Learning to Speak the Truth in Love

At Covenant, we seek to cultivate the minds, vocabularies and rhetorical skills of our students, so that as they approach the culmination of their education with us, they are able to speak truthfully persuasively, and eloquently. One of the ways that students practice speaking well, along with engaging well with the texts they are reading, is to participate in literature discussions. Unlike some discussion groups, where opinions are thrown around and every conflicting thought is equally accepted as true, the goal at Covenant is to get down to the truth together. The teacher leads the discussion and is not a mere bystander, observing and writing down points, but rather is a guide, correcting error, asking intentional questions, and leading students closer and closer to what is true. This also means that students are encouraged to disagree with one another in a productive way, point each other back to the text in question and, most importantly, remain grounded in God’s word as the Source of truth.

Recently, we got a window into such a discussion, in which the senior class discussed the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Their teacher, Miss Munson, had them explore the theme of duality within the classic work. The discussion began by discussing duality within ourselves as people and what the benefits and disadvantages would be of splitting oneself into two. The discussion quickly dived, however, into the question of good and evil within us, the old and new man in Christ, and what the Bible tells us about sin and sanctification. Throughout the discussion, without any prompting from their teacher, the seniors backed up their statements with verses from the Bible, passages and page numbers from the text, and occasionally a reference to Augustine’s Confessions, which they read together in ninth grade.

As wonderful as the content of the dialogue was, the way the students went about discussing was equally impressive. We heard phrases like “I would argue…”, rather than vague expressions of opinion. Students interrupted each other in ways that furthered the discussion rather than taking it on tangents. They listened to one another and took the points made by their peers seriously. As questions arose, students pointed each other back to specific passages in the text to come to the answer. Each comment was cordial. Rather than disagreements being taken personally, each new statement built up the conversation in a common pursuit of truth. Throughout, the students were noticeably enjoying themselves. A common understanding of and appreciation for the literature was apparent in each member of the group. Truth was the goal – eloquently expressed and cooperatively found.

Praise God for each step of our students’ education that trains them to be both wise and eloquent, both in and outside the classroom!

If you’d like more information about Covenant, please contact our Admissions Director, Katie Broeg, at 717.540.9885 ext. 555 or Katie.Broeg@DiscoverCovenant.com.

The 5th Annual Evening of Gratitude

This past Saturday, our community celebrated and thanked God together at the fifth annual Evening of Gratitude. Almost 200 parents, students, teachers, staff, board members, and friends were in attendance. The evening was held at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Upon entering, guests were welcomed by a grand staircase in the rotunda. Silent Auction items lined the upper level leading to the banquet hall. Guests enjoyed a tasty meal and a variety of desserts as a harpist strummed melodies in the background. The Chamber Choir, led by Mr. Jesse Maurer, also serenaded guests at various times throughout the evening. One of the songs they sang, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” seemed particularly fitting for this event. Guests heard stories of gratitude from Elizabeth Stoner, Class of 2019, and Jay McClymont, a long-time Covenant parent. Both speakers touched on the special culture that Covenant enjoys and the close relationships that often develop between students and teachers through the years.

The keynote address was given by Jeffrey S. Trimbath, Executive Director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, who reminded us that the purpose of education is to lead students to wisdom. The speaking program concluded with an invitation from Mr. Michael Geer, Board President and father of Covenant alumni, to partner with the school so more families can continue to receive the blessing of a classical, Christian education. Covenant’s Chamber Choir closed out the night with another beautiful song and even serenaded guests as they departed through the rotunda.

Through the generous sponsorships and donations of our guests and friends – including all of those who participated in a fun silent auction – the school was able to raise the entire amount of a $65,000 matching donation! Thank you to everyone who helped to make this event a wonderful success!

 

 

Kindergarten and Community

Brenda Hoover, the new Head of our Parent Teacher Fellowship, spent some time answering a few questions for us. She shares her experience with having a daughter in kindergarten last year and what it was like finding community as a new family at the school. We hope you are encouraged as you catch a glimpse of Brenda’s generous heart!

