Dr. Sarah Tham brought a passion for Christian education to her interview at Tabor College.
Standing amidst the COVID pandemic, she didn’t know if her teaching career would take her home to Malaysia or another U.S. state. There was a collective vision for Teacher Education at Tabor, and it was the start of a blossoming relationship.
Tham is passionate about immersing herself in the campus community.
After accepting a position at Tabor for fall 2020, Tham chose to live in Hillsboro during the weeks and go home to see her family on the weekends in Lawrence, Kan. It was something she knew she’d do before accepting her position.
Students frequent her office for help with courses, to talk about life events, and visit her home for meals.
“When missionaries go into the field, they feed the people and meet their needs first, allowing them to share Christ,” she said. “I wanted to share life with everyone. I wanted to share a cultural experience, and if you come from a more rural background and you’re going into education, you’ll be stretched more than that.”
Fluent in English and Malay, and conversational in Mandarin and Cantonese, Tham’s experiences in multicultural settings were perfect to prepare educational students for English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.
Tham was also recognized as the 2023 recipient of the Clarence R. Hiebert Excellence in Teaching Award at the Academic Honors banquet.
“She really pushed me through these classes to think about how I would interact with these students, and she was able to give me real examples of what she saw and experienced herself,” said Teacher Education major Emma Heide (JR, Wichita, Kan.)
Since Tham spends her weeks in Hillsboro, she is a regular at games and student events. Her support led to her receiving “Fan of the Year” at the 2021-22 Bluejay Sports Awards. It’s that approach that has helped Tham persevere amidst family trials.
In March 2022, Tham’s husband, Weng, was forced to leave the country because of an expired work permit. As part of her Fulbright Scholarship in the U.S., the family wanted to apply for a waiver for the two-year home residency requirement under religious, political, and ethnic differences. Having missed one year of re-applying for his work permit, they were stuck with few directions to turn.
Weng cannot enter the United States for at least three years, and the family is at the start of a three- to four-year application process for his waiver application. He currently teaches in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at Academia Los Pinares.
Her time at Tabor also opened her relationship with ALP, allowing her husband to find a job in a country that her family could reach more easily.
“It’s funny because when I first met these guys, I was just so impressed with their school,” she said. “I told my husband that when we retire, we should go teach in Honduras. Weng looked at me and wondered why I’d suggest that. God’s sense of humor is incredible—just over and over again.”
While Tham is limited to two or three visits per year to Honduras, she’s trusting God in His timing, and wanting to build a culture of grace and gratitude on campus.
Had it not been for the work she had in research and presenting across the globe, Tham would have not been able to apply for the proper waivers that would allow employers to advocate the work that is of benefit to American society.
Her vulnerability in choosing gratitude has undoubtedly made an impact on her students.
“Unless she had told you what was going on you would have never known,” Heide said about Tham. “She would end all of our conversations about the situation with some variation of ‘God is in control, so it is all going to work out.’ It truly is just a testament to her faith and how openly she shows it to us.”