A Man of Many Teaching Hats
LAKELAND, Florida — While working as an administrator for a private Christian school in Tampa, Kevin Weaver began the search for an internship for his doctoral research. He drove 40 minutes east on Interstate 4 and made his way to Southeastern, the Assemblies of God university in Lakeland.
Although an internship didn’t result, Weaver in 2014 made connections at Southeastern’s College of Education, signed a contract, and began teaching a couple of courses. He resigned his job at the kindergarten through 8th grade school in Tampa.
“It was a leap of faith to take a part-time job, but I believed higher education was my calling,” recalls Weaver.
Soon, Weaver added other positions at the university aligned with his skills and experience, including assisting with the nascent football program and cross-country team, leading a kindergarten through 12th grade administrator course, and teaching an introduction to sport management class — all while finishing his dissertation.
However, when summer came, Weaver had no employment — and no paycheck until after school resumed in the fall. Although he splurged some nights for an inexpensive motel, more frequently Weaver slept inside his 2005 Chrysler 300, where he kept all his worldly possessions. Because Lakeland is usually hot and muggy in summer, Weaver often snoozed with the car’s air conditioner running. Once classes resumed and he got paid, he rented an apartment.
As a part-time instructor, Weaver had no office on campus. Indeed, some faculty mistook the then-29-year-old teacher for a student.
Yet Weaver quickly achieved popularity among both students and faculty, earning high evaluations after his first semester of teaching. During Weaver’s second semester, Southeastern hired him as a full-time faculty member, adding courses in law and ministry to his increasingly diverse portfolio. By this time, Weaver had finished his doctorate in education leadership to go along with the master’s in law and bachelor’s degree in philosophy that he had obtained earlier. Weaver’s parents worked as public schoolteachers in Georgia and his brother is an assistant superintendent in the Peach State. In 2018, Weaver married Jessica, a pastor’s daughter and currently social work director.
Weaver’s multitalented efforts continue at Southeastern, where he is teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in four different areas: health law and bioethics for kinesiology; public school law for the College of Education; contract law for the master’s in business administration program; and honors thesis seminar for the School of Honors. Weaver has hired four former students to teach the kinesiology program, which he directs.
These days Weaver’s duties also include serving as a teacher adviser for the National Constitution Center and legal research assistant for Harvard’s Leadership Institute for Faith and Education (LIFE).
Weaver received a grant from Harvard to develop and teach a series of seminars on the impact of constitutional law on education policy, focusing on the first and 14th amendments. Students and faculty from Southeastern have been able to participate in the instruction from the Boston-area school, learning how students can effectively bring their faith into public sectors. Weaver is teaching the seventh seminar this spring focusing on the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
“The country is divided racially and politically,” Weaver says. “The goal of the seminar is to bring people together, modeling civility over ideology.”
For five years ending in 2021, Weaver chaired Southeastern’s university curriculum and policy committee, working with deans on initiatives.
J. Chris Owen, executive vice president and dean at Southeastern, has been a mentor and friend to Weaver since Weaver arrived.
“Kevin is a ball of enthusiasm who has a passion for students and a passion for life,” says Owen, 51. “He lives to see students discover who God created them to be.”
Owen says students relate well to Weaver because of his remarkable story of resiliency.
“Some people would have called it quits chasing their dream, but Kevin never did,” Owen says. “Although he had a tough journey, he knew God had a plan for his life and he stayed with it, put in the effort, and is teaching and modeling what he’s learned.”
Weaver has a gift for investing in students, Owen says.
“He has a genuine, kind, and encouraging spirit,” Owen says. “He is an incredible professor and a wonderful asset to the university.”