Serving God During the Yo-Yo Effect

I worked on it, day after day, until it shone like Aladdin’s lamp.  Full of promise, the lesson would bring together all that my classes have been working on since we returned from Christmas vacation, and (hopefully) launch the kids into the new unit with energy and enthusiasm.  Confident, I saved my PowerPoints and completed the Nearpod version of that lesson before leaving it.  I was anxious to teach the lesson on Tuesday.

The Seventh Grade staff received word later that evening that our students would be quarantining this week, an all-too-common event in education this year.  Things had changed.  There would be no face-to-face learning on Tuesday.  We were being yo-yoed back into Zoom teaching.

You don’t have to be a teacher to realize that “live, in the classroom” education is more engaging (and, ultimately, more productive) than a “Zoom, away from the classroom” education.  Somehow, the electricity that is generated by teacher and students working together, face-to-face, enhances every lesson.  While Zooming has gotten us through during these long days of Covid-19, it is really no one’s choice for best practice.  It’s a work-around that has somehow pushed itself to the front of many schools’ educational endeavors.

I admit to approaching Tuesday’s encounter with my Seventh Grade Language Arts students with some degree of anxiety.  A great deal of the class’s success rested on the engagement level of my students.  Would they pay attention to the class, or would they be distracted by the items that make their bedrooms so special to them?  Would students on the screen respond to my questions audibly, as they would in the classroom, or would I be answering most of my own questions in a silent vacuum?  Would the class that I had worked so hard to create even work in a Zoom classroom?  I had made some “Zoom tweaks” over the weekend.  Would they be enough?

I have always had respect for my St. John’s students.  On Tuesday, they proved their mettle once again.  The class members were engaged, creative, and focused.  Answers, when requested, came frequently — and new student-initiated insights were offered.  The students came through, as they always seem to do when we meet together. . . regardless of the means through which we meet.

Throughout this challenging academic year, St. John’s students’ enthusiasm and engagement have fueled my colleagues’ and my desire to make each class period exceptional. Whether in the classroom or on the iPad, class periods are planned with care – and our students respond accordingly.  More importantly, in whatever teaching situation in which we find ourselves, Our Lord continuously provides us with encouragement and proof that, as we work for Him, He recognizes our work and is praised through it.

The remainder of the school year stretches out ahead of us, filled with uncertainty.  How many more times we be yo-yoed back into the Zoom classroom is known only to God Himself.  Yet, we all have seen that, even when the preferred medium of education is denied to us, God’s Work is done in classrooms here at St. John’s.  I saw it, personally, last week.

Kevin G. Smith, Instructor

Language Arts: 7

Christian Faith and Life: 7

Film Study – Elective

Operation Gratitude

Recently, Lutheran Schools united in celebration across the country.  National Lutheran Schools Week was celebrated with fun dress-up themes, virtual assemblies, games, video devotionals, and more!  This year’s theme was “Sent to Serve.”  After being reminded of so many who serve around us, here at St. John’s and in our families each day, the students had a chance to serve a special group of people… our military.  

Operation Gratitude sends thousands of care packages each year to deployed troops, veterans, new recruits and first responders, and a personal letter is often the most cherished part of that care package.  Each student had the opportunity to write a personal note of thanks and encouragement to a soldier hero.   Students in grades K-8 participated in this service project, but here are a few pics of some 2nd graders and their letters. 

5th Grade Problem Solvers

The 5th graders were presented with a real-world problem and challenged with the task of finding a solution to the problem by using the engineering design process.  The problem? Work in small groups to redesign the front of school to improve the areas where students are dropped off and picked up before and after school. They were given almost unlimited options. The only limit was that they could not move buildings.

The students created a detailed map that outlined their plans which they presented to their classmates at the end of the project. There were many great solutions, including adding turn lanes on Almond and Shaffer streets, creating a pedestrian walkway over Shaffer street, using Moreland Drive as a pick-up area, and adding a stoplight at the intersection of Almond and Shaffer to help with traffic flow. It is always fascinating to see these young minds create awesome solutions to the challenges they are given, especially one that we experience on a daily basis.

