Kateland Vernon: Writer, Entrepreneur and Preschool Teachers

By: Dezaray Barr

Kateland and her husband, Alex

Kateland Vernon graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in 2016 with a degree in English and Writing. Vernon was led to attend IWU because of something she received in the mail. “The mailer I received talked about ‘writing your story’ at Indiana Wesleyan, and that definitely appealed to me, as a writer,” she shared. “Of course, it wasn’t until Professor Esh gave me a copy of his beloved Huckleberry Finn during my college visit that I knew IWU was the place for me.”

As an introvert, Vernon remembers spending a lot of time in her room. She shared, “I didn’t hang out around campus, at least not for extended periods of time, but eventually, I found other introverted friends who would hang out in my room with me. I remember random things like stacking Oreos on a friend’s head for a scavenger hunt, the way the lawn in front of Evans smelled like pudding for three solid weeks after pudding tug-of-war, and staying up all night to write a play for the 24-hour play festival. That was actually my first official all-nighter, and it wasn’t even for homework! During my senior year, I remember my roommate and I hosting a lot of late-night writing parties in our townhouse. With all the talking and laughing, I’m surprised we ever wrote anything, but the 100 pages we each turned in for our novel class is proof we did.”

She remembers IWU as a place of discovery. “I knew I didn’t know everything about the world, and that my view my even be skewed,” Vernon said. “I talked and listened a lot in college, trying to learn as much as I could while I lived in such close proximity with friends. I miss that community now, but I’m finding it shows up in different places: at church, at work, at family gatherings.”

Vernon and her college friends are still friends today, and they see each other often.

Vernon is now a preschool teacher at Mt. Olive Preschool in Marion where she teaches four and five-year-olds. “It’s not at all what I saw myself doing,” she said, “but the Lord works in mysterious (and sometimes amusing) ways. And I have learned SO MUCH at this job already!”

In the last year, Kateland has gotten married, moved, started a new job, started a blog, started taking drum lessons and started a business with her sister, who lives in New Mexico. “I love hand-lettering, which is what I do for our business, and I’ve been steadily working on improving my skills,” she said. “I like to play board games, card games and video games, but I’ll do anything to avoid sports (except croquet, a family tradition). I plan to wear mismatched socks until I’m eighty and it’s no longer cute, just weird. I read children’s and young adult books almost exclusively, especially in the fantasy genre. Job is my favorite book of the Bible because it contains some of the most beautiful poetry; check out chapter 38 to see what I mean.”

Vernon would encourage IWU students to appreciate college life while it’s there. She said, “Spend time with friends. Talk. Listen. Grow. Use all of this information and the time you have there to figure out who your best self is. College is a great time to look inwards—take advantage of that and let God shape you. But don’t forget to get involved in growing the Kingdom, too. Use the skills you’re discovering and use them to love others, however God asks you to.”



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a senior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

Community Rallies to Help the Gurley’s Beat Cancer

By: Dezaray Barr

The Gurley family

Sarah Gurley attended Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2007, when she graduated with a major in Christian Worship and a minor in Communication (speech and theatre, at the time).

“I picked IWU because it was the only school that said I could double-major in Communication and Music (which I didn’t end up doing),” Gurley said. “My admissions counselor also told me straight up that IWU may not be for me, but that he will be praying that the Lord leads me to the right place. It was the only place that didn’t seem like it was trying to sell me a used car. I felt like they genuinely cared about what the Lord wanted for me. So I was sold… I grew leaps and bounds at IWU. My leadership skills were fine-tuned through my heavy involvement in residence life (RA for two years and ARD for one). My worship-leading ability was cultivated and encouraged as I had never felt before. I found life-long friends who encourage me spiritually and emotionally. My professors were and continue to impact my life. I am constantly bragging about the professors I had in the religion department and how much Biblical wisdom I gleaned from them. I know that not everyone has a great college experience, but my IWU experience was fantastic. From the time I stepped foot on the campus until I left, I grew as a person and as a follower of Jesus. I learned academically and felt prepared to face the world.”

Gurley grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She now lives in Houghton, New York but is moving to Indianapolis with her husband as he has recently recieved a job teaching at Kingsway Christian School.

Just two months after graduating, Gurley boarded a plane and moved to South Korea for two years. “I loved my experience in res life at IWU so much that I decided to make a career out of it,” she explained. “I moved to South Korea to work in the boarding program of a Christian international school. There, I met my husband. He was a teacher at the school, and we bonded over our shared Wesleyan college background (he is a graduate of Houghton College). Soon, we began dating, became engaged and were married in 2010.”

