A "culture for learning" refers to the classroom environment that reflects the teacher and the students' work, attitudes, and behaviors. It describes the norms that govern the tone, look, and routines of the class and the interactions among individuals regarding assignments and activities.
At Mount Pisgah, we create a learning culture characterized by high energy, high expectations, high quality, and high engagement. We instill a shared belief that learning is essential and valuable for future success and life. Teachers establish high expectations for learning. Students are expected to take ownership of their learning by participating in discussions, creating high-quality work, and collaborating with their classmates to grow their knowledge and understanding.
Learning experiences in our classrooms challenge students' thinking and allow for exploration, experimentation, and inquiry. Assignments, discussions, and activities are created for students to problem-solve, work creatively, and reflect upon their work to build knowledge, 21st Century skills and resilience.
Along with the characteristics mentioned above, Mount Pisgah provides a culture of learning that is:
- Christ-centered and encourages a faithful and Godly community
- Warm and caring
- Loving and accepting of all cultures, ethnicities, and differences
- Grounded in high expectations but realistic for all
- Facilitating learning for all students
- Safe (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially)
- Centered on engagement, teamwork, and collaboration
- Building perseverance and resilience
Since the learning culture of a school is established based on the school’s beliefs, norms and practices, the culture of learning at Mount Pisgah is unique and one which builds relationships and trust and enables students in our school to be successful. As a result, all students at Mount Pisgah can be secure in the knowledge that they can learn and grow. As a result of the learning culture created, students can be self-reliant, confident, and Godly individuals who are prepared to influence the world for Christ.
Mount Pisgah's mission is to provide an outstanding college preparatory education rooted in Christian faith and values. In pursuit of our mission, our academic program must be biblically integrated, challenging, and developmentally appropriate. It must focus on the needs of the whole child as well as involve various learning activities and instructional practices that will engage, inspire, and equip students for college and life.
Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting the details of the domains included in the Mount Pisgah Teaching and Learning Framework. This framework conveys our philosophy of teaching and learning and acts as a guide for teachers to analyze, reflect upon, and improve their teaching practice independently, with colleagues, and with their division leadership team. The framework is not about identifying one method or technique used for teaching and learning in all classrooms; it is more about sharing our vision of academic excellence and providing a broader understanding of how we teach, learn, and grow at Mount Pisgah. The framework outlines the norms, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, values, and traditions ingrained in four domains of our academic program: culture, leadership, curriculum, and instructional approach and practices.
Christian schools have a unique role in shaping and training young minds and therefore a tremendous responsibility to the parents and students we serve. Due to this, we have designed our academic program using educational best practices, evidence-based teaching practices and programs, and most importantly, we have strived to keep the hearts and minds of our students as our focus. As a result of our intentionally designed, top-tier academic program that is rooted in Christian faith and values, our students leave Mount Pisgah as well-rounded thinkers and leaders who are equipped and ready to successfully navigate an ever-changing global landscape.
Transitions mark people’s lives like cities on an interstate or points on a line segment. Some transitions are bigger than others, but when you are nine or ten years old, the transition from fourth grade to fifth grade seems like a giant shift. At Mount Pisgah Christian School, we believe that the transition from fourth to fifth should occur with a transition from Lower School to Middle School.
Why is it the right transition for students?
Independence - There are several reasons we believe the Middle is the right place for 5th graders. Developmentally, we’ve seen that 5th graders are ready for a level of independence that most elementary schools do not provide. They no longer need teacher-led lines to move from place-to-place on campus. They are ready to move from class to class and move away from a self-contained model. Students are also ready to take on more responsibility with their own Chromebook and locker.
Social/Emotional - Socially, children are ready to branch out. They are ready for the dynamics of different personalities in each of their classes. They are ready to not just select what they have for lunch, but also the bigger decision of with whom to sit. They are ready to try out new friend groups at recess or to try out for the team.
Why is the transition right for the Middle?
