Quality, Christian Education Requires Learning AND Action

During first semester, one of the second grade social studies units covered the topic of community. From a curriculum standpoint, this calls for lessons where students learn about common characteristics of all communities: natural characteristics, buildings, transportation, businesses, places to have fun, and human characteristics. Mrs. Kooyer said that our students “also decided that the most important part of a community is the people.”  The kids interviewed someone about what makes Byron Center special and wrote about their favorite places here. Teachers also incorporated a map study and students created their own town maps.

This is an important foundational lesson for the subject, but the lesson did not stop with simply learning about a definition. Teaching for Transformation (TfT) helps our staff ensure all subjects and lessons have real world applications and experiences.

For this particular lesson, teachers designed a learning experience that allowed our students to become community builders. To start, students wrote prayers and cards for the community businesses in Byron Center. Then, on a chilly Tuesday afternoon, teachers and parents took the students to those places. At each location, students stopped and prayed as a group for that particular establishment and brought the cards to an employee inside. Watching our students thank God for community businesses and ask for His blessing over employees was incredibly moving!  

Excellent education calls for students to simply learn about community. However, at Byron Center Christian, excellent education must also be rooted in God’s Word and prepare students for lifelong service. Watching students pray for our community and deliver a message of support shows that our students not only learned, but but also experienced authentic community on that day.


Building with a Purpose

South Christian High School (SCHS) opened in 1954 and has been faithfully striving to provide an excellent Christian education for the surrounding community since then. Their current mission is “to equip students to live Christ-centered lives and serve God to their greatest potential.” The school’s vision is “to be a spiritually vibrant educational community that reflects God’s Kingdom. We seek God’s leading in providing academically exceptional offerings, culturally relevant methods, and service oriented community with a heart for students.”

Byron Center Christian and South Christian are members of South Suburban Christian Schools, a group of four elementary/middle schools and the high school. The group serves as affiliated schools to provide preschool through 12th grade education to our communities! In January 2019, SCHS opened the doors to its brand new high school campus. The facility was made possible by families, grandparents, supporters, businesses and other partners who are all committed to ensure SCHS can fulfill its’ mission and vision. The campus is designed to not only serve current students, but also allows for future growth!

The new SCHS features many open community spaces, creative classroom designs, two gymnasiums, student collaborations stations, expansive co-curricular spaces/classrooms, and beautiful auditorium (just to name a few things). It is exciting for BCCS families as they look forward to their children one day attending school there. Our prayer for our students (even as they begin preschool) is that every grade they enter helps them grow more into the people God has created them to be. We are grateful to partner with SCHS as we know that growth will continue in high school as well!

Click this link to read the Christian Reformed Church article about the new SCHS!

Junior Kindergarten & Kindergarten Open House

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The Byron Center community is invited to our Kindergarten Open House on March 13th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. The event is held at our early education campus, which is located at 8705 Byron Center Ave SW. The evening is an opportunity for new families to tour the campus, meet the teaching staff, and pre-register for a class of preference.

Please note, some classes may fill that evening, so come with a few options on which class you would prefer. See the Early Education Brochure for class details and tuition information.

Contact Andrew Reidsma at 878-3347 or reidsma@bccs.org with questions. If you cannot attend that evening, you may schedule a personal tour of our Kindergarten programs at any time!

Who: Everyone (your children are invited as well)

What: BCCS Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten Open House

When: Wednesday, March 13th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM

Where: Early Education Campus, 8705 Byron Center Ave SW, Byron Center, MI 49315

Why: Discover the difference an authentic Christian education can have on your children and learn how BCCS is the best investment you can make for your family

Questions: Contact Andrew Reidsma at 878-334 or reidsma@bccs.org


We look forward to seeing you there!


Preschool Open House

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The Byron Center community is invited to our Preschool Open House on January 16th, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM. The event is held at our Early Education campus, which is located at 8705 Byron Center Ave SW. The evening is an opportunity for new families to tour the campus, meet the teaching staff, and pre-register for a class of preference.

Please note, some classes will fill that evening, so come with a few options on which class you would prefer. See the Early Education Brochure for class details and tuition information.

Contact Andrew Reidsma at 878-3347 or reidsma@bccs.org. If you cannot attend that evening, you may schedule a personal tour of our preschool at any time!

Who: Everyone

What: BCCS Preschool Open House

When: Wednesday, January 16th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM

Where: Early Education Campus, 8705 Byron Center Ave SW, Byron Center, MI 49315

Why: Discover the difference an authentic, Christian education can have on your children and learn how BCCS is the best investment you can make for your family!

Question: Contact Andrew Reidsma at 878-334 or reidsma@bccs.org

We look forward to seeing you there!


Excellent Instruction in Action

How can a teacher teach an entire class and address all the individual learning needs? How can they help students at different academic levels? How can all the students get one-on-one instruction?

