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Western Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative Staff Spotlight Fall 2019

The Power of Teamwork

The “Collaborative” or West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS), is a non-profit organization formed in 2012 with the goal of creating a seamless, exemplary preschool through high school Christian educational experience for local families. Together, FCS, GHC, NEC, MCS, and WMC provide excellent Christian education rooted in the Gospel to all who desire it.

This “better together” teamwork is personified by a growing staff that works behind-the-scenes to help fulfill the goal and mission of WMCS while adding a professional level of support to each school.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32

Introducing, TEAM WMCS, the Collaborative Support Staff for all Five Schools

WMCS Collaborative staff (pictured above) includes (top, left to right:) Larry Schutt, Mary Workman, Cathy Schaaf, Kimberlee Mitchell, (bottom row) Whitney Piersma, Dan DeKam, and Jennifer Van Hekken.

LARRY SCHUTT, WMCS CFO, joined in 2018.

“I love supporting the WMCS principals on the business side of school operations as much as they love supporting the teachers who are on the frontline of Christian education.”

WHITNEY JACKSON, Director of Educational Support Services, since 2016.

“Working with the WMCS collaborative allows me to create procedures system-wide to ensure all schools share the same vision for supporting students with diverse learning needs. This helps create consistency and build a community of collaboration between teams at each school that allows us to use each other as resources!”

KIMBERLEE MITCHELL, Director of Marketing Communications, since 2016.

“I enjoy working with the ‘Fab Five” principals, their support staff and the managers of DIBS! and B2 to sustain and raise the bar for excellence of transformative Christian education! It’s true Kingdom work!”

JENN VANHEKKEN, Director of TfT since 2017 and K-8 Curriculum Development, since 2015.

“What I love most about what I do is having the ability to walk alongside our teachers to help them strengthen their understanding of integrating faith and learning in a way that is meaningful and intentional while also
strengthening their curriculum and their use of best practices for learning in the classroom.”

CATHY SCHAAF, WMCS Accountant, since May 2019.

“I am very excited to be working with the WMCS collaborative! It’s an excellent idea for all of the schools to work together to provide the best Christian education. I’ve been involved in Christian education for most of my life as a student and now as a parent with sons who were blessed by the K-12 WMCS system.”

MARY WORKMAN, DIBS! On Resale Store Manager since early 2017.

“Working with the WMCS collaborative board for DIBS! has given me the opportunity to give back to the schools that have supported me and my family.”

DAN DEKAM, WMCS Collaborative Director since 2014

“It has been gratifying to see how the collaborative model has strengthened our Christian Schools in West Michigan.”

This article appeared in the West Michigan Christian Schools PK-12 Faith Matters Newsletter, Fall 2019 print edition. To read the full newsletter click here.

West Michigan Christian Schools  (WMCS), is a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region, including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian (PK-6) and New Era Christian (PK-8). The WMCS system works under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality PK-12 Christian Education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs.

West Michigan Christian Schools Complete Year One of Teaching for Transformation Training

TfT is Deeper Learning with a Christian Theme

Being able to share the Gospel in the classroom is a gift and a privilege, so we want to make sure our faculty achieves this to the best of their God-given ability.

TfT offers teachers expert deeper-learning tools to better instruct in a way that engages the student and creates lasting transformation. 

This requires a shift to new way of thinking and teaching. That said, year one of TfT training has been introductory. The early adopters to the training framework have already been identified and they will be given additional training.

To help explain this sophisticated program and why we chose to embark on it for WMCS, we asked our TfT Coach Amanda Albright the following questions:

  1. How does TfT already enhance what is already distinctly Christian education at WMCS?
  2. What does TfT do for teachers and schools?
  3. How do student benefit from experiencing TfT in the classroom?

What is TfT?

The TfT program, as developed by The Prairie Centre for Christian Education (PCCE), provides a framework for the development of authentic and integral Christian learning experiences that are grounded in a transformational worldview with a focus on seeing and living out God’s story. The TfT program is currently being used by over fifty schools worldwide (Canada, United States, Africa, and Central America).

TfT adeptly and strategically gives our teachers the tools, training, and knowledge to make sure their class time shares a compelling vision of the Kingdom, one that also creates a longing and desire within every student to engage and be an integral part in God’s unfolding plan.

The funds raised at the Annual WMCS Golf Outing go toward Teaching for Transformation costs. 

Interested in donating toward TfT? Become a WMCS Golf Outing 2018 Sponsor!

LEARN HOW!

West Michigan Christian Schools  (WMCS), is a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region, including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian (PK-6) and New Era Christian (PK-8). The WMCS system works under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality PK-12 Christian Education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs.