Children at Heart - While we believe joining the Middle is best for 5th graders, we have found 5th graders also make the Middle a better school for all. Sixth graders used to be told to hurry up, catch up with the seventh and eighth graders. Bringing fifth to the Middle made us look at everyone with fresh eyes — to realize that all of our students are really still children, just at different developmental stages. They have helped us remember that everyone enjoys a good Disney sing along in the midst of a kickball game. They have helped us remember that Christmas elves in the halls are real and nothing helps you get in the Christmas spirit like flashing reindeer antlers.
Leadership Opportunities - We embraced the model of 5th (follow) - 6th (lead), 7th (follow) - 8th (lead). By keeping 5th/6th and 7th/8th on different floors, we truly get a lead/follow experience for each student. It also provides another mini-transition as the sixth graders head up the stairs to the 7th/8th hallway.
How do we know we made the right decision bringing the 5th to the Middle?
All we have to do is look at the smiles on their faces as we greet them by name every morning. They know they are in the right place, too.
In private schools there has been a budgeting thought process for many years that you operate at a deficit and use an annual giving campaign to offset the gap. This was positioned by schools as a way to keep tuition low. Several years ago that thought process began to die because it simply isn’t sustainable for a school to always operate with a deficit and hope that the Annual Fund makes up the difference.
I am so excited to announce that Mount Pisgah Christian School is debt free, our operating budget is 100% supported by tuition, and our Annual Fund can now truly advance the School. The Gap is gone! Because of that gap, in the past it has been difficult to easily explain what the purpose of the Annual Fund is. It was a nebulous answer that hinged on many internal variables. Clarity was sometimes impossible. Now we are able to say exactly what the Annual Fund supports. The Annual Fund for Excellence at Mount Pisgah Christian School supports the following areas:
40% of the Annual Fund is used for Capital Improvements in all divisions Preschool through Upper School.
25% of the Annual Fund is used to fund our annual trip to Sharptop Cove in Middle and Upper School.
25% of the Annual Fund is used for faculty enhancement. This allows us to hire and retain the absolute best faculty and staff at all levels.
10% of the Annual Fund is placed in our endowment to create sustainability within our School.
The Annual Fund is genuinely advancing the School. We will be completely transparent in our capital improvements, and we welcome your feedback on what you believe those improvements should be. We also now have the flexibility for donors to designate their Annual Fund gift to support their personal passions. Through this type of giving we can amplify the mission of Mount Pisgah in a meaningful way. That mission affects every student, regardless of age.
I want to thank everyone who has supported the Annual Fund in the past. You have helped us get to this place in the history of our School. I want to thank all of you for your consideration in supporting Mount Pisgah in the future. Your gift is valued and appreciated. It matters. If Mount Pisgah is not in your top three philanthropic options, I would love to meet with you and find out how we can better meet the needs of your family to become one of those three. If there is an area of the School that you have a specific passion for, and you would like to do a designated gift, I would love to meet with you to discuss that further. If you would just like to meet and discuss the future of the School either in person or virtually, I would welcome that as well.
These are exciting times at Mount Pisgah. We have more exciting announcements coming over the next couple of months. Thank you for joining us in the mission of Mount Pisgah. Because of how generous you all are we are able to effectively teach foundational truth in an ever-changing world, empowering students to think critically and creatively and to act with courage and compassion.
We are Pisgah!
Ruston Pierce, Head of School
Support the Annual Fund today! Click here
As we began a new uncertain, different school year, the words of James flooded my mind. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:2-5 ESV)
The beginning of this school year has certainly been like no other in my thirty-three years of education. Never has there been so much uncertainty and anxiety from teachers, parents, and students. Never have I needed to prepare safety protocols that kept parents out of the building, children six-feet apart, and teachers wearing a face mask when teaching their students. All of these changes from previous years made me wonder how I count it all joy in anything, much less in ALL things.
Six weeks into the school year, I realize counting it ALL joy has been fairly simple as God has shown me beauty in circumstances I thought would be difficult or different from what I believe school should look like. In the Lower School, blessings are seen all around despite challenges we are currently facing.
