Carson City’s Sierra Lutheran begins school year with new faces
After 30 seniors graduated in May from Sierra Lutheran High School — its largest class yet — the Class of 2018 might top that record with 41 seniors, along with the school’s new faces which include five new staff members and 21 freshmen.
The first day of school Friday was a mini retreat as it included chapel service, disciple group discussions, a pep rally, and class introductions, giving students the weekend to prepare for the first full day of classes Monday.
Also this year, students receive both benefits of having a principal and a new pastor, as former Pastor Juls Clausen retired earlier this summer after four years.
Mark Duerr of Bakersfield, Calif., recently graduated from Concordia Seminary St. Louis and is serving as Sierra Lutheran’s new campus pastor and theology instructor. Duerr also revamped the curriculum for the year, setting the school with a fitting theme for its new faces: “Run Your Race,” from Hebrews 12:1, for each student to run their own race with endurance.
“I want to facilitate spiritual growth and academic knowledge at Sierra Lutheran,” he said. “When students graduate, it will be beneficial to their beliefs and faith — and distribute that through the world.”
So far, the theme has already inspired freshmen and seniors alike.
Like freshman Andreas Gilson — he isn’t afraid to get involved with school organizations as a new student.
The Bethlehem Lutheran alumni plans to join Sierra Lutheran’s cross country and track & field teams, and band.
“I’m excited to be in a new environment,” he said. “I’ve been in the same school all of my life.”
Senior Peyton Hedwall — a member of the high school’s yearbook and journalism program, and offensive lineman on the football team — said he isn’t too far from his finish line as he plans to complete his goals by the end of the year.
“This year, I want to be a leader to the underclassmen,” he said.
New instructors include Duerr, Lynn Ballantyne, Denise Klitse, and Brandon and Danika Neal.
The Neals just married in June and moved to Minden from California.
“We never thought we would be teaching at a school together,” Danika said. “It’s a dream come true for us.”
Danika will teach freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in world history, American Literature, and theology, as well as coaching junior varsity volleyball.
In the future, she will be passing those students on to her husband, as he’s teaching numerous senior classes, including helping coach the football team.
Both expressed their gratitude for the help they received from students during their move.
“We’ve noticed the bond these students have,” Brandon said. “This school has a lot to offer in a sense of community, fellowship, and friendship. We’re excited to be a part of that environment within the school and help enhance it.”
As Duerr also is new to town, he said he noticed the strong sense of community and family not only in the school, but in Western Nevada as a whole.
“It’s only the first day and I really like being here with the students,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part … and help students here grow in faith in Jesus.”