The last six years have caused most of us to look to the future with skepticism especially regarding the stability of investments. Reports also indicate that even if folks do have some extra cash, they have been reluctant to spend it.
Businesses are still scaling back and most of them have dropped “expansion” from their short to mid-term goals. But it would seem as though the members of Rhinelander’s Zion Lutheran Church and the families of its pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade Christian day school failed to get the memo.
During the summer, Zion committed more than $300,000.00 towards improvements of its school facility, including a new roof, heating system and classroom renovations.
In addition to facility improvements, technology was also upgraded. Beginning with kindergarten, smartboards have now replaced dry-erase boards and third through eighth grade students now carry Chromebook netbook computers, loaded with education apps in their backpacks instead of heavy, bulky textbooks.
“I am continually amazed by the generosity of our church members and families when it comes to the support of our school” Zion’s Principal, Tim Ristow said.
The students were also grateful for the most recent support.
“The first day of school the hallways were buzzing. Many of the students said that it was like walking into a brand new building… brighter, roomier, it was really pretty cool to see,” Ristow said. “The other unexpected surprise was that we were only planning on enough funding to outfit our sixth through eighth graders with their own Chromebook this year, but a few members stepped forward with additional donations allowing us to supply Chromebooks all the way down to our third graders.”
But does this new technology translate to improved learning?
“Technology in and of itself is not what the students are learning, rather technology has become a tool to help students learn better,” Ristow said. “Students are always evolving as far as their methods of learning. Today’s student is much more diverse in their ability to grasp concepts through multiple learning channels. As teachers we recognize that some students may excel through visual or auditory channels while others require a more methodical, linear approach. For the first time in my 25 years of teaching I am able to offer a total, dynamic, range on any subject through a wealth of collaborative material such as supportive articles, videos, sound bites, and graphics.”
Admittedly Ristow is spending more time preparing for each subject because of the importance he places on locating supportive content that has substance, not solely a flashy presentation. He also films himself presenting each subject and posts a video that the student can replay during study hall or at home allowing them to play, pause and replay any part of the lesson that they may not have grasped during the classroom presentation.
In the upper grades, teachers are seeing students begin to take charge of their own learning and openly collaborating with the other students.
“These are all of the things you want to see happen in a school, it really helps prepare them for the next level of education,” Ristow said.
As grateful as Ristow is for the monetary support from congregation members and student families, he recognizes the power these upgrades have created to continue the school’s mission.
“These upgrades give quality to our school which may help attract families that have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel message and whatever we do here needs to serve that mission,” he said.