Joy is found in…..
- The privilege of having in-person, face to face instruction even if our desks are six feet apart
- The availability of technology that has allowed students to be part of our classrooms even if they cannot be with us in person
- The excellent, small group instruction that is taking place in all our classrooms even with all the safety protocols
- The knowledge that we can still praise God in chapel even when we cannot sing
- The depth of collaboration that still takes place with our colleagues and students even when we are socially distant
- The incredible support from our parents even though they are not able to enter our buildings
- The sounds of our students’ voices and laughter filling our classrooms even if some of these voices are muffled through a mask
How refreshing it is to Count it ALL joy! May we, as adults and leaders of our children and students, model this principle and truth over the next few weeks and throughout the year. May our children and our students see in us strength, wisdom, peace, and joy that comes from God even when times and circumstances are difficult or not what we expect. These challenging times may be the most important days of growth for us as we seek God and ask Him to help us find joy in ALL things. May our joy be the light that shines for Christ and brings others to Him!
Sheree Du Preez – Head of Lower School
We wear masks. We take temperatures in the morning and eat lunch in our classrooms. We sit six feet apart then sanitize the desks when we’re done. So much looks different this year, but one thing remains the same-- kids are learning!
Our teachers are working hard to ensure that all MPCS students-- whether physically present or online-- are receiving excellent instruction on all fronts. The amazing Janey Smith and Vicki Smith have been hosting virtual office hours by grade level (5/6 and 7/8) for any digital learner. It has been a great time carved out just for these few students to ask logistical and/or academic questions or just check in to say “hey!”
Mr. Goodroe has found a method that works great for his Geometry students. He is using an external document camera to project his class notes and practice problems. Think of an old school overhead projector in hi-def. Ms. Payne has found great success using Pear Deck in her World Religions class to get all students involved in reflections and formative assessments. All students have access to responses in real time. This is a great tool for our more reticent students who are not always excited to respond out loud. Plus, it’s fun and interactive.
We don’t want any of our students to miss out on an opportunity to worship, so we are bringing it to everyone. The Student Life teams in both the MS and US have created a way to stream the LIVE portions of Fresh Air and Chapel-- games, contests, and silly videos-- while also maintaining the integrity and reverence of the service with a pre-recorded message from one of our faculty members and music from our very own Fresh Air and Chapel bands. All students, virtual and in-person, have loved doing group work in Spanish with Ms. Dedels. She uses Google Slides to create Digital Escape Rooms!
Our school counselors, Jennifer Scott and Diane Nardella, are not allowing any student, whether at home or on campus, to fall between the cracks. They have continued meeting with students for their social and emotional needs. On the college counseling front, Susan Reilly is busy as ever. Though we are not allowing college representatives to come on campus as they traditionally would, we are still making a way for our students to “meet” with their top college choices virtually. Last week, Mrs. Reilly hosted reps from UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech. In the coming weeks, students can meet with reps from Berry College, Elon University, Samford University, and Miami University of Ohio.
This is a small sampling of the ways in which our teachers’ instruction and our students’ learning looks a bit different. The Byrds released a song in 1965 called Turn! Turn! Turn! Maybe you know the song, or maybe you are more familiar with the same sentiments that originated from Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...” One of the verses in this chapter says, “[there is] a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing...” This could not be more accurate to describe the faculty and staff at Mount Pisgah Christian School during these unprecedented times. We are not turning away from this challenge; rather, we are embracing it with our whole hearts and are better for it!
Megan Koch - Academic Dean
We prepare our students for college and beyond in many different ways, from academics to athletics to social and emotional health. I would argue spiritual formation is the most important part of that preparation and reflects our No. 1 Guiding Principle of Faith.
Today we will be introducing Jeff Pickren in his role as Director of Community Development and Formation. We are excited to bring him on board and see how his experience in Christian education will serve our community.
My name is Jeff Pickren and I will be serving as Director of Community Development and Formation. In this role, I will oversee spiritual formation of our School Community, as well as working in the Advancement Office by assisting in the area of major gifts with a particular focus on alumni families.
