May 22, 2023 | Meghan Gracy

A young woman sitting at a table student teaching with kids.

As a high school student, Liske Lieuwen ’23 had a checklist for the type of university she wanted to attend.

She looked at Christian universities that would challenge her spiritually and academically. She wanted a campus with a strong community. And she hoped for financial aid to assist in paying for her education.

Calvin University checked off those line items. In fact, she was already a part of the community, as a daughter and granddaughter of Calvin alumni.

The final piece was seeing if she could envision herself living, attending classes, and thriving at Calvin. And when the Atlanta native traveled to Grand Rapids for a campus visit, she knew Calvin was where God was calling her to go.

As a bonus, Calvin had a variety of varsity and intramural sports, and she hoped to join one of the teams.

“I knew I wanted to play a college sport,” Lieuwen said. “So I came in and talked to the soccer coach, and I was able to play on the team.”

First-year challenges

Lieuwen started her freshman year at Calvin in 2019. She expected the transition to challenge her. However, she didn’t anticipate her college soccer career would end abruptly only months into her time on the team. But after dislocating her shoulder multiple times, she needed surgery to repair the damage and needed to take time off from sports.

“It was the first time in my life since I was six years old that I wasn't on a sports team,” Lieuwen recalled. “Additionally, it was difficult because this was happening during the COVID lockdown of 2020, which made everything harder.”

Rest and discovery

Looking to live wholeheartedly, even with sports, and with much of her college experience on hiatus, she leaned on family and sought out relationships with peers outside of athletics.

“My parents were really supportive of me during this time and helped me get through this,” Lieuwen explained. “And I became close with some of my best friends through this experience and even got to know one of my best friends.”

This period of rest allowed her to reflect and lean into God’s calling for her career.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do coming in [to Calvin]. I knew I wanted to work with kids, so an education major made sense,” she shared.

But Lieuwen was unsure what an education major would look like for her. While trying to find her passion in education classes, she enrolled in Spanish courses, building on her college credits earned in high school. Thanks to Professor Maria Rodriguez’s guidance, Lieuwen decided to add Spanish as a second major.

Then, halfway through her sophomore year, it clicked. Lieuwen found her passion as a teacher.

With Professor Abraham Ceballos-Zapata's strong suggestion, she added a minor in TESOL (teaching English as a second language).

“My professors pushed me to think about what I want to do with my life and how to apply subject and content area to teaching it as well as thinking about it from a Christian worldview,” Lieuwen said.

For Lieuwen, she determined she would teach students how to communicate in English or share her love of Spanish in an immersion school.

Back in the game

New friends, challenging classes, exciting opportunities, and finding her purpose kept Lieuwen occupied while recovering. Yet, she yearned to be back competing with fellow athletes.

“I need a lot of things to fill my cup,” she said. “I need to be able to teach and move my body and see friends. When all those things are combined, I feel fulfilled.”

With the all-clear from her doctor, Lieuwen found herself back on a roster, but it wasn’t with the soccer team. Instead, she pursued lacrosse, despite never playing before.

“The idea of learning a new sport and getting to do it at the collegiate level was exciting to me,” Lieuwen explained. “I wanted to meet new people and be in a community of girls who loved sports and pushed themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

The transition to a “more shoulder-intensive game” was challenging at first. Still, Lieuwen enjoyed three years with Calvin’s women’s lacrosse team. Under the guidance of her coaches, she sought to glorify God in each practice and game. She understood there’s more to life than athletics.

“Being a sports player—a lacrosse player, a soccer player, whatever it is—it’s part of being a child of God,” Lieuwen said. “I played at the highest level for him, and I think that’s so powerful.”

Next up, teaching

In April 2023, Lieuwen graduated with a double major in secondary education and Spanish with a TESOL minor. A week later, she accepted a position as a Spanish immersion teacher in Lynden, Washington.

With the joy of graduating and landing a job also came the end of bearing Christ’s image as a college athlete. But the values Lieuwen's coaches and professors instilled in her will follow her to third grade.

“For me, being a Christian teacher translates into how I treat my students and how I see them and their identities,” she shared. “I’m going to try and reach every student and treat them with love.”

She also hopes athletics remain part of her life, so she can pour into her cup through multiple channels.

“I think it would be fun to join an adult soccer league if I can find one near where I live,” she mused. “I would also love to coach soccer or lacrosse for elementary- or high school-aged kids. I will definitely keep running and hope to run a few more half marathons and maybe even a full marathon eventually.”

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