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!
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10
I love the picture of heaven that is described in the verses listed above from Revelation: “a great multitude,” “all tribes and peoples and languages.” Heaven is going to be the most multicultural place that has ever existed, and I believe we are called as a School to do our best to emulate heaven and reflect the multicultural diversity of our own community.
Over the last couple of years we have done a great job cultivating in our school a true picture of our community. When I arrived at Mount Pisgah, approximately 10% of our student body were people of color and our faculty and staff were approximately 20%. In the 2018-19 school year those numbers rose to 22% students and 27% faculty and staff. This past school year (2019-20) we were very excited to see our student percentage rise to 30% and our faculty and staff stay consistent at 27%.
I am proud of the increases we have made in our multicultural population, but it’s important that we not only continue to increase these numbers but also educate our community on what a true biblical multicultural community looks like and how it interacts. I want Mount Pisgah to be the forerunner in modeling to our community and beyond what it truly means to emulate a picture of heaven. To that end, I have asked Angela Crosby to transition from her current role to a new role as Director of Multicultural Affairs. Angela will have a very specific job description in helping lead us forward in the calling Jesus has laid before us to model multicultural community. I believe in our current social climate there may be nothing more important we can be doing than to help our students learn how to listen to others, learn about their culture and their experiences, and love them as Jesus would.
The role of Director of Multicultural Affairs will engage in our community in the following ways:
- Research best practices and work with teachers to integrate multicultural education into their teaching units.
- Provide training for faculty and staff on multicultural awareness.
- Work alongside admissions to increase multicultural enrollment.
- Cultivate relationships with like-minded organizations around the Atlanta area who can help enhance a multicultural community at MPCS.
- Work with division heads to identify and pursue people of all races to enhance a multicultural environment among the faculty and staff.
- Create and lead a student/faculty/staff multicultural leadership committee to identify and implement ways to enhance the school community.
- Assist with proactive policy review, creation, or implementation.
We are excited to have Angela Crosby in this role. Her passion for a multicultural community on our campus will be invaluable. I would invite you to watch the attached video where Ms. Crosby outlines some of her early goals for this position. I would ask that you join me in praying for not only Angela, but our entire school community for the opportunity to reflect who Jesus is in our actions with each other. We have a great calling to model a biblical multicultural community, and we are gladly accepting that calling. I am thankful that you will be joining us.
Ruston Pierce, Head of School
Welcome to Mount Pisgah Christian School’s new blog “From the Office of the Head of School.”
We are excited to begin this new form of communication. It will come out weekly, and the blog will introduce you to different members of our community and their job role. The blog will also be used through the year to explain the technical and statistical reasons behind many of the different ways we educate with intention. At times, we'll share fun, human interest stories from our community. It will also allow our faculty and staff to serve as guest writers to give you a glimpse inside their daily profession.
Today I want to introduce our new Head of Business Affairs, Dana Ridenour. Dana comes to Mount Pisgah from Fort Lauderdale, where he had a successful career in the restaurant industry that transitioned into a versatile time in educational administration. Dana spent 14 years in the restaurant industry as a Director of Operations and District Manager. Next, he transitioned to the education sector for 12 years at Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale where he was promoted from Athletic Director to Director of Advancement and Chief Operating Officer. We are thrilled to bring someone of Dana’s depth of knowledge onto our Senior Leadership Team. As Head of Business Affairs, Dana will oversee finance, facilities/operations, IT, human resources, food service, and security.
In his role overseeing safety and security, Dana has been instrumental in leading our Return to School Task Force. Make sure you check out our Return to School Roadmap on the website. It is a high level overview of what our return to school this fall will look like. I want to reiterate that we are committed to making sure that we are on campus in person this fall in the safest way possible because that is what is best for the large majority of our students. For the students who may have immune-compromised issues we are working on developing an online opportunity for them as well. There will be more details on that coming soon.
If you have any questions please visit our Updates Page here.
I am very confident in the plans that we have been creating to address the different scenarios we may encounter this fall. Obviously, it’s too much information to give out at once. Instead, Dana and I will be shooting a short weekly video answering specific questions that people are curious about. That will allow you to reference the videos quickly if there is anything you didn’t understand or forgot, and it will allow us to respond to the issues that people are most curious about. If you have a question that you would like us to answer, please feel free to send it to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than happy to help you.
I invite you to stay connected to our blog. Again, it will be published weekly. Next week we will be introducing Angela Crosby as our new Director of Multicultural Affairs and explaining her role, as well as how she will integrate with our all of our school divisions to grow our commitment to being a multicultural community. We look forward to continuing to connect with you.
Ruston Pierce, Head of School