I would like to use this blog post to tell you a little bit about my heart and vision for spiritual formation at Mount Pisgah Christian School; however, before I do I would like to tell you a little bit about my background. The past 13 years I have served in various administrative roles at King’s Ridge Christian School. In addition to these roles I served as a teacher in the Bible department and co-chaired the Christian Life committee. Prior to my time at King’s Ridge, I served as a Bible teacher and coach here at Mount Pisgah. I hold a Master of Arts in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Over my years in Christian Education I have had the honor of developing three different Christian Education curriculums. Before starting my career in education I served full time on Young Life staff for 4 years in the Atlanta area. My hope is that my education and experience can be of great value to the spiritual formation of the Mount Pisgah Christian School Community.
My top priority in terms of spiritual formation is to help develop a community-wide vision (Preschool - 12th grade) for what we are attempting to accomplish spiritually in the lives of our students and families. This vision will incorporate our Christian Education Curriculum, our student life/chapel programs, and our missions programs in all divisions to make sure that we have a fluid and unified goal for the spiritual formation of our community. My hope is that in doing so we will create a safe environment for students to grow in their faith journey.
Mount Pisgah Christian School devotes a great deal of time and resources to the spiritual formation of our students. Some examples of this are listed below.
- All students in grades K - 12 attend Bible classes.
- All students in Preschool - 12 attend chapel every week.
- Students in the Middle and Upper School belong to a small group that are designed for students to have a place to discuss their faith journey.
- Mount Pisgah Christian School has an active missions program.
It is our practice to pick a book from the Bible that our school community will focus on throughout the school year, as well as a theme verse for the year. This year that book will be the Gospel of Matthew, and our theme verse will be a portion of Matthew 20:28, “… just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve…”
This verse will serve as the focal point for the spiritual formation of our community this year. Please join us in prayer over our students and faculty and staff as we reflect on this truth throughout the year.
At Mount Pisgah we are blessed to be supported by a community that is involved and invested in our School in so many ways. This week I have the privilege of introducing some new members and roles in our Advancement team. You’ll be seeing their faces throughout the year, whether it’s at a game, a concert or at carpool.
There are so many ways to give back, and we’re excited to continue sharing with you the ways your generosity has made a difference to our School!
Shelly Prox Berry will be serving as our Director of Alumni Relations and Advancement Manager. Shelly graduated from Mount Pisgah as an Alpha to Omega student in 2005. Her work engaging our alumni over the past two years has strengthened our community, and we are excited to see how the program will continue to grow.
Trey Arnold will serve as our Annual Fund Coordinator. He will also be leading our Georgia GOAL program this year. If you haven’t participated before, it’s a great way to contribute to the School by diverting state tax dollars you are already paying to Mount Pisgah's tuition assistance program that benefits many of our students.
Trey will also be our Varsity Boys Lacrosse coach this year. Go Patriots!
Jeff Pickren (also known as “Coach Pick”) will be serving as Director of Community Development and Formation. In this role, he will oversee the spiritual formation of our School Community as well as work with Advancement with a particular focus on engaging Alumni families. Coach Pick served as a teacher in the Bible Department and Head Football Coach from 2003 to 2007. We’re glad to welcome him and his family back to Mount Pisgah!
At Mount Pisgah we are blessed to be able to engage the youngest members of our community with our Preschool. This week I wanted to spotlight the incredible work our Preschool does every day, and make sure our community knows the opportunities we provide that aren’t available in other programs. I’d like to share with all of you a conversation I had with our Head of Preschool, Marcia Bettis. Please watch the video or read through a summary of what we discussed below.
Q: What protocols were put in place to make sure we returned to Preschool safely?
A: All staff and children are screened every morning. Children are greeted for the screening with bubbles, wagon rides, and music. Class sizes are intentionally smaller. Daily cleaning protocols have increased, and teachers are sanitizing throughout the day. Access to the building has been limited to make sure the facility remains as sanitized as possible.