What are some aspects of our Kindergarten program that you find unique?

Classical education is unique in our society, in and of itself. One of my favorite things to share with those not familiar with the school is that our daughter learned to write cursive in Kindergarten. People are shocked when they hear this, realizing so few kids learn this at all in other schools. I also love that the Word is embedded in all of their learning. I have so many fond memories of stories she would share with me and curious questions that enabled an ongoing conversation.

How have you seen your child grow as a result of being in Kindergarten at Covenant?

I am not sure I have the words to describe the growth we have witnessed in our daughter. I think what stands out to me most is that she was challenged (academics, confidence, relationships) with an equal amount of love and guidance from her teacher.

What was your experience as a new family last year?

We are so blessed to have discovered Covenant Christian Academy. We were originally heading down a home-school path when we were introduced to the school. I cannot express the love and nurturing we received for our daughter as well as our family. When you walk into the school you feel an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful thing! Knowing our children will be able to experience this through graduation is such a relief as parents. It takes a village, and we are so excited this is part of our village!

Tell us how the community at Covenant has impacted you.

We began our journey in Pre-K. I will never forget meeting one of my new best friends that has become more of a sister to me. We both began to tear up while listening to the reading of The Kissing Hand. She handed me a tissue, and our families have grown so close! There are so many other parents that we have become dear friends with as well. It is beyond a community, it is a family of families. We are supported by staff, faculty, and all who attend.

What inspired you to take on this new role?

As Kindergarten Class Liaison last year I attended a PTF meeting to discuss Christmas gifts for staff/faculty. I realized parents of Upper School students were leading this effort. It stayed on my heart throughout the year. While it is tough to imagine taking on much more with our 3 young children and busy schedule, I felt nudged to explore opportunities. I feel it’s important for parents of younger students to begin to take the lead. I am not sure I realized I was being nudged for this particular role, but I am more than happy to do so and am excited for what lies ahead.

What are you most excited about for this school year?

Continuing to see our daughter grow and be challenged, not only academically but spiritually. I am also very excited to be more involved with the school and pray I can be a blessing to all the wonderful people that create this incredible environment.


If you’re interested in learning more about Kindergarten at Covenant, visit our Kindergarten Page. We’d also love to tell you about Kindergarten Early Commitment – an exciting, new opportunity we are offering this year. Contact our Admissions Director if you’d like to learn more or schedule a visit:

Katie Broeg | Admissions Director
717.540.9885 ext. 555 | Katie.Broeg@DiscoverCovenant.com

It Makes a Difference

Michelle Gaydos, mother of 2018 graduate, Hannah Gaydos, took some time to answer a few questions about their time at Covenant. We love hearing stories from our families about how a classical, Christian education at Covenant made a difference in a student’s life!

Your daughter, Hannah, graduated this year. What are one or two of your favorite memories from her time here?
Watching Hannah’s mind blossom into such an intelligent young lady! She was always so excited to share with us what she was learning and doing in school. I would have to say my second would be watching her build relationships, which she had trouble with in the past. The kids at Covenant were so accepting that they are somewhat like family now.

Your family came to Covenant in 9th grade. What were some of the reasons that you decided to switch to Covenant for her high school years?
Hannah was having problems fitting in, she would come home frustrated at what she was seeing and experiencing. We tried to do cyber school a year, but she came to us and said, she wasn’t learning enough.

Tell us about your experience as a new family to Covenant. What were some of the things that helped you to make the transition?
The transition was easy. Everyone was very welcoming, both parents and faculty.

What were some of the harder things about your family’s journey through high school? What helped your family to persevere?
We knew it was going to be very challenging for Hannah, since she had no classical learning. With that being said, I would have to give the Lord the credit. He put it on my heart to send her there, therefore He would give her what she needed. The kids were always encouraging each other and once she grasped the learning style, she seemed to be excited about learning new things. It was like a window was opened and she became a sponge.