While in South Korea, Gurley worked in residence life and then moved to Minnesota where she served as a Resident Director and Director of Leadership Development at Crown College for four years. After having her second child, her husband accepted a position in Arizona. She explained, “We were only there for a year before my husband accepted a job at his alma mater, Houghton Academy. After moving, I accepted a job there as bible teacher and soon took on other classes, such as theater and journalism. I eventually became the Discipleship Coordinator at Houghton Academy.”

Now, the Gurley’s have three children and one on the way. Emeline is six, Analeigh is almost five, Oleisia is two and baby #4 will be here in early January. Gurley shared, “As a family full of girls, we have lots of dance parties (Dan is usually the DJ) and family movie nights. We love to go on walks and play outside as much as possible.”

A few months ago, Dan started getting headaches, seeing spots and having some sensitivity in his ear. Dan and Sarah were visiting some friends in Indianapolis and one of them, an IWU graduate who is now a nurse practitioner, told Dan to get it checked out. She said she couldn’t rule out a tumor. This advice proved to be extremely helpful. Dan started going down the list of specialists to see and none had an answer, until he went to an ophthalmologist. The doctor spotted the tumor in his eye and sent him to a specialist up in Rochester, NY for further study. After several tests, the doctor confirmed that it was a cancerous tumor on the back of his eye – a choroidal malignant melanoma. A very rare cancer that affects only six in one million people. Dan was sent to the Cleveland Clinic to see an oncology ophthalmologist. He will undergo a special radiation treatment where they insert a radioactive plate onto his eye that transmits radioactive seeds into the cancer while it is in place. He will spend three days in the hospital while the plate is on. Once the plate is removed, he will have to go back for several follow-up appointments and scans to make sure the cancer has been killed and that the cancer has not spread to other areas of his body. He will be a cancer patient for the foreseeable future and there will always be the risk that it will show up again in his lungs or liver.

Gurley said, “Our greatest need from the IWU community is prayer. The Lord is Jehovah Rapha- our healer. We fully believe that the Lord is not done writing Dan’s story yet. He has impacted the lives of so many people, I have to believe that the Lord is simply using this for a season to impact even more people. So we need prayer that the cancer is killed once and for all. We need prayer for me while I cope with intense morning sickness (I suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum during the entire duration of my pregnancies). My pregnancies make it difficult for me to function, let alone care for three kids and a husband while packing up an entire house for our move to Indiana. We also need prayer for the Lord to provide financially for us during this time. We are facing a large amount of medical bills, and because Dan is changing jobs, his deductible will go back down to zero right in the middle of his treatment, leaving us with potentially two out-of-pocket-maximum bills in one year. A Christian school teacher’s salary isn’t anything to write home about, but he has felt called to minister to kids in that setting. I don’t have a job in Indiana as of yet and my sickness prevents me from really having one until after the birth of our child. So financially, we will be facing a mountain but nothing that the Lord didn’t see coming!”

This is not the first hardship the Gurley family has faced. Dan had an emergency appendectomy the morning of their wedding. His incision site became infected on their honeymoon, and he was rushed back into surgery upon their return only to spend the first month of marriage immobile and bed-ridden. “But through it all, we have only grown closer together in our marriage and in our faith,” Gurley said. “I saw the hand of the Lord early in our marriage, so I started blogging about it. I keep a record of all the amazing things the Lord is teaching us at www.growingupgurley.com.”

For those of you not following on the IWU 30 Days of Prayer via social media, we recently prayed for alumni. Jessica Voss (an incoming freshman this fall at IWU) reached out to us over Instagram saying, “Hello! My name is Jessica, I’m actually an incoming freshman this fall. I’ve been following the days of prayer and noticed that today is alumni. One of my favorite teachers is an alumni from IWU and needs a lot of prayer right now. Her name is Sarah Gurley. Her husband was recently diagnosed with cancer, and at the same time she is pregnant and moving her family from Houghton, NY to the Indianapolis area… She is a dearly loved friend of mine and a former teacher. Her husband was also my teacher.” Obviously the Gurley’s have affected many students nad people, and like Sarah said, their story is not over yet.

To help the Gurley’s beat cancer, visit https://www.gofundme.com/ee6xq-help-the-gurleys-beat-cancer.



Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a senior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.