I am glad you asked! At Byron Center Christian, we recognize the importance of fostering strong reading and writing skills in our students. Teachers and staff use specific instructional methods called reading and writing workshop to accomplish this goal. The pictures below show this in action and the following paragraph describes how it works (and answers the initial questions).

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In a workshop block, teachers will give a mini-lesson on the particular topic or skill (i.e. poetry, a new reading strategy, spelling, five paragraph essay, etc.) and then allow students to break into individuals or groups. From there, students actually apply what the lesson was on (i.e. writing a poem, trying the reading strategy, spelling practice, typing an essay, etc.). The teacher is then free to conference (or help) students on an individual basis to make sure everyone has a strong understanding of what is being taught. This also allows the teacher the ability to challenge high performing students and assist students that have not yet grasped the particular concept. Following the work-time, teachers can have the students share their work with the class or can summarize and review what was taught. While this is not how instruction always happens, workshops are a powerful tool for almost any subject.

This practice seems simple, but it takes careful planning and a strong knowledge of and relationship with each student to ensure success. We are able to use these instructional methods to teach to the group and to the individual student. We are also able to address the individual academic needs of our students so each child is able to succeed. While no teacher or classroom is perfect, we are blessed with amazing teachers who want to help each student grow!

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Rescued

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While Teaching for Transformation (TfT) has helped teachers introduce through-line themes in the classrooms for students, our 8th grade theme team still had the opportunity to choose our school verse and song for the 2018-2019 school year. The verse they selected is 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads “For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” The school song is “Rescuer” by Rend Collective.

The verse is a powerful reminder that not only is God walking with us, but also He equips us with the tools we need to faithfully serve him. As a school, we want our students to know that God gives love, power, and self-discipline and His spirit helps them practice those things on a daily basis. It is not always easy to see God’s large plan for our life, but using Timothy as a reminder can help us focus on the simple tasks of loving those around us, being disciplined in our faith walk, and influencing with Christ-like power.

Corresponding with the verse is the popular Rend Collective song that talks about how Christ has rescued each of us. In one of the verses, it calls listeners to “come and be chainless, come and be fearless,” which fits with what Timothy says about living with power and self-discipline. It is important for students of all ages to know that everyone (including ourselves) will remain chained in sin unless we turn to Christ. Realizing that we need to be rescued allows us, in turn, to point others to Jesus.

Here at Byron Center Christian School, we are excited to see how God uses our school (students, staff, parents, and supporters) to help us develop the self-discipline to grow in faith, love deeply, and influence powerfully.

Pure Worship

Do you ever get ‘that feeling’ when singing in church, attending a concert, or even during your morning prayer - a rush through your body, sometimes even goosebumps, while worshiping in the presence of God? Every Thursday when second grade has worship time, that is exactly what one can experience.

As Christians, we are called to worship daily. At Byron Center Christian School, that is one aspect (of many) of a quality Christian education. Everything must start and end in Christ.

Mrs. VanWieren commented that sometimes worship occurs within a daily lesson, but other times it takes place by design. In a similar fashion, Bible is taught as a specific subject, but Bible is also present and prevalent in every subject. Teachers purposefully work to craft an environment where worship can happen not only during devotions or chapel, but also when exploring math, science, and social studies.

As adults, we sometimes have an inhibition or timidity when we come to worship, but our second grade students do not. Every Thursday morning, the entire grade gathers in one room to sing praises together. There is no hi-tech sound system, no fancy lighting, and sometimes not even an instrumental accompaniment. However, when you walk by Mrs. Battjes’ classroom, you will encounter one of the most pure forms of worship brought before our Lord and Savior. The kids are singing their hearts out to their Creator. There is no inhibition or worry about how they sound, but just powerful, authentic worship. There is no way to describe what is taking place, but it is absolutely beautiful. Simply put, the second grade students are fulfilling what God created them to do. And while our teachers encourage and lead this time, it is God working in each of their hearts. It is our hope and prayer that He will continue to provide us opportunities for pure worship of Him.

Educational Support Services at BCCS

With each child being created in God’s image and being a reflection of Him in many ways, we get a broad spectrum of beautiful gifts and learning styles. At Byron Center Christian School, our goal is to help every child to work to their fullest ability. Our school is blessed because of this great variety. With this in mind, we take a special approach to inclusive education. The thing is, you might not ever notice the amazing work that our Educational Support Services (ESS) team does, because it is meant to blend seamlessly within the classroom. Our desire is to educate parents on what an amazing benefit and blessing ESS can be to a wide range of students. ESS Director, Kathy Fleet, said last spring in the New Family Orientation, parents often take an apprehensive sigh when they get a call from her, thinking, “What’s wrong with my child?” If there is frustration in the home or at school for the student or parent concerning their education, ESS is a welcome set of eyes on each student.