West Michigan Christian Schools Begins Teaching for Transformation

TfT is a Powerful New PK-12 Christian Education Learning Framework

Dedicated to a process of continuous improvement and growth, West Michigan Christian Schools (WMCS) strives for excellence, relevance and resonance in Christian Education. Since our primary objective is to teach children how to think about, live in and interact with God’s creation from a Christ-centered perspective, every year we faithfully and strategically consider how we can do this better.

WMCS is excited to announce the launch of a new curriculum development program called Teaching for Transformation (TfT), which will assist our PK-12 teachers to better integrate faith and learning in a way that will transform the Kingdom-focused culture of our school system.

What is TfT?

The TfT program, as developed by The Prairie Centre for Christian Education (PCCE), provides a framework for the development of authentic and integral Christian learning experiences that are grounded in a transformational worldview with a focus on seeing and living out God’s story. The TfT program is currently being used by over fifty schools worldwide (Canada, United States, Africa, and Central America).

“Being able to share the Gospel in the classroom is a gift and a privilege, so we want to make sure our faculty achieves this to the best of their God-given ability.  TfT adeptly and strategically gives our teachers the tools, training, and knowledge to make sure their class time shares a compelling vision of the Kingdom, one that also creates a longing and desire within every student to be an integral part in God’s unfolding plan,” explains Dan DeKam, Muskegon Christian School Administrator and Executive Director of the West Michigan Christian Schools Collaborative.

Being able to share the Gospel in the classroom is a gift and a privilege, so we want to make sure our faculty achieves this to the best of their God-given ability.  TfT adeptly and strategically gives our teachers the tools, training, and knowledge to make sure their class time shares a compelling vision of the Kingdom, one that also creates a longing and desire within every student to be an integral part in God’s unfolding plan.

WMCS TfT Faculty Training

Over the next three years, our teachers will undergo training in how to implement this new teaching framework.  This is an instructional practice for PK-12 that will be adopted by the teachers throughout our collaborative system.

As our teachers train and begin to implement their new TfT tools, we will be sharing new developments with the WMCS member school family via newsletters (like this) and via “The Voice” our WMCS blog.  

“Once you live out God’s grace in His story, you can’t go back to being normal and going through the motions; you can’t go back to a meaningless scene stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time,” shared a teacher from a TfT-trained school.

Once you live out God’s grace in His story, you can’t go back to being normal and going through the motions; you can’t go back to a meaningless scene stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.

Don’t WMCS Teachers Already Instruct This Way?

Yes, our WMCS staff teach from a Biblical worldview. In fact, West Michigan Christian Schools have been offering Biblical worldview Christian Education in the Lakeshore region of West Michigan for more than 100 years! Although God’s Word stays inerrant and relevant throughout time, as educators we have to work hard to make sure that the way we teach does too.

TfT’s impressive tools and intricate curricular framework provides teachers with a template to develop a unit from a Christian perspective in a fresh and new way, that will, we believe, result in transformed lives, for both students and teachers, while it also permeates the entire culture of WMCS. All five WMCS principals and our staff are encouraged and excited to bring this to our respective schools!” shares DeKam.  

TfT’s impressive tools and intricate curricular framework provides teachers with a template to develop a unit from a Christian perspective in a fresh and new way, that will, we believe, result in transformed lives, for both students and teachers, while it also permeates the entire culture of WMCS. All five WMCS principals and our staff are encouraged and excited to bring this to our respective schools!

TfT Costs

For an individual school to adopt TfT, the cost is about $30,000 over three years.  By adopting the TfT model as a collaborative, our cost over three years for all five WMCS member schools is $50,000. This is a significant cost savings for all the schools and demonstrates one of the ways we can do more together.

The funds raised at the WMCS Golf Outing 2018 will go toward Teaching for Transformation costs.

Interested in donating toward TfT? Become a WMCS Golf Outing 2018 Sponsor!

LEARN HOW!

West Michigan Christian Schools  (WMCS), is a collaborative system of five schools throughout the Lakeshore region, including Fremont Christian (PK-8), Grand Haven Christian (PK-8), Muskegon Christian (PK-6) and New Era Christian (PK-8). The WMCS system works under a “Better Together” philosophy, offering a top-quality PK-12 Christian Education experience and a full scope of academic and extracurricular programs.

WMCS TEACHER IN-SERVICE DAY: Iron Sharpens Iron

WMCS TEACHER IN-SERVICE DAY: Iron Sharpens Iron

In August, when students were still sleeping in and enjoying summer, faculty from all five member schools gathered bright and early at the WMC Campus to attend the WMCS Annual teacher In-Service Workshop. After a group breakfast and fellowship, eighty teachers and five principals, (many pictured above) started the day with worship in the “big room.” The Worship Team was from All Shores Wesleyan, a local Spring Lake church and included GHC and WMC alum Sam Vos and Nathan Landheer.