Celebrating the Small Victories – Jill Carder’s Story

By: Katherine Arch


The Education Division at Indiana Wesleyan University is one of the largest academic divisions on campus. To honor the students and graduates of this department, we will be telling the stories of several alumni and how they are using their God-given gifts to teach others. Special thanks goes to the alumni that participated in interviews, the faculty of the Education Division, and to the Division Chair, Dr. Jim Elsberry.

IMG_0211Jill Carder (’15, Elementary Education) knows the value of celebrating the little things in life. She celebrates small victories and encourages academic growth at many different levels. She helps little hands learn to hold a pencil, and write their name. She realizes the value of seeing small victories as significant. She discovers potential.

This is her calling; she is a teacher.

From early on, Carder realized she wanted to teach. Her experiences working with children through tutoring, babysitting and volunteering at church ministries allowed her to discover her passion for working with children. When she began to study at Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall of 2011, her parents encouraged her to explore teaching as a potential area of focus.

“Teaching was always an area of interest for me, when I entered one of Dr. Elsberry’s classes I realized that I had made the right decision,” she said.

Carder works as a Kindergarten teacher at Allen Elementary school. Her time at Indiana Wesleyan University equipped her with the professional tools that she needed to become an effective teacher. Carder mentioned that these teachers gave her valuable tools, but more importantly they taught her to think for herself and understand her personal values. One IWU professor that specifically encouraged her to teach was Dr. McCracken.

“Dr. McCraken helped me understand the importance of knowing what I thought and why I believed what I did,” Carder explained. Reflecting on her time at IWU, she mentioned that she loved being part of the School of Teacher Education because of the support and experience of faculty and professors.

“They have all been in the classroom before,” said Carder, “So they all understood the struggles and frustrations that I dealt with.” Throughout her time at IWU, Jill grew in her understanding of education. She stated that her practicum and observation experiences helped her gain confidence and momentum as a teacher. She greatly enjoyed her experiences getting into the classroom, which only further confirmed her calling to be a teacher. She met many children, each with different struggles and heartaches. Carder said, “In each placement I was pushed and stretched beyond my abilities; with each new experience I became a better teacher.”

As Jill launched toward graduation, her thoughts turned toward future employment. Preparing well in advance, she submitted her résumé to dozens of schools. For each interview, she did everything right; she ironed her clothes, rehearsed several interview questions and showed up ten minutes early to each interview. Despite how well the principles liked her and how well the interviews went, Carder faced a series of rejections.

Having just graduated, Carder began to question her calling to teach. It was already mid-July and she had no job prospects. Just as she was starting to become discouraged, the principal of Allen Elementary school phoned and asked her to interview to be the new kindergarten teacher.

“I was amazed,” Carder recalls, “I hadn’t even applied for the job.” Asked to come back to Marion for the interview, Carder got in her car and started the five-hour drive from her parents’ home in Ohio. She walked into the school punctual, positive, and prepared. The interview went well; Carder, however, refused to get excited prematurely.

Two days later the principal called, offering Carder the job. She had nowhere to live, little money and few connections. Her boss wanted her to start in less than a month. She accepted.

“A week and a half later, I found myself in Indiana living in my parent’s camper while waiting for my new apartment to be ready,” Carder recalls of this rapid relocation. “I spent most days at school, trying desperately to prepare my classroom for seventeen energetic five-year-olds. Through God’s perfect plan and my parent’s unfailing generosity, I would be moved into my new apartment just three days before students would walk into my classroom.”

Carder admits she would not have picked kindergarten as her first class to teach, but she loves it.

“It is definitely the place for me,” she explained. Although her students come from situations that are less than ideal, Carder mentioned that she loves helping her students unleash their potential.

Coming to her class, only three of Carder’s students had any preschool experience. Few could write their name or knew the alphabet. Reflecting on the past few months, Miss Carder is thrilled to see the individual progress of each student.

“They went from not knowing how to hold a pencil to reading,” Carder gushed. “It is just the coolest thing to see their growth.” Carder explained that she has learned to celebrate the little victories with her students. Articulating her vision of teaching, Carder stated, “Each day we improve, we make better choices, and we become smarter. I celebrate with every student for each small victory. Over time, the small victories become huge.”


Written by Katherine Arch, Story Teller for Alumni Relations. Katherine Arch is a Senior English major at Indiana Wesleyan, and a member of the Track and Cross Country teams. She is passionate about sharing people’s stories and celebrating their unique divine potential in written form. Katherine also operates a website called “Join the Ranch” at jointheranch.weebly.com. It is about pursuing God’s purpose for her life and vocation.