Building Character

For more than four decades, St. John Lutheran School has been providing Marion County students with a quality Christian education. The faculty at the school is welcoming a second generation of students.

“Our former students are now bringing their children here,” says Executive Director Deborah Heath. “They had a great experience at St. John, and now they want their children to have the experience as well.”

Dr. James Paraiso, class of 1988, is one of those parents. He and his wife Kathleen’s (also a St. John graduate) three young children—Andrew, Jacob, and Emily—attend the school.

“As a student at St. John you’re encouraged and challenged to set and achieve your goals,” Dr. Paraiso says. “All of the values instilled in me while in school really helped guide me through life—and they still do today. We chose St. John for our kids not only because of our positive experiences as students there, but also because it’s a Christ-centered environment. We teach our children right from wrong and the school helps solidify those values.”

As a Christ-centered school, God’s Word is woven throughout the fabric of the students’ day. Students discover that Scripture relates to every area of their lives—their personal relationships, their character, how they work and play, how they think and speak, even the subjects they study. In addition, students attend Chapel every Thursday. It’s important to note, though, that students of all faiths are welcome at St. John.

From K3 through 12th grade, every student at St. John Lutheran School is treated and respected as an individual. As a private school, the St. John administration has the ability to limit class sizes, enabling the instructors to become acquainted with each and every student.

Middle school literature teacher Susan Ergle has been teaching at St. John for five years, but her connection to the school dates back further than that. She’s a St. John grad—class of 1981. One step into her classroom reveals her love of books as thousands of titles fill the bookshelves. The perimeter of the classroom is lined with comfortable, plush chairs, perfect for reading days.

“My focus is to introduce my students to a wide variety of literature,” she says. “I want my students to connect to that one book they can’t put down.”

Susan believes three elements go into making a successful reader. One, students have to have a choice of what to read. Two, they have to have time to read. And three, her students have to respond to what they are reading.

“Instead of book reports, we write letters back and forth in journals,” she says. “We write about what they’re reading and how it makes them feel.” So far this year, Susan’s students have read 115,153 pages in 408 books.

Susan is also a St. John mom. Her oldest child graduated last year and now attends the University of South Florida. She also has a high school senior and twin seventh graders. She even married a St. John graduate.

Year after year, St. John Lutheran School offers one of the finest college-bound academic programs available at the pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school levels. Students thrive in the family-like atmosphere created by teachers who masterfully combine traditional and innovative teaching methodologies.

“We currently offer more honors and Advanced Placement courses than we ever have,” says Principal Andrea Fischer who has been with St. John for 30 years. “We have always been very strong academically and we offer a very aggressive curriculum.”

Last year’s junior and senior classes at St. John earned a combined 288 college credits. In addition to dual enrollment opportunities with Central Florida Community College, St. John’s also boasts a solid Advanced Placement program, along with a Scholars Curriculum.

St. John is fully accredited by the National Lutheran School Accreditation and the Florida Association of Academic Non-public Schools. The quality of educational programs is well established and its secondary graduates have been readily accepted into such prestigious academic institutions as Vanderbilt University, University of Florida, Wake Forest University, Auburn University, United States Air Force Academy, Emory University, The Honors College at the University of Central Florida, and the University of Kentucky.

“We make sure we offer our students every opportunity to excel,” says Deborah who has been with the school for 11 years. “That’s one of the reasons we started the Laptop Initiative.”

While a computer lab and classroom computers are available to the students, the faculty has gone a step further with the Laptop Initiative program, providing each high school student with a personal laptop computer for his or her use.

“In addition to being issued textbooks, each student is also issued a computer,” says Andrea. “Many of our classes utilize CDs and DVDs as learning tools. The students become excited about learning when we infuse technology into the curriculum.”

And that same technology is offered to the parents as well. EDLINE is a secure, Web-based tool that helps improve communication between teachers, parents, and students. It’s one of the leading total-school Web site solutions, used extensively in all 50 states as well as internationally.

On the Web, parents will find a variety of useful information including everything from school menus and field trips to homework assignments and test dates. Parents also have the opportunity to keep up with their child’s grades on a daily basis. As a St. John parent, you will have the opportunity to share many memorable events with your child and you will be encouraged to participate in activities that enrich nearly every area of school life.

Just as the curriculum is continually being updated, so too is the St. John campus.

“We have a variety of renovation and remodeling projects in the works,” says Deborah. “In addition to the structural upgrades which include roofing and plumbing as well as perimeter fencing, we also refurbish classrooms each year.”

Two years ago a new playground was added for the students and soon, the car line will be new and improved as well. One of the most exciting changes taking place is the addition of the church and school’s new multi-purpose facility.

“The plans have been approved, but we’re just in the preliminary architectural design of the project,” Deborah says. “It’s something we’ll look forward to in the future.”

Even though a strong moral character and academic excellence are of the utmost importance at St. John, the ultimate goal of the faculty is to produce well-rounded young men and women. This means that in addition to their minds, every student’s physical development must be nurtured. St. John develops this vital aspect of the student’s life through health classes, weight training, and other physical education courses.Besides the physical education curriculum, St. John offers a wide range of fall, winter, and spring sports to students in grades 5-12.

Beyond aiding in the physical development of students, the faculty feels that participation in athletics also develops other qualities that are essential in well-rounded students, including teamwork, leadership, and good sportsmanship in the face of both victory and defeat. Although St. John athletes are encouraged to take part in multiple sports throughout the school year and achieve their highest potential on the field or the court, they are also reminded that academics must take priority over athletics.

To add to each student’s extracurricular resume, St. John Lutheran School offers students in middle and high school a variety of non-athletic clubs and organizations to become involved in, including the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, Student Council, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Art Club, Prayer Team, and an Anchor Club. And that’s just the beginning.

“We do our best for each student,” says Deborah. “The teachers really get to know each student, including their individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. St. John is a special school not only because of the longevity and diversity of our staff, but also because we provide a real sense of family to our students. I personally love working with all the age groups. I can talk to a three-year-old one minute and a 17-year-old the next.”

As Executive Director, Deborah understands the importance of her position.

“My passion is curriculum,” she says. “And while testing and grades are very important and are stressed, the rest of the academic and social programs are very important as well. My children went here and to public school, and I’ve worked in both private and public education. And through all my experiences, I can say I’m so proud to be involved with St. John.”

St. John Lutheran School
1915 SE Lake Weir Ave.
(352) 629-1794 Church • (352) 622-7275 School

Join us at our Open House January 31 4:30-7pm

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