The two excellent teachers’ meetings we held to get ready for the new church school season reminded me of how meaningful the connections are that the teachers create with the teens and children. And what a wonderful crowd of volunteers we have. Many of them have volunteered in the past, but have changed their age group for this fall. Others are new, and all are excited to begin.
Most of the questions I receive from parents concern our program for seventh through twelfth grades, so I will introduce those classes first.
7th and 8th Grades
Dawn Harris and Dawn Moffitt are taking their verve to the Youth Room, where both the seventh and the eighth grades will meet, combining for the first time. These two grades will stay together throughout the rest of their time at St. John’s. The significant event for the members of these classes is the twice-a-year ceremonies we call Rite 13. We had one last spring, and our next one falls on the weekend of November 11-12. The preparation and the ritual create a significant bonding among the families of the new teens. Jessica Snyder, the interim church school director, will be writing to the families of those who will turn thirteen by those dates. The interviewing is a terrific part of the director’s job! I’ll underline what Scott Bradley wrote last week: everyone in this class of 7th and 8th is eligible to attend Youth Group, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings, in the Youth Room, and to then be part of Camp Joy next summer, during the second week of July, helping repair homes of people in need, while camping out near Berkeley Springs, WV. Many teens from 7th through 12th grades go to both church school and Youth Group – and they get to know youth their age who go to many schools around the area, while growing in their spiritual lives.
9th and 10th Grades
The ninth and tenth grades are meeting in a room new to them: the J2A room, which is through a doorway in Hines Hall. Face the stage, and it’s on your left: it was also new to Cassie and Walter Carr, veteran teachers, who get to shepherd this particular group of teens (and their parents) through a two-year process which culminates both in confirmation at the Cathedral and in their pilgrimage, the seventh pilgrimage on which our St. John’s teens have embarked. We don’t focus on that this year, though: instead we apply ourselves to the two big units which help us prepare. The first, “self,” is about getting to know ourselves well; then the focus switches to “society” on many levels, seeking the themes that concern the teens most. In this class as in all the classes, we practice social skills, empathy, and kindness. We try in that one hour a week to be our best selves, stepping up to challenges and letting ourselves be known.
11th and 12th Grades
The eleventh and twelfth grades are called the pilgrim class, and they meet in the pilgrimage room, at the top of the central staircase. All people of this age are very welcome, whether or not they were able to go on the pilgrimage last June. Dan Beaupre and Elly Sullivan are looking forward to leading them, either through their senior year or through their last two high school years. This group will rise to the occasion of the spring musical, a passion play, and to the further bonding that a production brings about.
Twenty-five of them traveled to Banff and Calgary together, and they return to church school to appreciate and strengthen those connections, while preparing for a new stage in life.
3rd through 6th Grades
Now I’d like you to meet the teachers of the classes from third to sixth grades, each in a separate classroom on the lower level. The classes in this four-grade group are well able to develop connection skills and practices of kindness, both of which have deep spiritual dimensions. They can begin to understand the concept that “God is love,” and to appreciate that empathy and cooperation require us to grow.
The third grade teacher is Yuka Salter, who will sometimes be assisted by her husband Matthew and sometimes by Dillon Grenham. This classroom is across from the nursery and it’s the closest classroom to the narthex stairs; you can also get there from Hines Hall.
Next door to the third grade is the sixth grade, and you can see this classroom from Hines Hall. The sixth graders will enjoy both Becky Nee and Bonnie Duffy as their teachers.
The fourth and fifth grades are in two classrooms close to one another. Go down the stairs past the office to find them. The fourth grade meets in the room to your right, a big room with a bleacher feature that’s always popular. Their two teachers are Debbie Borkowski and AJ Jackson. The fifth grades go down the hallway to the classroom on the left, where they will be joined by teachers Chris Symons and Manon Waalewijn, with Tim Symons helping out when he can.
Preschool through 2nd Grade
Our upstairs hall has the classes from the preschool three-year-olds through the second graders, in five separate classrooms. You’ll find the upstairs hall by following the long hallway from our lobby, past the office, through the doors and up the stairwell – and you’ll see many other children and parents going that way. We would like parents to come pick up their children, or to send an older sibling to do so, after class is over at 11 am. All parents are welcome to sit in classes, and this practice can help a child get used to a new setting.
The youngest children in our church school are in our preschool class, and it is taught this fall by Susan Symons, in a big enticing room at the top of the stairs. The four-year-olds will enjoy pre-kindergarten, to the left at the top of the stairs, and their teachers are Roberta Telles and Erin Sheppard.
The kindergarteners are in the only classroom on the right side of the hallway; both Dan Opila and Teresa Thomas are looking forward to being their teachers. On the left side of the hallway are the two remaining classrooms: teaching first grade we have Jessica Flugge and Kate Danzis. Second grade teachers are Wendy Vicente and Laurel Fountain, the same people who will before long lead the nativity pageant.
The teachers mentioned the satisfaction of preparing a curriculum lesson that is lectionary-based, as our “Living the Good News” is – and how they get so much out of the surprises the children offer, both their questions and their answers. A great deal of learning goes into managing a classroom, with an emphasis upon activity and participation, and that classroom is ever-new, as the children develop and as we welcome newcomers. Working with these volunteers has long been a source of inspiration to me, as I see their creativity, their patience, and their good hearts. I hope your children and teens will enjoy a wonderful year with them.