Since Monroe County Christian School first opened its doors four years ago, its student body has quadrupled in size.
Leaders attribute this growth to the school’s unique approaches.
As board chairman Will Hesterberg and principal Kim Wright explained, everything – from curriculum to staff-student interactions – is centered in Christ.
“We get to teach Jesus every day, all day, so it’s across the curriculum,” Wright said. “For a visitor coming in, I think our aim would be that you can’t be in our building without encountering Jesus. You’re going to see it in the actions being displayed, you’re going to hear it in the lessons being taught, and you’re going to see it in the praying that is happening and the responses to discipline. In all avenues you’re going to see Jesus.”
The duo explained a Christian worldview is embedded in most textbooks, along with conversations teachers have with students on the material.
Hesterberg explained how subjects such as math can be taught through this lens.
“In terms of having a Christ-centered worldview, all of the world is created by God and therefore reflects God,” he said. “We can teach math from a Christian perspective and you might wonder how we can do that. Well, math for example follows certain rules, they’re always that way. Why is that? Because God’s creation is orderly and it also always follows certain rules, so math reflects the orderliness of God.”
The school grew out of a need to provide parents with an option other than homeschooling that could teach their child according to a model that represented Protestant Christian Schools, but was not affiliated with one specific denomination, Hesterberg explained.
“I think this school is going to appeal to the families that aren’t in a church body that has its own education system,” Wright explained. “The Lutherans normally have their own education system and the Catholics do, but if you’re not in those church bodies, this is probably an answer for you. It’s non-denominational Christian worldview teaching.”
“There’s no limit to what can be talked about here – the spiritual can be as much a part of it as the intellectual, the physical and all that,” Hesterberg added.
Because of the school’s small size – 43 students are currently enrolled across grades K-6 – strong family relationships come naturally, Wright and Hesterberg said.
“I think the big difference (from other schools) would be the open door policy with the teachers and administration,” Wright said. “Those parents feel like, I believe, they can come in and talk to us about anything … Because we’re kind of a small environment, a family environment, it’s nothing to have a text from a parent in the evening, a phone call or something like that after hours, and you’re going to get a response even if it’s after hours.”
Staff also get to know and support students’ families through prayer.
“As the students bring petitions or thoughts for prayers, we the teachers also hear about what’s happening in the family, so then (we) can talk to the family about that if something comes up,” Wright said. “There are just lots of layers of caring happening there.”
The school’s small size also allows for more one-on-one time between staff and students.
“There’s a lot more individualized attention,” Hesterberg said. “We can make adjustments to (fit) each particular child’s needs a little more easily.”
Wright and Hesterberg said they believe the foundation built at Monroe County Christian School will help students with their futures.
“The (parents) are giving their children through us a great foundations for later, because those (difficult) conversations happen in science classes, in high schools and in colleges and if they have that foundation for how to look upon creation no matter what the textbook says, then that’s very beneficial to them,” Wright said. “The memory verses that they learn can give them strength when they need that later in life.”
Like every school across the nation, Monroe County Christian School had to adjust its operations with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the exception of the spring 2020 semester when the pandemic first hit during which Gov. JB Pritzker mandated schools go remote, MCCS maintained in-person instruction throughout the past two full academic years of the pandemic.
Wright said many in the community saw this as a welcome change.
“When remote instruction was planned for Waterloo and Columbia (during the 2020-21 school year), the phones started ringing,” Wright said.
Wright, who first joined MCCS in July 2020, used her experience preparing to return in-person at another similar school to help lead MCCS.
“When Illinois experienced the closure statewide in 2020, I was principal at the other school, so we had to go through that process. When the school year was ending, we came up with a plan for reopening in the fall. So, I had already had that under my belt and I was able to translate that to what would work here,” Wright said.
This academic year, social distancing in the school has been reduced from six feet to three feet, with masks now optional. Hesterberg explained the latter is due to hearing feedback from parents and private schools being exempt from the governor’s executive order.
The school still maintains advanced cleaning measures and other precautions and follows CDC quarantine protocols.
In the future, the school plans to grow in multiple ways.
Every year, the school aims to add one new grade. This past year, leaders added two new grades so the school now serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The next academic year, the school will be adding a seventh grade class.
By separating presently combined grades, the school will have a total of three additional classrooms next year.
After this, the school will need more space than they currently have within Hope Christian Church.
“We have plans,” Hesterberg said. “We are thinking, we are talking with Hope about what options may be here. We are beginning to look for land to purchase and to build on, or looking if there should happen to be just the right building that suddenly becomes available that was vacant or something like that.”
The staff is also excited to introduce more activities next year and is currently discussing adding chess and robotics clubs along with more athletic activities.
The present Maker Space area will soon see the addition of 3D printers.
For more information on MCCS, including a virtual tour or scheduling an in-person visit, check out mccschool.net.