On a small island in the western Pacific Ocean, a group of teachers work diligently to make a difference for Christ. Through classroom instruction, organized programs, and extracurricular activities, the faculty at EUCON International School (EIS), a Christian school located on the island of Saipan, seek opportunities to point students to a wonderful, creative God.
Two of these faculty members, Nathan Smith (M.S. ’15) and Christa Wei Smith (M.S. ’11), have stepped in to help where needed. As they live out the school’s motto, “Provides Light for Learning,” Nathan and Christa have taken on leadership responsibilities both in the classroom and as administrative staff.
Started almost twenty-five years ago by Christa’s parents, Christian and Judy Wei, EIS has been a light for many students from various countries, including China, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States. As a boarding school, EIS often houses students in seventh grade or above from China; other international students live with guardians off campus or with their families in the community—a community which has overall been very accepting of the school’s Christian beliefs and training.
Not only has the community been supportive of the school, which is one of six private Christian K–12 schools in Saipan, but it has grown because of EIS. “We have had several families move to Saipan so that their children can attend our school,” Nathan said. “They see it as beneficial for the entire family.” The main reason they seem to come, though, is that they value sending their children to a Christian school that does not have to conform to various government restrictions; because Saipan is a commonwealth of the United States, it has many of the same freedoms that U.S. states have.
With a large student population and a rigorous academic curriculum, teachers at EIS stay busy. “Working at EUCON requires one to be used in many different areas at once and to learn many different skills,” explained Christa, who began working at the school in 2010. “In the ten years that I’ve been working here, I’ve taught everything from kindergarten to courses at the university level.”
While Christa works as the Dean of Academics at EUCON International University, a closely related ministry to EIS, in addition to teaching, Nathan’s main responsibility has recently been the assistant principal at EIS. “I teach the junior high Bible class, then move into my administrative duties,” Nathan said. While his responsibilities vary from day to day, he can often be found talking with struggling students, completing classroom observations, or meeting with parents outside regularly scheduled Parent Teacher Conference times.
“While I still do see the students and still do have opportunities to influence them for Christ, my priority has shifted toward supporting our faculty and influencing them,” Nathan said. “It has been an adjustment, but now I am enjoying more and more this new role of supporting and influencing our teachers so that they can better teach and influence their students for Christ.”
“Truly, my master’s degree (and the classes I have taken so far for my doctoral degree) has helped me in so many ways,” Nathan added. “My classes helped me to become a better teacher. Now that I am in the administration, I can pass on the knowledge I have gained at PCC to all our teachers.”
Christa also acknowledged how valuable her education through PCC has been to her. “I think my master’s degree from PCC has been the turning point in my teaching career,” Christa said. “At PCC, I learned not only how to improve my own teaching skills but also how to instruct others to improve their teaching abilities. PCC has helped me in my administrative duties by providing me with the resources and skills I need to be confident in guiding others.” One way that Christa is specifically able to help others with their classroom instruction is through teaching education classes at the university.
While the past year has been difficult for many, Christa is thankful that both the university and EIS have continued to be able meeting in person. “God’s hand in our ministry can be vividly seen simply by the fact that we are able to function fully within the government restrictions placed upon us.”
Nathan has also noticed how God worked in the school during the past year. “I remember showing up to class on the first day [after Christmas break in January 2020], and we were all wearing masks. It was a very strange time, but out of fear and adversity comes an excellent opportunity to share the gospel and talk to all these young people [about] the peace and security that comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Nathan said. “Here at EUCON we saw Christian students rededicating themselves to the Lord, and we saw students who were unbelievers coming to Christ for salvation.”
The term EUCON means “excellent light,” and sharing light with others through education is the focus of both EUCON International University and EIS. “I enjoy watching the students grow and develop academically and also spiritually. Some of my students that I’ve taught in 3rd grade are now in 12th grade,” Christa said. “It’s always encouraging to have students who desire to learn and study and improve.”