March 19, 2007

Christ is in the center of St. Mark Lutheran School

BBy Jenni Sebora

Providing a quality education and keeping up with the ever-changing educational standards, with Christ at the center, is what St. Mark Lutheran School in New Germany is all about.

St. Mark 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.

And it’s the Christ-centered aspect that students and staff say makes St. Mark special.

When students leave St. Mark to go on to the next academic setting, staff at St. Mark say they expect students to perform just as students would leave any other school setting to go on to another, teacher Linda Edmison noted.

“We’re here to teach and to provide an education,” Edmison said, “But Christ’s love is at the center.”

Edmison, who is a 20-year veteran teacher at St. Mark, has witnessed many changes throughout the course of her teaching career due much to societal changes. But one thing she says that doesn’t change is Christ’s love.

“We have to keep a perspective on all of the educational changes and keep up with the state standard requirements, but the Savior’s love never changes,” Edmison said.

St. Mark’s teachers Becky Aurich, Connie Stahlke, and Mary Mielke agree.

“The fact that you can bring God into daily conversation,” is what long-time teacher Stahlke says sets St. Mark apart from a public school.

Providing a Christian education and having religion a regular part of the students’ day is important to Mielke too. In fact, Mielke’s favorite class to teach is religion.

“How God can be a part of your daily life,” is central to St. Mark’s teachings Mielke said.

And new St. Mark principal and teacher Dan Wacker agreed.

Wacker, who was inspired by his own Lutheran confirmation teacher, says he enjoys teaching but can’t imagine not being able to practice his Christian faith while teaching.

Religion is a regular part of a student’s day. The school day begins in prayer and devotions, and religion classes are daily activities.

Chapel is held every Wednesday morning in the gymnasium. St. Mark’s pastor Rev. Allen Holthus leads the services with guest pastors also participating.

During the Lenten season though, students and staff walk to St. Mark’s church to participate in chapel service there. The service is open to the public. Students actively participate in the service by singing.

Students also appreciate the Christian atmosphere, and being able to openly share their Christian beliefs.

“I like that it’s a Christian school. I believe in Jesus. We start the day in prayer,” third grader Maddy Miller said.

Kindergarten students Melanie Miller and Alex Pierson agreed.

“We learn about God,” Melanie said.

“I like devotions,” Alex said.

Elder students, fifth grader Nathan Woytcke and seventh grader Madi Theis also feel that a Christ centered education is important.

“I like that you can practice your beliefs – you can openly pray before and after lunch,” Madi said.

Dealing with student conflict in a Christian setting is also a positive aspect of St. Mark, Stahlke noted.

“Resolving conflict in a Christian manner,” is also what makes St. Mark special, Stahlke said.

As a Christ-centered education is at the heart of the school, there are many other aspects of the school the students and staff feel are special at St. Mark.

“I like everything,” kindergarten student Sawyer Kubasch said.

That “everything” includes a new Spanish language program that was implemented this year.

A video series along with practice and discussion are used to teach students beginning Spanish and skills progress as students master the skills. Aurich, who leads the program, meets with each class two days a week.

“I like Spanish,” second grader Rachel Roepke said.

Students also enjoy learning computer skills and beginning keyboarding skills that are taught in the early elementary grades.

A relaxed, supportive learning environment with a low student-teacher ratio is also important to teachers and students.

“With smaller class sizes, we have a relaxed atmosphere and a good learning environment,” Aurich said. Mielke agreed.

Mielke noted that students receive a lot of attention, and teachers make sure students get their work done. Students also appreciate this.

“I like it better here. You get more help on assignments. They (teachers) really make sure you understand before they move on,” Madi Theis said, who previously attended a public school.

Parent support is evident and important at St. Mark. In fact, during the recent Lutheran School’s week, an art exhibit display of student artwork was showcased. Students completed the projects with their families.

Sawyer made a paper mache dinosaur he made with the help of his family; Alex Pierson sewed fairy dishtowels with the help and guidance of her family, and Melanie Miller sewed a pig project with her family.

“Parents are very supportive. Parents support children’s learning at home,” Aurich said.

In a relaxed learning atmosphere at St. Mark, staff also like to incorporate fun and a variety of learning activities to enhance learning.

“Laughter is important. When they (students) come to school, I want kids to enjoy learning,” Edmison said, who likes to sing in rap and use music and other methods to get learning concepts across to her students.

“I tell my students if they can handle my musical medleys, they can handle fifth and sixth grade,” Edmison said with a chuckle. Edmison also teaches a literature class to the seventh and eighth graders and is the school’s athletic director and the girls’ sports coach.

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