Erik Bertsche joined the Clapham faculty this fall as our Humanities teacher as well as Upper School Student Life Coordinator.
Tell us about your family and younger years. What was it like growing up in your family?
I am the youngest of three children. My brother David is 4 years older than me, and my sister Mika is 2 years older. My parents (Tim and Laura Bertsche) worked as missionaries in the country of Botswana. My siblings and I grew up in Francistown, the second largest city in Botswana, from 1989 to 2004. I was 15 when we moved back to Illinois as a family. From Transition to Form 2 (US equivalent: Kindergarten to 10th Grade) I was a student at John Mackenzie School in Francistown.
As a family we often went on camping vacations to national parks in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Southern Africa has some truly breathtaking natural beauty and it’s amazing to think just how much of it I got to see as a kid. Some highlights include the Okavango Delta, the Makgadigadi Salt Pans, Victoria Falls, the Eastern Highlands, the Southern Cape, Mpumelanga, and Cape Town.
- Where did you go to school? Was your journey to your major short and straight, or long and winding?
After moving to the States, I completed grades 11 and 12 at Morton High School in Morton, IL. For college I went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago where I was a Bible major and Music minor. I think I’ve always enjoyed being a generalist in my studies. Given my current position now as the Clapham Upper School Humanities instructor, I think the interdisciplinary approach I had while studying at Moody, and then later at Wheaton Grad School, has served me well.
- What is your favorite time of day and what makes it so?
I think I enjoy the early morning the most. There’s something about the sky at sunrise and as long as it’s not too cold, I like being outside at that time maybe on a porch with a cup of coffee. I also like getting big breakfasts early in the morning.
- Tell us about one of your hobbies and how you got started.
Chess. I’ve enjoyed playing chess since I was in grade school where I started playing in a school chess club. Over the years I’ve played on various school chess clubs/teams.
- What is one of your hidden talents?
I like to cook - but not if it’s just for me. Spending a lot of time and effort to prepare food that I’m only going to eat isn’t that enjoyable. I think of food pretty much as fuel at that point. However, if someone else is going to enjoy the food with me, then the hidden talent will reveal itself.
- Share a favorite book. Why is it a favorite? What are you currently reading?
My favorite childhood author was Roald Dahl, and my favorite book was his two-part autobiography Boy and Going Solo. His story was just as full of crazy scenarios, wild adventures and larger-than-life characters as his fictional stories. I think Roald Dahl’s writing completely gripped my imagination and attention as a young boy. I didn’t really enjoy reading when I was young, unless it was a Roald Dahl book and then I would sometimes sit on a couch for 3 to 5 hours and finish a whole book of his.
I am currently reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. The 9th and 10th graders are reading TWHF in the Ancient World Humanities class right now.
- What has the Lord been teaching you lately?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
The idea of sufficiency is something I've been considering more carefully in recent months. For me, sufficiency is connected to contentment, being at peace, and (similar to the JMS motto below) being able to say, "I've done what can be done and it's enough." It's always humbling to be reminded of the unavoidable reality of our frailty, weakness, and the mist-like brevity of our lives. We don't want that reminder. Instead, we're tempted to double-down on doing more, accomplishing more, being more. 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us that God's grace is enough.
- Clapham's core values are discipleship, learning, growth, excellence, and service. Which of these values excites you the most and why?
Excellence. One of the things that has stuck with me from my time at John Mackenzie School is the school motto: "The Best I Can." It'll come to mind in all kinds of situations in one of two different ways. 'The Best I Can' is a reminder to pursue whatever task is at hand with excellence. Produce work of a high quality. Pay attention to even the smallest of details. Perform a song, poem, or athletic task to the best of my ability. 'The Best I Can' is a reminder to reckon honestly with my limitations. I only have so much time. I only have so much energy. I only have two hands. There is a freedom in coming to terms with the reality that 'doing the best you can' does not mean 'be perfect'.
- What historical figure or fictional character would you choose to spend a day with?
J.R.R. Tolkien. If I was forced to make a choice, I would have to say he’s my favorite author. I think we would have a lot in common to talk about.
Mr. Bertsche in grade school with his friend, Rashid
- What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I’m an INFP on the Myers Briggs Personality Test and an Enneagram Type 6 (Loyalist).
Thank you, Mr. Bertsche for letting us get to know you a little better. We are thankful to have you as part of our community!
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