What it Means to Teach at St. Paul Lutheran School
A few minutes with Mrs. Jennifer Dale, 1st Grade and Mrs. Hannah Kruger, 2nd Grade, St. Paul Lutheran School
Q: How long have you both been teaching at St. Paul?
JD: It’s my fourth year here, as a ‘Called Lutheran Teacher,’ which means I’ve gotten further education and training in the Lutheran faith, on top of my teaching degree. I taught at public school before this.
HK: I’ve been teaching at St. Paul for four years, too. Before that, I was an early childhood teacher at a different school.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between teaching at St. Paul vs. in the public school system?
HK: The main difference is that we get to speak to our faith. At public schools we don’t have that opportunity. We also have more freedom here to tailor our programs to meet children’s needs, while still adhering to NYS mandates. There’s no one size fits all. We take the time to get to know each student and determine how best to customize their learning experience.
JD: With smaller class sizes, we can support kids at all different learning levels – challenging the students who are a little ahead and assisting the ones who are a little behind. I’m also able to talk about my faith and look for faith-shaping moments to teach them about loving and forgiving each other. We set goals for academic learning, as well as what we want students to achieve socially, emotionally and spiritually.
Q: How do you teach forgiveness?
JD: At St. Paul, we really get to the heart of what forgiveness means. We encourage students to address conflict in a direct and positive way, to tell people how they feel – and to learn empathy for how they may have made someone else feel.
At the beginning of the school year, I have the First Graders write down a list of things they think they’ve done wrong, and then have them erase the whole thing. It all connects back to asking Jesus for forgiveness and understanding how we are forgiven each day – like a virtual ‘clean slate.’ We definitely see this play out throughout the year, as the kids evolve in how they interact with one another. When Springtime rolls around, it’s a pleasure to watch the First Graders helping the Kindergarteners out on the playground.
HK: The ability to both ask for forgiveness, as well as being able to forgive others builds a lot of trust. We also work on developing character by focusing on the ‘Fruit of the Spirit,’ and what love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control look like in our day to day lives.
Q: What’s the biggest question you get from prospective families about St. Paul?
JD: The biggest question parents ask is if we’re teaching to the same caliber as the public schools. I feel that we’re actually teaching above public-school standards, because we have the opportunity to individually support every child.
HK: I am often asked a similar question, “Will my child/children be learning what public school students are learning?” My response is always “Yes, and more.” St. Paul teachers are knowledgeable of NYS learning standards and plan lessons in accordance with them. Our curriculum aligns with NYS learning and performance standards as well. What sets St. Paul apart from public schools is that we typically have smaller classroom numbers, therefore we are able to spend more time with each student. Having the opportunity to spend increased time with our students one-on-one and in learning groups helps teachers to better ascertain, track, and plan for the needs of our students.
Q: What would you consider to be a successful outcome for a student of St. Paul?
JD: I would want all students to know that Jesus loves them, and to have confidence – built on that faith – to be able to conquer anything in life.
HK: We hear over-and-over again that high school teachers love to get our students. The kids moving on to 9th grade are typically academically excellent, and they know what it means to be a student. They have been taught to show respect for their teachers, be kind and courteous – and be on time.
The bigger hope is that when our students leave here, they look at the world completely differently. God is at their center, which governs how they see and relate to the world.