Q: How are the social/emotional needs of children being met?
A: We are blessed to have a school counselor we share with the Lower School. Our counselor has been trained in the Kimochis curriculum. Kimochis is a tool that helps children manage hard-to-have feelings and challenging behaviors resulting in happier, better-adjusted people.
Q: How would you describe the academic program?
A: Our Preschool believes children are unique individuals with their own patterns and time tables for academic development. We support and encourage the whole child through our play-based curriculum guided by a strong faith based in God’s love. We value and treasure curiosity as we engage with our students to reach their full potential.
Q: What does STEAM look like in the Preschool?
A: Our STEAM lab is designed to welcome various platforms to expand creative play for children twice a week. The lab invites organic opportunities through hands-on, experiential learning and encourages child-led investigation. Students are encouraged to take risks and flex their critical thinking skills independently and through collaboration with peers. We’re keeping the joy in learning by exploring across curriculum within gardening, cooking, coding, and more.
Q: You’re adding a new program to emphasize the "A" in STEAM. What will the arts look like in Preschool this fall?
A: Our atelierista, or art specialist, will provide a variety of creative experiences through music, clay, light and shadow, loose parts, paint, nature, movement, and sound. This will coordinate with our K-12 fine arts program to encourage vertical alignment throughout the School.
Q: How do you incorporate faith in Preschool?
A: We enjoy daily chapels. Faith is integrated into the daily classroom. We are passionate about moving students forward to reach their full God-given potential in a loving and supportive environment founded in Christian values.
It has been great to see how God is using our Preschool. We welcome the community to check out all the incredible opportunities available. Whether you are looking for a full-day program or a half-day program, Mount Pisgah Preschool can meet your needs. We would love the opportunity to partner with your family. Thank you to Marcia Bettis for taking the time to unpack what Preschool at Mount Pisgah is all about.
To learn more or inquire about Mount Pisgah Preschool, please click here.
To the Class of 2020,
First, let me say on behalf of our entire faculty and staff how proud we are of you. Although many of us will have to do it virtually, we can’t wait to celebrate each of you this Saturday. We are excited for the next season of life God has planned for you, and we know that you are all prepared to take on whatever steps into your path.
To say this was not the ideal senior year would be an understatement. We can’t say enough how sorry we are that your class had to go through this. Traditions we hold dear were taken from you, and for that we grieve with you. However, when I think of each of you I see our vision statement embodied. “To teach foundational truth in an ever-changing world, empowering students to think critically and creatively and to act with courage and compassion.” When I read that statement I can clearly see images in my mind of the Class of 2020.
You have been taught truth. You know who Jesus is, and you know what He wants for your life. You know that we have loved you, and taught you what biblical love looks like. We watch you giving that love to each other all the time. You’re really good at it. In a time when the world was changing around you at a pace we’ve never experienced before, you all loved each other through it. You stayed connected. You checked on each other. You loved each other well. We know that is the truth of Jesus’ love for you shining out to the people around you.
Our Class of 2020 is incredibly creative in their thoughts and critical thinking. Our faculty marvels at the level of intelligence and creativity you brought to our classrooms. You are inquisitive and highly engaged in the daily life of Mount Pisgah, and we will miss your influence in our halls greatly. You have done an outstanding job academically, and we commend you for that.
Most importantly, you act with courage and compassion. I have watched you all “do” so many times when things needed to happen. You all are fearless in trying new things, and your initiative will be missed. It’s an easy thing to think through a response. It’s an altogether different thing to act on it. You all act. You are bold and courageous in your actions. What I love though is your actions are based in compassion and love for others. These attributes will take each of you so far in life, and they will lead you to opportunities that we can already see God shaping in your futures.
As you all move into a new season we will be praying Psalm 16:11 over you, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” We will be praying that you will continue to grow in what you have been taught. That you will seek God for direction, and that he will show you what fullness of joy you can experience through Him. To the Class of 2020, we congratulate you on a job well done, and we can’t say enough how much we love you and are proud of you!