By Kristen Zuccola, Upper School Humanities, Composition and Logic Teacher, Westside Christian Academy
All parents want the very best for their children. My husband and I are no different. We want the best education possible. For us, educating our children has been more than just preparing them academically for the purpose of securing good jobs. For us, education is not neutral. For us, education involves their hearts, minds, and souls. Indeed, it is our desire for education to support us as parents as we seek to raise our sons and daughters to become well-educated men and women who lead fearlessly, communicate eloquently, and live rightly. In 2004, we enrolled our oldest child into Westside Christian Academy, a school that partnered with us to help educate the way we envisioned, a school that has far surpassed our expectations.
I can recall the first week that our oldest child, then a kindergartener at Westside Christian Academy, entered the school building. Both doors were opened by older children. The seventh grade young man exclaimed, “Ethan!” and gave him a high five. The eighth grade female student wished him, “Good morning!” Later that day, when I picked him up, I observed a sixth grade girl skipping, her hands linked with several younger students, singing songs and laughing during their recess. Young students witness the older students leading well. I knew that while he was there, my son was loved, and he was learning.
Each of our four children has had the privilege of attending school at WCA beginning with kindergarten. With a rigorous curriculum and a genuine focus on living biblically, the school has become a second home for our family. The love that the teachers have poured into their students–my children included–has been evident to our family on countless occasions. Perhaps it is partly because I am an educator that I sense the necessity of having teachers genuinely care about their students as a parent would–looking them in the eye, calling them by name, blessing them with a smile, or guiding them with a reassuring nod or thumbs up. That regularly happens at WCA. Years ago, I entered the school shortly after my grandmother had passed away, and as the second grade class walked by, one boy stopped, placed his hand on my arm, looked me in the eye, and told me that he was sorry for the loss of my grandmother. He told me that his class had been praying for our family. The love that the teachers exhibit bears fruit in their students.
The partnership between Westside Christian Academy and its parents for the joint goal of educating students to develop into godly men and women is essential. The teachers have joyfully and willingly
continued to help grow the traits and characteristics in the students that we have taught in our own home. They do this with grace and compassion. For each of our children, the men and women who instruct them have seen God-given potential. What once I saw in one of my children as simply a fascination with electronic things, particularly electric pencil sharpeners, one teacher observed to be something completely different. Our son’s sharpening of her pencils was a daily service to both the teacher and our son’s classmates.
While the teachers partner with parents, their attention to students is unique, personal, and loving. In the Upper School, students meet regularly to have lunch in small groups to fellowship with one another and discuss life. You will regularly find a teacher attending school basketball games, praying with and for their students, and attending to their individual needs–academically and spiritually. Teachers continue to inquire about my oldest son years after his graduation. They continue to celebrate the successes of alumni, attend their weddings, and pray for them. Teachers are like an extension of many students’ families.
Our family, together with others, has prayed that the Classical Christian curriculum, once only kindergarten through eighth grade, would expand to offer high school level courses to complete the “trivium” modeled in the classical school movement. Last year, WCA’s Board of Trustees voted to add a ninth grade for the 2015-16 school year, with plans to add a subsequent grade each year following. We hope to see our first student graduate in 2019. Passionate about the curriculum, methodologies, and heart of the school, I applied for the position. I was hired and became blessed with the opportunity to see the school through a teacher’s eyes. The richness of the instruction and passion of the teachers exceeded that which I saw as a parent. It is an honor and privilege to work alongside colleagues who love their students and give all that they can. Each day I have the blessing of challenging young men and women in grades seven to nine to gain knowledge and grow in wisdom. I teach humanities, which is an integrated Bible, history, and literature course; composition; and logic. I have witnessed students debate topics; identify what is true, good, and beautiful in their literature reading; curate a school-wide museum of Benjamin Franklin; meet in family groups weekly; pray for their country, friends, school, and families; and more at Westside Christian Academy, our home away from home.
Kristen Zuccola earned her BSED in English from Ohio University, MA in English from Cleveland State University. Mrs. Zuccola teaches Humanities for grade 9, including Bible, history, and literature. She also teaches composition and logic to grades 7-9. Prior to coming to WCA in 2015, Mrs. Zuccola taught English, math, and social studies at Lawrence School; GED English and night classes for high school students at Polaris; English at Fairview High School; and College Composition as an adjunct instructor for Cuyahoga Community College. She enjoys spending time with her husband, four children, and extended family, serving at church, reading, cooking, and hiking. Her favorite verse is Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
This article was originally published in our Excelsior! monthly newsletter.