Private school offers faith-based, classical curriculum
November 2, 2012
Printed on the backside of uniform shirts at Grace Christian Academy is a phrase that encompasses two aspects of the small private school that sits off Heybourne Road in Minden: “Educatio pro rege.”
The phrase is Latin for “Education for the king.” It refers to Jesus Christ, and the school’s religious goal of establishing a “Christian worldview in the classroom.”
The fact that the saying is in Latin is indicative of something else. Grace Christian Academy is one of few schools in Northern Nevada to teach a classical curriculum in grades K-8.
“Our distinction is that we are a classical school,” said third-fourth-grade teacher Marla Churchill. “We probably teach what your great great grandparents studied.”
Grace Christian Academy opened in 2005 with 17 students and four staff members. This year, the school has 62 students and 10 staff members. The current facility, located next to Grace Christian Church, has five classrooms. Students use the main chapel for lunch, music and physical education. There’s also an athletic field behind the building, and school officials are raising funds for playground equipment.
Needless to say, growth has been, and will continue to be, a major factor.
“We always want to try and add on,” Principal Debbie Conner said of new educational programs and the possibility of building more classrooms. “We want to keep things interesting for the kids, and make sure they have additional opportunities.”
Conner was the principal of Sierra Lutheran High School for seven years before taking the helm of GCA this fall.
“I felt I’d fulfilled my role there, and that God was calling me to do this over at Grace Christian Academy,” she said.
Conner expects enrollment to continue growing at an annual rate of 10-12 percent. Presently, students come from Minden, Gardnerville, Carson City and South Lake Tahoe. They also come from a wide range of denominations.
While classical instruction is based on grammar and logic in K-8 and rhetoric in high school, GCA grounds its curriculum in the Christian faith.
“We look at all subjects through the lens of the Bible, filtering through that biblical aspect,” Churchill said. “We really do try to bring Christ into all subjects.”
For example, she said, students learn that “math works because God is a God of order.”
“God is a God who communicates, and that is the whole basis for language arts,” she said.
As a private school, GCA isn’t beholden to state standards; however, the school still tests students using standardized assessments.
“We opt to take the tests to show accountability to our parents,” Churchill explained.
“We’re providing parents with the opportunity for their children to have a good education in a Christian environment,” Conner added.
The school is hoping to grow those opportunities, such as implementing all-day kindergarten next year.
New this year, students participated in the democratic process by electing student council members for the first time.
“I’m pretty excited,” said 13-year-old eighth-grader Jake Cummings, who was elected class president. “I’m focused on making the school a little more fun.”
On his new leadership role, Jake added, “You have to make a lot of public speeches.”
Seventh-grader Zoe Tkaczyk, class secretary, said her job is to track and review agendas with fellow officers.
“As a leader, a lot of kids ask for this and that,” said the 12-year-old. “You have to take very accurate notes.”
Whatever the future holds for Grace Christian Academy, its administration remains confident in the power of faith.
“God is good,” Conner said. “Our mission here is to continue teaching children and touching lives for Christ.”
For more information about the school, call 782-7811 or visit http://www.gcanevada.org.