After graduating from Biola University’s School of Education in 1967, Dorothy Leal did not anticipate the way that God would use her degree to help those around her.
“I've always wanted to be a teacher, since I was very young,” Leal said. “My desire grew as I experienced first hand experience with the practicals of what I was taught at Biola.”
Her heart for teaching was evident throughout the opportunities she had. Leal has taught in various different areas for many different reasons. She has taught all over the world — most notably in Nepal and Mexico.
“I hoped to work overseas but didn’t know where or how teaching would fit in,” she said.
Leal attended Wycliffe’s training at the University of Oklahoma to learn how to translate and teach others about the Bible. There, she met her husband and soon they were sent overseas to Nepal.
She continued teaching in Nepal with two students: her own children.
“We were in a remote setting and I had to be their teacher,” she said. “What a challenge it all was!”
Additionally, she was part of the curriculum committee for the Nepal branch school where they were responsible for choosing the best materials to use in the Kathmandu school.
One specific challenge she had to overcome in Nepal was low literacy in their village.
“In our village in Nepal, no one had seen or used books,” she said.
The language was not written down nor did it have an alphabet, so Leal took it upon herself to develop an alphabet and literacy materials to teach the villagers how to read and write. She had a few different ideas for how to help the people.
“I started by bringing some National Geographics and taught them which way to hold a book. Then we used the materials I had developed and started teaching them to read.”
After six years in Nepal, Wycliffe and SIL missionaries were accused of being CIA agents leading to an abrupt and heartbreaking move from a country Leal loved.
Over 30 years later, Leal is still in daily contact with their friends from their village in southern Nepal.
Wycliffe moved Leal and her husband to Mexico where they lived for two years.
“I ended up teaching in their mission school for [missionary kids] in Mexico City,” Leal said.
Needing to move back to the states for physical health reasons, Leal was an invaluable asset to her church family in the United States. She taught kindergarten through second grade and wrote books and curricula during this time.
“I found that current Christian curricula at the time did not teach about who God and Jesus were in the Bible,” she said. “God’s name was tacked on but I wanted them to know what the Bible said.”
Leal wrote curricula and primers for kindergarten through second grade during this time, eventually starting her own publishing company named “Burning Bush Publications.”
After encouragement from her principal and her husband independently in the same week, Leal decided to go into higher education.
Leal attended the University of Kentucky and attained an M.A. and Ph.D. in literacy instruction with a research focus on evaluating children's literacy skills. After she graduated with her Ph.D., she began her professional journey in higher education. She spent six years teaching at the University of South Alabama. After that, she transferred to Ohio University where she spent 13 years as a professor before retiring as Professor Emeritus.
Leal credits Biola’s education as the foundation of her professional history, which all started with her desire to teach and work in missions.
“Having a deeper understanding of God's word enabled me to apply it in different cultures,” she said. “It also served as a bridge to conversations with people from different countries, as well as Americans here back home who aren’t Christians.”
If you are interested in Biola’s education programs or have questions about how to pursue a teaching career, please visit the website for more information.
Written by Charlotte McKinley, public relations intern. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.