What are some of the extra-curricular activities and specials that Hannah participated in while at Covenant? How did these enrich her experience?
Well that was another blooming moment! She started in the dramas doing small roles. She loved it and once she was bitten by the acting bug, she went on to have major roles at our church and at Covenant. Church members would comment on how she has really become so confident. They would ask me, “What happened?” I would reply: “The new school she’s going to, Covenant!”

As you consider the last four years, what are some examples of change or growth that you are thankful for in your daughter’s life
I would have to say the knowledge she has gained that she would not have received at a public school would be the most valuable blessing. The confidence she gained is also priceless. I would also say that the artist Mrs. McClymont unleashed has been enjoyed by many! I also need to say the wisdom of the Bible. She is very confident on her beliefs and values and is willingly and boldly fully handling challenging discussions with others.

What advice would you give to a family considering coming to Covenant for high school?
I would tell them that it was the best choice we have ever made as a parent.


Hear more of Hannah’s thoughts on her experiences at Covenant in the video below!

 


For any family interested in joining us on the journey of classically educating students, preparing them for the future, and teaching them to walk with the Lord, we invite you to become a part of the Covenant community.  To learn more,  please contact our Director of Admissions, Katie Broeg, at Katie.Broeg@DiscoverCovenant.com.

From Show and Tell to Senior Thesis

First Steps Towards Wisdom

Along with Christ-centered academics, the goal of a classical Christian education is to shape the hearts, affections and spiritual lives of our students in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.  Stephanie Schwab, one of our two Kindergarten teachers here at Covenant, has graciously answered some questions to help give insight into what guiding the hearts of her students looks like in Kindergarten.

How long have you been teaching kindergarten at Covenant?

I have taught in the kindergarten classroom here at Covenant for seven years.

Apart from academics, how do you cultivate and guide the hearts and spiritual lives of your students?

It is a huge privilege to be able to teach right from the source, to guide children to understand and memorize portions of Scripture. Along with learning straight from God’s Word, every day brings an opportunity to learn how to apply what we learn from Him as the children interact with classmates, teachers, and work toward God-honoring attitudes and behaviors. My goal is to partner with the parents to help the students as they begin their journey of loving whatever our Heavenly Father calls Beautiful.

Would you mind sharing with us a story of your kindergarteners taking steps towards growing in wisdom?

At the beginning of the year, a kindergarten girl and boy who rode the same bus found themselves quarreling over who would enter the bus first. As you can imagine, each wanted to be first and devised a game wherein whoever sighted the bus first could choose who enters. After learning the biblical principle of preferring others (in class and at grammar school assemblies), as this truth sank in, the game changed to become, “If I see the bus first, I can choose that YOU go first!” This worked for a while until the young gentleman learned to defer to the young lady. Now they are working on how to graciously accept the gift of going first!

 

Describe the atmosphere of your classroom.

Typically, the kindergarten atmosphere is that of excitement, mixed with lots of energy and joy! In the course of the day, as students learn to relate to one another, strong feelings can flare! One important goal of the year is to give the students tools that they will find helpful in their interpersonal relationships now and throughout their lives to bring peace and resolution into areas of conflict. One example is helping students to walk through restoration with each other, offering meaningful repentance and forgiveness to one another. They learn that they can call on God for help in these areas. During the year the students learn to apply order and personal responsibility to their daily routines, while still maintaining excitement, energy, and joy in their learning.

How have you seen some of the lessons you teach in kindergarten be displayed further on?

I love to watch the children as they participate in Show and Tell and imagine how they will use what they learn when it comes time to present projects later in school and ultimately as they give their senior theses. When I hear these little ones graciously fielding questions about the objects near and dear to their hearts, or for that matter, learning to formulate appropriate questions from the ‘audience’, I see these as first steps toward upper school rhetoric. Even today, a kindergarten child who was sharing was asked about his special treasure and he responded, “That’s a tough question,” then turned to the over-eager group and graciously reminded, “I need time to think about this, put your hands down!” Wouldn’t it be great for more of us to learn that we need to take the time to answer well and to listen to each other!