By: Mr. Duport, 5th Grade

Peru Project 2021

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

In this year’s message for the start of the Peru Project, I wanted to help students to understand both the impact we have had on this school, as well as the fact that in countries like Peru, where we find great burdens, a little help often results in outcomes we could never predict.  During my time in Peru, I came across many inspirational life stories which show how a little help can transform lives.  I would like to share with you all the story I shared with the students. It involves four of my wife’s cousins: Johnny, Richard, Luis and Carlos. 

When the boys were young, their father disappeared from their lives.  This left their mother, Rosa, in a difficult situation.  She had no education beyond high school and as such had no skills to work in a job which would support four growing boys. 

The only solution for Rosa and her four boys was to accept help from family. They moved in to Aunt Yolanda’s house on the street Lloque Yupanqui (I give this name because the house, which was a hub for the entire extended family, is often referred to as  Lloque Yupanqui or just la Lloque).  The house on Lloque Yupanqui was small. About 1300 sq ft on the floor Aunt Yolanda lived on.  When the five moved in, there were already nine people living in this modest space. 

Yolanda had one small room at the back where the boys and their mom slept; the boys on one bed, Rosa on another.  It was agreed that Rosa would clean, cook and go to the market for the household in in exchange for a roof over their heads and food.  Yolanda worked, but did not earn enough to pay Rosa and she was helping others in the family at the same time.  When I first met the boys, Johnny was hoping to study business administration and accounting in the national university.  While the university is free, books and school supplies weren’t, and this looked to be a rift too wide to cross.  No one in the family had money for the books.  This was when my father-in-law was able to help.  For the first time in his life, he was making enough money to take care of his family and have a little left over.  He saw that he could help Rosa and her boys carry their “burden,” and committed to buying books and supplies for Johnny’s studies.   

Johnny wanted to own his own business, a dream he shared with his younger brothers.  When Richard, the second oldest, graduated from school, he wanted to go to Argentina to work.  He’d heard that in Argentina, as compared to Peru, he could make enough money to live and save each month.  However, like Johnny, Argentina might as well have been on the moon.  He didn’t have the money for the bus ticket and based on a typical wage in Peru, no way to earn it himself.  Again, my father-in-law was in a position to help and gave him money for the trip.

To make a long story short, family members pulling together in small ways to help the five “carry” their burdens, had big and far-reaching results.  Johnny graduated and started a business with a friend in a small, rented store front in the market area of Trujillo.  They sold bulk food like rice, flour, cooking oil and sugar to market owners.  Richard in the meantime went to Argentina and found a job washing windows for a company.  With time he developed a rapport with clients and started his own company.  When he returned from Argentina (leaving Luis, who had joined him, in charge of the company), he had saved enough money to buy a truck.  With the truck they were able to go directly to the sugar plant and buy their sacks of sugar without paying someone else to do it.  This was only the beginning.

It was tough going for many years, but they worked hard and with Johnny’s business experience, slowly and intelligently expanded their business over the years. The boys now are involved in almost every step of selling sugar (all four, plus mom work in the company).  They decided to buy more trucks, so that they could actually bid on harvests of sugar cane and transport that cane to be processed.  Once processed, they then transport the final product to the store to sell at a cheaper price.  A few years ago, Richard bought land where he grows sugar cane.  It is planted, harvested and transported to the factory by people who work for him.  Johnny then picks up the sacks of sugar and sells them to other bulk food sellers in Trujillo. They each are raising their own families in houses they built.  Aunt Rosa has her own apartment.  Perhaps more significant in all of this, they have in turn helped at least three more children from la Lloque to get university educations.  Each of these now grown children are on their own with stable jobs and families. 