The analytical and intervention approach are all geared toward each student’s success. Anything that interferes with a student’s ability is covered by ESS. There are many factors, such as attention, anxiety, learning differences, physical and/ or social skill needs. This is why our team has a response to intervention framework that includes four tiers. Intervention is simply the word used when ESS becomes involved with helping a student.

FOUR TIERS OF INTERVENTION

1. The ESS staff provide consultation to the general education teacher to assist with meeting student needs in the classroom (i.e. seating placement).

2. ESS staff design a more targeted approach for various students which could include a paraprofessional in the room. Progress is monitored.

3. When Tiers 1 & 2 have not met the needs, then a more intensive intervention is provided outside the classroom by a highly qualified teacher (one of the ESS staff). One example is Reading Recovery.

4. Students will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to include frequent and complete monitoring of all academics by ESS staff. Most of these students will have a full time instructional aide throughout the day to promote inclusion.

It is often thought that the current children placed in Tier 4 are the only children that our team services. However, there are approximately 75 students in their care. Our ESS team meets with each teacher weekly to assess each plan in place and diligently reviews all of our students’ needs. Parents are contacted if a student requires Tier 2 involvement. If you feel that our team would be beneficial in helping your student succeed, the ESS team is here for you.

An ESS plan can be initiated by our team or the parent. Our team creates individual plans to build on your student’s strengths, providing opportunities for them to develop strategies surrounding triggers that prohibit education for themselves or others, and they are always solution-finding in their approach. As parents, you wonder if you are making the right choices for your child, and with an ESS partnership, you can feel more confident in how your child is doing at school. Discover the Difference of what Educational Support Services can do for your family.

True Learning

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There are many differing opinions in the realm of education on student grades. For a great perspective, check out the letter to our lower elementary families that our teachers sent home with report cards!

Dear Parents,

Your child’s first report card of the year will be emailed to you on Friday. The grading scale for 1st-3rd grade uses a 1-3 scale that reflects how your child is doing, based on our expectations for his/her current grade level. If a student is secure in his/her work and is able to meet grade level expectations, he/she will receive a 3.  A score of 2 indicates that the student is developing in his/her work; sometimes concepts in that area can be difficult, but the student is continuing to progress toward meeting grade level expectations.  A score of 1 indicates beginning understanding and means the concepts in that area are difficult for that student.  You may see a 1, 2, or 3 with a plus behind it. A 3+ would indicate that a student is exceeding grade level expectations.  A 1+ or 2+ would show that a student is moving towards the next level of developing or secure.

Remember, education is more than academics.  Your child is a unique child of God and is learning in many ways - intellectually, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.  It is difficult to describe and evaluate a child with only marks in a box. Your child is and will become so much more than a report card could ever show.  A report card is a small picture of progress, and learning is a process. As teachers, it is our goal to meet your child where they are and help move them forward.

We hope that you will talk with your child about his/her progress in school - giving praise for areas of achievement and encouragement in areas of difficulty.  It is our privilege to be working alongside you this year, helping your children develop the gifts that God has given them. More important than the academics, it is our prayer that they will grow as children of God, rooted in His Word as they prepare to serve Him.  

In Christ,

The 1st-3rd grade teachers


Why Standardized Testing?

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Why is it when we hear the words ‘standardized test,’ everyone seems to cringe? Maybe it is because we think of a packed gym, spending hours filling out a seemingly random test. Perhaps it was because you had to have a certain score to move to the next grade. Maybe your teacher pushed too hard to improve a score. Whatever the reason, standardized testing often has a negative connotation.

As a school, one of our outcomes is to ensure students are making academic progress. It is our job to partner with parents to make sure students are prepared academically to succeed in high school and beyond. In 2017, we implemented the use of MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) for standardized testing, which was created by NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association).

This new evaluation tool benefits our teaching staff and students in three ways.

  1. First, the testing is not a long or arduous process, nor is there any pressure on students to achieve a certain score. While they are encouraged to try their best, the testing environment is not pressure filled. The test also alters itself based on the student’s answers, so it forms to their ability level. While students do test multiple times per year, it is only in sections of roughly an hour spread over a period of a few days.

  2. Second, results foster instructional improvement. We test and then teach so we understand where each student and each class is at in their learning. In the same light, our teaching staff has been trained on how to use the analytical analysis of test results. The goal is to recognize class trends, identify strengths, and address weakness. The teacher can take the results and use them to modify instruction or focus on areas of concern.

  3. Third, the testing allows us to compare student results to national norms and track their growth over time. Both forms of evaluation are critical. As an institution, we want to ensure our students are performing well compared to other schools. That way we know instruction methods and curricula are effective. However, we recognize the fact that each of our students is different, each one a unique child of God. As such, we want to help each of them succeed. The goal, especially in elementary levels, is to help students grow in order to  build their confidence.

Testing many never be the highlight of the day, but we are excited about how it can help both our teachers and our students here at BCCS!

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