Thank you, Mrs. Schwab, for your faithfulness in guiding the minds, hearts, and lives of our kindergartners!

 

For any family interested in joining us on the journey of teaching students to walk towards wisdom, beginning in kindergarten and every step of the way, feel free to visit our kindergarten page: https://discovercovenant.com/kindergarten/ or contact our Director of Admissions, Katie Broeg at Katie.Broeg@DiscoverCovenant.com.

 

Science and Math at Covenant

Science and mathematics are essential fields of inquiry and instruction for a classical, Christian course of study. Many of our graduates have gone on to pursue further education and careers in these disciplines in fields such as medicine, computer programming, bio-medical engineering, and more. (See our profiles on Allie Good, Ben Brown, and Daniel Schwab for a few examples).

We are happy to announce two new faculty members who will be teaching math and science classes at Covenant next year. Sarah McCollum will teach Biology and Andrew Ferris will join our team full-time to teach Grammar School Science, Life Science, Geometry, and electives. You can learn more about each of them – as well as our Lead Science Teacher, Beth Miller – by clicking on their names.

Overview of Covenant’s Math and Science Faculty

Over the last few years, we have been blessed to assemble a fabulous team of educators to teach our math and science courses. The following slides provide information about our program and the gifted faculty who will be teaching our students. If you would like to learn more about Covenant, please contact Admissions Director, Katie Broeg, to begin a conversation.

Welcome Sarah McCollum – Covenant’s New Biology Teacher

We are happy to introduce you to our new biology teacher, Sarah McCollum. Sarah has a bachelor’s in Biology from Stephens College and a Master’s in Science Education from the University of Iowa. Earlier in her life, she taught high school science for a number of years and is now excited to return to the classroom at Covenant. Sarah is married to Kevin and they have two children, including Rachel who joined us as a 9th grader this past fall.

When did you decide to become a teacher?

I fell in love with science in middle school, and after taking biology as a freshman in high school I knew I had found my niche!  My original plan was to work in biological research.  However, during my junior and senior years of college, I realized that I was not satisfied hanging out with test tubes and micropipettes all day long! After praying, I felt that God was leading me towards teaching – that would allow me to combine my love of people with my love of science. There was only one problem with my plan – I was a senior due to graduate with a degree in biology, but no teaching training!  I decided to continue in school and earn my Master’s Degree and my teaching certificate at the same time. After teaching for 6 years, my son was born and I left the teaching job to be at home with my son, and a few years later, my daughter.


 
Why did you decide you wanted to start teaching again?

Once both children were in grade school, I returned to teaching as a substitute, which I’ve done for the last 6 years. During the past year, I began to feel restless with the substitute teaching – I missed being able to design lessons and build long-term connections with students. In the fall, I tutored a student in biology and realized that I was just as passionate about biology as I was in the beginning!  I was thrilled when Covenant started discussing with me the possibility of teaching biology as a part-time job.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about teaching? 

I love teaching biology because it is the study of the living things that God created. Biology is intricate, beautiful and fun, and helps students understand how the world around them works! I believe the most critical part of teaching biology is to provide a solid and well-developed foundation that can be built upon in any future biological field students choose to follow.

Some of Mrs. McCollum’s students participating in a genetics activity.


 
Apart from teaching, what are other things that you enjoy doing? 

Besides my love of science, I love studying and teaching the Bible, reading classical whodunit mysteries, embroidery, camping, spending time with my family and taking long walks with my dog.

What have you enjoyed about our school since your daughter started this fall? 

I have enjoyed getting to know the people at Covenant this year.  The school is very welcoming and has made Rachel and me feel at home and a part of the Covenant community very quickly.

