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Jul 7, 2022 | Michele Schoenherr, WCA Fourth Grade Teacher

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1a

A few weeks ago, I tearfully said goodbye (as a teacher) to a school that has been a part of my life for the past 22 years.  

In August of 1999, my family moved from sunny Southern California to Avon Lake, Ohio, at the request of my husband’s employers.  Our daughters were 3 and 5 at the time, and my oldest was getting ready to start kindergarten.  I am a teacher by trade, and had worked for both public and private Christian schools before I had children, so believe me, I had my strong opinions about how to best educate my children!  We enrolled our oldest daughter in the local public school, and about halfway through the year, I knew that I would have to find a better option for the remainder of her educational journey.

During this time, we were also exploring our new neighborhood, and happened upon a park in Bay Village next door to St. Barnabas Church.  I noticed a very small sign out in front of the church that said “Westside Christian Academy” and decided to check it out.  After the first brief conversation with Julie MacAulay, the principal at the time, I knew that Westside Christian Academy would be the place where both of my daughters would attend.  I appreciated what Mrs. MacAulay had to share with me about the classical model of education, and as an educator myself, it just made good sense.  But, for me, the true selling point was the discipline model that the school employs, based upon Dr. Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  A school that partners with parents in training their children in the way they should go?  A school that takes into account the fact that each child is unique and uniquely gifted by God as they approach shepherding their little charges?  Sign me up!  We began the enrollment process that very day, and I also began a two-decade relationship with Westside Christian Academy that has been a true blessing to both my family and myself.

During the time I have spent at WCA, I have worn many hats.  I have been a parent of students, I have served in a variety of roles in the Parent-Teacher Fellowship, I have served on countless fundraising committees, I have served in a variety of roles on the Board of Trustees, and I have been a teacher.  I was a substitute teacher when needed, as well as the librarian, the art teacher, and for most of my teaching time at WCA, I taught 4th grade.  It is safe to say that I have worked with WCA from many different vantage points, and if you are reading this article, our paths may have crossed in one way or another!

I want to share with you the impact that Westside Christian Academy’s unique discipline approach can have on the students who attend this school.  Many schools use a behaviorism-type model for enforcing discipline and encouraging good behavior in their students.  Poor behavior is singled out, good behavior is rewarded.  Nowhere, however, do these discipline approaches address the heart of the student.  In his book, Dr. Tripp likens correcting outward behavior without addressing the heart to nailing apples on an apple tree in order to create a fruitful harvest.  It doesn’t work!  A behavioral approach to discipline just creates “smarter sinners” who are really good at not getting caught!

Westside Christian Academy’s mission statement includes the phrase “training up leaders to impact the world for Jesus Christ.”  Their goal is to produce students with genuine spiritual fruit, helping each student truly understand how God has uniquely gifted them, and how they can use those gifts for His glory in their lives, in their community, and in our world.  They achieve this goal through focusing on educating the heart as much as educating the mind.  

After more than two decades, I have been affiliated with Westside Christian Academy long enough to assure you that I have witnessed the fulfillment of this mission statement over and over again in the students that have walked the halls of WCA!  I am thankful for the small part I have played in training up leaders to impact the world for Jesus Christ, and I am excited for what the future holds for our current students!  It will be a delight to watch God’s perfect plan unfold in all of their lives!

As I finished up my final year, I had a grandmother ask me for a list of the Bible verses her grandson memorized during his time in 4th grade.  It was an eye-opening task to make that list and realize how much of God’s Word was committed to memory on a weekly basis over the course of a school year, as well as additional verses that were offered as a shepherding tool for this young man.  This grandmother is keeping a record for her grandson of God’s Word that he has hidden in his heart.  We all know that life is complicated, and sometimes, knowing the right thing to do can be tricky.  But, a young man who has hidden God’s Word in his heart has a solid foundation to reference when he is trying to do the right thing, and that is an exciting thought to me as I think about who will be the leaders of our future generations!  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.  Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

Now, I have come full circle, and once again, I am moving across the country (to South Carolina this time) for my husband’s job.  But of this I can assure you: I will continue to support this amazing organization through my prayers and donations.  I hope you will too.

It has been an honor to serve God through the ministry of Westside Christian Academy alongside all of you.  

To God be the glory!

With love in Christ,

Michele Schoenherr