Herald Journal, April 4, 2005
St. Mark School: quality Christian education
By Jenni Sebora
St. Mark Lutheran School operates under the direction of St. Mark Lutheran Church of New Germany. Its purpose is to provide a quality pre-kindergarten through eighth grade Christian education for the children of the congregation and the greater New Germany community.
This is one major aspect the teachers at St. Mark highlight about the school.
“I love the kids. I love being able to share my faith,” first and second grade teacher Becky Aurich said.
In fact, Aurich taught at St. Mark in the early 1980s, but then took time off to be with her own children and came back to teach again at St. Mark because she enjoyed it .
“I’ve never had a day I didn’t want to be here (St. Mark School). It’s a fortunate thing to love going to your job,” Aurich said.
Third and fourth grade teacher Mary Mielke also taught at St. Mark in the late 1970s and returned again two years ago. She feels that St. Mark is like a family and prioritizes the faith and Christian aspect of the school. Mielke leads two devotions daily with her students and begins and ends the day with prayer.
“It’s (devotions, prayer) just a natural part of our day,” Mielke said.
“When there is a conflict between students, we try and help the students solve it and deal with the forgiveness part of it also, which is helpful for life,” Mielke said.
Chapel is held every Wednesday morning in the gymnasium. St. Mark’s pastor Rev. Allen Holthus, who also teaches eighth grade confirmation, usually leads the chapel service, but occasionally guest pastors lead it also, Mielke and Aurich said.
During their time at St. Mark’s, the students are preparing so that they will be successful in high school also. The results from the eighth grade Basic Skills tests have always been very good. Last year, 100 percent of the students passed both the math and the reading tests, Principal and seventh and eighth grade teacher Darryl Giesselmann said.
Parent and St. Mark School Board Member Amy Hafemann attests to the fact that St. Mark School prepares the students well for high school. Hafemann and her husband have two children who have attended St. Mark School, and one that presently is attending.
Some people believe that children who attend parochial school will be behind, but that is not true. One of our sons now attends Watertown High School, and the other son attends Mayer Lutheran High School, and both of their teachers at these schools have said that what they have learned from their previous schooling (St. Mark) is advanced, Hafemann said.
The students also enjoy a hot lunch program, which provides quality lunches under the state food and nutrition program, Giesselmann noted.
Cost per lunch is $1.45, with free and reduced lunches available for students who qualify.
Other specialties at St. Mark include a band program, vocal choir program, Title I help in reading and math, and computer classes in the computer lab. For students who qualify, special education services are available through the Waconia Public Schools.
“All students receive a caring education from Christian teachers. The teacher-student ratio is low, allowing teachers to provide special help to students,” Giesselmann said.
Aurich and Mielke noted that students are really not allowed to fail. Students receive a lot of attention, and the teachers make sure the students get their work done.
“Students are not going to get by with an incomplete,” Mielke said.
Hafemann also noted that the teachers are very dedicated and caring.
“We have very dedicated teachers who put long hours in,” Hafemann said.
Teacher and parent support is also important at St. Mark Lutheran School The school has an active Parent-Teacher League, which helps the school fund special projects. It also has an educational program to help parents with parenting skills, Giesselmann said.
Teachers support each other, and parent support is prevalent, Aurich said.
Students also have opportunities to volunteer and assist others. Students rotate various duties cleaning up the lunchroom after all the students are finished with lunch. Seventh and eighth grade students also help serve the hot lunches.
Students also volunteer to sing during chapel, and students recently set up the language arts display. On Saturdays, the students in fifth through eighth grade run the community’s recycling program.
Students are expected and willing to help. Kids voluntarily stay after school to help, Aurich and Mielke noted.
Volunteering and helping are part of the learning process, Giesselmann added.
Another major strength that St. Mark School offers is the feeling of family.
“It’s like a family here,” Aurich and Mielke said.
The students of all ages mingle with each other. They play together at recess, before school and after school, Aurich, Mielke and Hafemann said.
“They (the students) protect each other,” Hafemann said.
In fact, after certain tasks are completed in the morning, students can mingle with other students in the different classrooms. The older students may help the younger students out,” Aurich said.
“I’ve enjoyed it here. It’s been a real pleasure. It’s a family-type setting. The students know the teachers, and the teachers know the students. It’s a family,” Giesselmann said of his 16 years of work at St. Mark Lutheran School.
Hafemann also stressed that the students are well-disciplined and learn very important moral values. “They learn about respect and values,” Hafemann said.
For more information about the school or to tour the facility, contact Principal Darryl Giesselmann at (952) 353-2464