It’s great to have you here, Sarah! We look forward to having you teach biology to our students next year.

Faculty Spotlight: Getting to Know Beth Miller

Beth Miller joined our Upper School faculty in 2017 and was recently appointed as our Lead Science Teacher. She came to Covenant with extensive experience as a teacher in homeschooling co-ops, teaching mathematics courses from Algebra through AP Calculus, and science classes such as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. We thought that our families would enjoy getting to know her better so we have put together this profile.

Tell us about your family?

Rob and I have been married for 20 years. We met in college at Bucknell University where we both majored in engineering. Rob majored in civil engineering, and I majored in chemical engineering. We met through our involvement in the Christian fellowship on campus. We have 3 children: Jonathan, who is finishing up his freshman year at Drexel as a Finance major, Sarah, who is finishing up her junior year at Covenant, and Jacob, who is finishing up his 8th grade year at Covenant.

What attracted you to classical, Christian education?

I read a good bit about education as our children were approaching school age. I loved the idea of their education equipping them to give a reason for the hope that we profess in Christ and enable them to stand firm in their faith and not be blown about by the waves of the logic or passions of our culture. Classical Christian education seemed to be the best way to accomplish it. I particularly remember reading an essay by Dorothy Sayers and thought her descriptions of the trivium would fit well with the growth of a child.

How did you get interested in science? Tell us a little bit about your educational and scientific background.

I have always been fascinated by how things worked. I remember begging my parents for a computer at a young age…I’m dating myself, I guess. They were rare in households when I was in grade school. In school, I was good at math and science and my chemistry teachers in high school suggested that I combine them by pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. So off to college I went.

Bucknell proved to be a great place to learn. It’s a liberal arts school with a great reputation for engineering which is small enough to have lots of interaction between faculty and students. For my work/study jobs, I was fortunate to be able to do chemistry research with professors the first two years, and engineering research for the last two. Senior year I wrote and defended my honors thesis on a computer model for the school’s plate distillation column. I recently went back and was able to see the bound copy in the school’s library!

After graduation, I worked for Air Products and Chemicals doing process design. Basically, I was designing 5 story building sized refrigerators which we called cold boxes. Some turned natural gas into a liquid for shipping and others separated air into oxygen, nitrogen, and argon. I loved it. Most of my time was in modeling and design, but I also got to do a stint at a plant startup. A few years later, Rob and I got married, and then children came along. I began to work part time (still for Air Products) for a while and then quit to be with my kids full time.

How do you think your experiences working as an engineer have contributed to your classroom experience?

A lot! As I teach my students how to do experiments I’m mindful that their lab work has a goal…to discover things and make careful observations of God’s world. That is what research is. And all the properties that we learn about can be used to make our world better. Understanding them leads to inventions and to plants like I used to design, and, of course, cool classroom demonstrations. I am still fascinated by how things work. I want to instill in my students a curiosity about their world and a confidence that their God has hidden marvelous things for them to discover in the patterns and properties of the universe.

I’m also mindful that even science people need to communicate on paper and orally. I can tell my math students that they DO have to prove their answers with work…even engineers must prove that their designs will stand up or work. No one trusts even the most senior engineer without some work to back it up. The same follows in my math and science classes.

Working also provided me with some fun stories about playing with liquid nitrogen.

How were you involved in classical Christian education before coming to Covenant?

As I homeschooled my children, it became clear that for me to give them the kind of education I wanted I would have to partner with other families. Memorization is much more fun with other kids, and dialectic and rhetorical skills require that you have other people to bounce ideas off of. Also, there were some subjects that I needed help with (history is in the forefront of those!). So I started 2 different homeschool co-ops both of which were classical, Christian education co-ops. I directed the one which focused on grammar school for 8 years and was part of the managing board for the second after that. It made me look around to see what was possible for my kids. I was blessed to partner with some great people who helped me educate my children. In addition to being the Director of the Upper School there, I developed the science program for the 2nd-12th grade years and taught the upper school classes in Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics…along with some Latin, math games, and SAT math prep. I loved watching the students grow as they came through the program. And I loved sharing my love for science with them.