Can we see this kind of outcome from our modest yearly donations to the preschool?  The answer to this isn’t clear in the same way Aunt Yolanda and my father-in-law’s help had big results.  We are helping preschoolers, not high school graduates.  However, there is one thing we can trust: based on the changes that have taken place in the quality of education at the school, we can be sure that we have touched many lives in significant ways.  This can be seen in the “before and after” photos below.

When you look at the difference in the classrooms and the other areas of the school you have to keep in mind these facts:  In the ten years we have been helping the school, it has gone from being the worst preschool in the area, where people were embarrassed to say their children went there, to the best preschool in the area (this includes Las Delicias and neighboring Moche, and even is better than most public preschools in the big city of Trujillo ).  Enrollment has doubled, from 22 to 54, in that time, and they actually have to turn children away.   They originally had 2 teachers (Teacher/Principal, and a teacher).  They now have 5 including the principal—who has been an answer to all the prayers students, parents and staff have lifted up on behalf of the school over the years.  The principal, Lola Kong, is an educator and experienced principal.  She knows how to find donations and make the most of our donations.

As you look at the pictures below please keep in mind as well that we are talking about learning spaces and not aesthetics.  The truth is the preschool as it is isn’t beautiful.  It has been put together piece-by-piece and has suffered devastating rain damage which is not our place to fix.  However, if you look at what now takes place in this space, you will see the amazing difference.   The children have covered areas where they can have P.E. without time restrictions due to having the sun beat down on them.  They have plenty of PE equipment (balls, jump ropes, cones, etc) to do so.  They have a play structure where they can let their imaginations run wild and further develop their coordination.  They have a garden area where they learn how plants grow and about concepts like photosynthesis and the water cycle (Lola’s idea).  They have two classrooms equipped with big screen TVs for educational programs which help them get a jump start on math and reading.  They have new shelving to organize the plethora of games, learning tools and school supplies we have donated.  They have desks and chairs of age-appropriate sizes.  And each student receives a hot meal each day which is cooked on equipment donated by St. John’s, and cooked in a kitchen space St. John’s built.  They have a recycling area.  The walls are covered with educational posters and the teachers have a sense of pride in their work and where they work because they have desks to work at, supplies and tools to teach with and custom-made uniforms which carry both the logo of their school and that of St. John’s. 

God willing, we will be going to Peru this summer.  My wife and I are hopeful that we can find the tablet devices we saw advertised on the Peruvian channel we watch.  Putting these devices into the hands of preschoolers will give them a huge head start, not only in terms of the learning they receive from the programs on the devices, but as well the knowledge of how to use touch screen devices.  This is something which only the most elite preschools in Trujillo offer to their students.   And as well we will be working closely with the Principal, Lola Kong, to see what other needs the school has which will help these students break from the cycle of brutal poverty they live in.  The donation cycle for this year has again been generously given to include chapel through February 24.  Our goal once again is $4,000.  If you would like to see more images from over the years, please visit the website: 

http://perunuevaesperanza.weebly.com/

Road to the American Revolution

Our fifth graders had the opportunity to experience life as a colonist in the 1700s through some exciting interactive activities.  Through a role-playing activity our students were emersed in a colonial simulation. The students had a unique hand experience to better understand how the colonists felt about the taxes bestowed upon them by the King and British Parliament; “No taxation without Representation”.

The second activity the students engaged in was an interactive app. The game immerses the students in a colonial setting and empowers them to make choices that show how colonists experienced the time leading up to the Revolution. It puts students in the shoes of a young printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. As the students navigate the city and complete the tasks, they encounter loyalists and patriots living and working there and receive a better idea of how each side felt about the British in Boston. These interactions were helpful to show how tensions were mounting which ultimately led to the Boston Massacre.

The students were anxious to participate in these unique early colonial experiences. Learning about history can be informative and FUN!

By: Mrs. Schirrmacher, 5th grade