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders.
Once we finished our graduate degrees, the Lord brought us back to East Tennessee where my husband took a position as the archivist at Carson-Newman University. How wonderful it was to find ourselves back home near family. I taught students with behavioral disorders until we decided to have children, and I stayed home for as long as I could with them. It was a sweet time raising our three children, yet I loved teaching and missed the classroom.
What attracted you to teach at Carson-Newman University?
Once our kids were in preschool, I began mentoring student teachers for Carson-Newman University and immediately knew working with college students was where the Lord had been leading me all along. I pursued my Ph.D. in Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and am proof that it is never too late to decide what you want to be when you grow up!
I have been a full-time faculty member since 2014 and love my job. I am passionate about instilling in future teachers an understanding that the Lord has created each person uniquely and that classrooms are where those unique qualities can be fostered and cherished. Students with disabilities bring so many gifts to a classroom and the best teachers create a community that cherishes these differences.
What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing their graduate education degree?
These verses from Psalm 139 are some of my favorites and what I pray my students take to heart and believe about every person that walks into their future classroom:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
If we truly believe those verses, then there are no mistakes in how God has created each person on this earth. And there are no mistakes as to who walks into a classroom every single day. Building classrooms that foster a community of acceptance, grace, and love is surely a foretaste of what Heaven will be like.
I am so glad the Lord has called me to Carson-Newman University where, hopefully, my students take this passion to their future classrooms and bring the kingdom of God a little closer, one classroom at a time.