In your opinion, what place should the sciences have in a classical, Christian education?

Although science is not the first thing you think of when you hear the words of the trivium: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, it provides a great vehicle for practicing those skills. Science is part of the wonder that we want to instill in the grammar school children…wonder at the amazing world God has designed. Logic is one of the hall marks of good science. Writing lab reports gives students a good opportunity to practice collecting data and proving what they claim to be true. Part of logic is understanding causes and effects, and again, science provides a perfect place to practice logic where questions starting with how and why help ferret out their understanding. Why does the pressure of a gas increase when the volume is decreased? How can the force of an impact be decreased? A good science class is full of opportunities to practice thinking well. Ernest Rutherford of the gold-foil experiment fame said (and I’m paraphrasing) that your scientific discovery was of no use if you could not explain it to a barmaid…which was his way of saying that knowing a thing was not much use if you could not communicate it to someone else; hence rhetoric is important.

Also, science is part of our world whether we know it or not. We want students who can think through which treatment for a medical condition would be best for them, or how to save money on their heating bills. They need to be able to discern if the person on the infomercial is peddling science or fish oil. We need students who can be a persuasive voice for ethical science which honors God. This means they need to understand science.
Finally, though the trivium does not include words that speak exclusively of science, looking further in classical education to the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) does. It shows that classical educators were interested not just in science…but good cutting-edge science. Astronomy in the Middle Ages would have been like studying astro-physics or semi-conductor computer chips today. I would go so far as to say that science does not just have A place in classical, Christian education, but that it has an IMPORTANT place there. It trains our minds to think carefully and wonder greatly. I want my students to be able to say that they see the world differently after taking my classes.

As a somewhat new member of our community, what are some of the things that stand out to you about Covenant?

I have loved getting to know the people of Covenant. It is a wonderful place for me to work and for my kids to learn. One of the things I love is the rhythms that are knitted into the day to remind us of what is important: Loving God and honoring him with our time and talents. We do this in the Upper School through the morning Matins, praying and singing after lunch and again at the end of the academic day. I’ve loved seeing the care and thought that has gone into preparing the students to write and speak well and hearing about the discussions that my own children are having in their classes. There are some wonderful faculty members whom I am so thankful my children have the opportunity to learn from…who will inspire them to think about God’s world and what has happened in it. That doesn’t mean it is easy…but that it is shaping them into being those people that I talked about before who can give an answer for the hope that they have and discern the good from the bad in the winds that blow through our culture. I’m proud to be a part of it and have found several kindred spirits here. I’ve also been humbled by how much the parents contribute to the school. I’m so thankful to be in a place where MANY people are working to make Covenant a great place to learn.

I’ve also been having fun with all the toys in my lab! For someone who carefully purchased each piece of science equipment needed for my previous classes, it has been great fun to have such a well-stocked lab to work with. I have burettes, beakers, flasks, and pipettes aplenty.

What would you want your future students to know about your classes?

Hmmm…good question. I want my students to know that my classes are hard and that they are fun. And that I care about them. I want the students that have come through to tell those who are coming that the work is hard…the math can be difficult. But there are flying pigs to watch, raw eggs to toss, crash bumpers and airbags to design, soda cans to crush with atmospheric pressure, and dollar bills that are NOT consumed by flames. Because though science is hard…it is also fun.

When you’re not teaching at Covenant, what are some of your favorite things to do?

When I’m not teaching at Covenant, I enjoy being with my family. Taking my kids to their events and cheering them on is my mainstay. I also enjoy Boggle with Friends, and Sudoku (because…math and logic of course, but only the REALLY hard ones), and watching a good detective show with my husband.

Thank you for so faithfully teaching our students about God’s creation, Mrs. Miller!  We so appreciate you.