“It was powerful. Faculty from all five schools were worshipping as one body. There’s no better way to kick-off the year,” shared Dan DeKam, WMCS Executive Director and MCS Principal.

It was powerful. Faculty from all five schools were worshipping as one body. There’s no better way to kick-off the year.

Jenn Van Hekken, who serves diligently as the WMCS Director of Curriculum & Instruction, was the gracious event host. In this position for four years, it is Van Hekken’s mission to provide seamless and aligned PK-12 curriculum for the WMCS school system. At the event, she was excited to share the successful goal of aligning all Social Studies curriculum across the school system and the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Mrs. Van Hekken also introduced the curriculum goals for 2017/18, which included the partial alignment of NGSS and middle school math school system-wide. The discussion of aligning Bible K-12 was also introduced. Her goal is to complete the collaborative mapping process of Science and Bible this year, with English Language Arts (ELA) and Math updated by 2019.

Photo of Jen Van Hekken speaking with mic in hand.

Jenn Van Hekken, who serves diligently as the WMCS Director of Curriculum & Instruction, was the gracious event host.

In the past, each school had worked as a single-school entity, using individual resources and curriculum paths for their students. By working together and creating system-wide curriculum maps, each of our schools are ensuring that students not only receive the best PK-12 education but also help to create a seamless transition as they graduate from their respective campuses to WMC for middle or high school.

By working together and creating system-wide curriculum maps, each of our schools are ensuring that students not only receive the best PK-12 education but also help to create a seamless transition as they graduate from their respective campuses to WMC for middle or high school.

“This isn’t a new philosophy for the majority of school districts out there, however, the distance between our buildings can sometimes be a challenge. Over the past three years we’ve begun meeting in grade- level groups K-8 to work together with our cross-building colleagues on aligning our curriculum and building a spirit of community. It involves the teachers sitting down together and mapping out the standards and benchmarks of each unit that they teach, discussing common assessments, and spending time in training,” explains Van Hekken.

The following Teacher In-Service Day breakout sessions were provided by various WMCS teachers who provided expertise in the following areas:

  • Digital Toolkit 2017: New tips and tricks for the classroom (Ian Turner – WMCS)
  • Behind the Smile: Helping our students cope with difficult situations (Amanda Bosscher – WMC)
  • How to Draw Kids Closer to God (Bob Koning – GHC)
  • Graceland Farms and the Diverse Learner; Q&A about Accommodation Plans and Educational Support Plans (Whitney Piersma and Jennifer Sunderlin – WMCS)
  • Movement & Learning: The effects of physical activity on student learning (Jacque Groenendyk – WMC)

Break out sessions for PK-12 grade levels and subject areas (Bible, English, Fine & Industrial Arts, Math, Health/PE, Science, Social Studies and World Language) also took place.  Teachers in grades K-5 met to discuss curriculum plans, share ideas and inspiration to start the new year.

MCS’s Dan DeKam shared, “It’s good for teachers to get together with other teachers and feel supported in the work of Christian education.  They were able to connect with other teachers, build relationships and share ideas.”  

It’s good for teachers to get together with other teachers and feel supported in the work of Christian education.  They were able to connect with other teachers, build relationships and share ideas.

NEC’s Principal Phil Morse noted,“Because we only have one teacher per grade level in our building, it is an appreciated opportunity for our teachers to discuss curriculum and student learning with other teachers from the same grade levels.  It was especially helpful for us this year because now our teachers have one year under their belt from which to draw on to ask questions.”

“My staff was so excited to be part of this day not only to meet with their new WMCS colleagues but to collaborate. From the start of worship all through the break out sessions we were inspired and informed. WMCS Teacher In-Service Day did not disappoint and far exceeded our expectations!” explained John Barkel, Principal of FCS.

My staff was so excited to be part of this day not only to meet with their new WMCS colleagues but to collaborate. From the start of worship all through the break out sessions we were inspired and informed. WMCS Teacher In-Service Day did not disappoint and far exceeded our expectations!

It’s this synergy, collaboration, discipling and teaching among the WMCS staff that makes all we do at WMCS true Kingdom work! Keep up the great work everyone!

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. – Acts 4:32

An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in the West Michigan Christian Schools “Faith Matters” Fall 2017 Newsletter. To view a PDF of the full WMCS “Faith Matters” Fall 2017 Newsletter click here.

WMCS Members include, Fremont Christian, Grand Haven Christian, New Era Christian, Muskegon Christian and Western Michigan Christian Might Schools and Middle School