A bright future for new girls Christian academy
Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 4, 2014 at 2:04 a.m.
On a small table inside an Our Saviour's Lutheran Church classroom, Margie Gentry moves around a colorful tea set.
The pint-sized chairs fit for kindergarten bodies won't be filled for several weeks.
But Gentry set the room and the table to display a vital part of Bright Star Christian Academy's unique learning style - structured play - to parents on their way to the church.
"I want structured play to be combined with their learning as much as the regular subjects," said Gentry, founder of Bright Star and a teacher with more than 16 years of experience. "Children this age have short attention spans, and they get restless. So I want to be able to break up their learning with creative activities to keep their minds refreshed."
In mere moments, the doors will open at the church, and parents will flood the rear entry and investigate the classrooms where Gentry is hosting the open house.
And with the classroom on display, she's ready to inform parents about her exciting new girls-only, home-school-similar, Christian-based academy.
But for Gentry, the academy is more than an exciting new teaching opportunity at a church that has long desired to host a school.
It is her calling. It is her dream, she said.
"I know this is a God thing. The way it came together, how all the pieces lined up for this happen," she said. "All I kept hearing when I prayed about it was, 'Do what I called you to do.' And he's making it come together."
At the open house, Gentry explained there are no current enrollees, but she trusts God will send her the students who need to be there.
"I want learning to be the way it used to be when I was growing up - when students held a deep respect for their teachers, and they looked forward to coming to school," Gentry said. "I want my teachers here to feel like they have more control in the classroom and like they're partners with the parents."
Some of the unique lessons that will be taught and enjoyed at Bright Star, in addition to math, science, English, history, reading and social studies, among other traditional subjects, are classes and activities on manners and etiquette, Bible studies, art and dance and structured play tea parties to encourage graceful and polite interaction.
"God has put these little girls on my heart . and I want to bring back some traditional elements that I think we're moving away from in public schools," she said. "God is the CEO of this school, though, and I'm not doing anything with asking him first. It is not mine; it's His."
Our Saviour's Lutheran Church pastor, the Rev. John Waak, said his church was the first Christian kindergarten in Victoria.
But when the school became outdated decades ago and other Christian academies opened, their school eventually closed.
"People have wanted to bring a school back for a long time and always said they would," Waak said. "This church has always had a heart for education and almost every vision it's had for the future has included a school."
Waak said in recent months the conversation had been brought up again about opening a school at the church.
So he was surprised when he received a call from Gentry, requesting to pitch him an idea about a possible school partnership where she could host an elementary-school based on a home-school model using the church's classrooms.
"Her vision for the school aligned with everything we were thinking," he said. "It's an exciting opportunity. . We hope to be able to offer a similar academy for boys in the future."
Waak also said he's encouraged the church can contribute to the school by hosting the facilities and providing other spiritual support.
"I hope this can be a ministry in the community of Victoria. That would excite me if it became the bedrock of excellence," he said.
For Gentry, she's just waiting on God, she said.
She's followed her call and opened the school. Now, she's waiting on the girls to come. And as the academy grows, she'll hire more teachers.
"It's amazing how God orchestrated this school, and I know he has equipped me to teach these girls," she said. "I'm an instrument he's using. It is his doing, not mine."