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We remember sophomore student John David Wiese, who passed away suddenly in early February. A strong student and leader, loyal friend, and dedicated member of the swim/dive team, J.D. will be missed deeply by his Westminster family.
In December 2015, senior Zach Hughes was one of two national winners for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award. The award recognizes high school seniors who excel in academics, athletics, and leadership. Earlier, Zach had been selected from among 102 state winners to be one of the top 10 student finalists. He then traveled to New York to participate in the collegiate Heisman weekend and was selected as the 2015 Wendy’s High School Heisman male national winner. Watch here
The Westminster Christian Academy girls swim team entered the recent Metro League meet with heavy hearts. Sophomore John David “J.D.” Wiese, who died unexpectedly Feb. 3, was a member of the Wildcats’ boys swim team and a big backer of the girls team. Losing their friend and supporter, the Wildcats decided to dedicate the conference meet to Wiese. Read more
By Peggy Johnson / Director of Admissions
Research shows that most parents have the same educational goals for their children – that they would develop good study habits, self-discipline, strong critical thinking and communication skills, and proficiency in reading and math as the result of a challenging curriculum. Yet Christian school parents want more for their children. Beyond a strong academic education, these parents want a moral foundation and have a higher standard of behavior than the average parent. For the Christian school parent, it is important that his/her child walks into a place, each day, where he/she is known. Where the community is tight. Where the values taught at home and at church are consistently modeled, taught, and praised.
At Westminster the shared mission of the home, church, and school creates a strong sense of belonging for students and parents. This sense of belonging – along with a commitment to a core curriculum that motivates all students of varying academic abilities and interests to learn at their highest potential – has drawn thousands of families to explore Westminster for their children. The values we share in Christ create real community. And it is this community that gives the family an unparalleled experience from which their student will benefit for years to come.
In 2011, Sarah Moore, 27, a second-generation Westminster alumna, started at Americans for Prosperity (AFP) as a development assistant, eventually began fundraising for the group, and was appointed as director of development in December 2014. The conservative advocacy group operates chapters in 35 states where it advocates for free enterprise and limited government, especially in the areas of healthcare, energy, and economics.
Her interest had always been in political philosophy – specifically the intersection of politics and faith, government and church, power struggles and human nature. “Thought leaders like Kuyper, Aquinas, Rousseau, and Machiavelli piqued my interest in exploring where political philosophy meets policy, but it was ultimately civitas, love for one’s neighbor, that led me to this work,” says Sarah. “The political industry is a really dark place. So to work for an organization that seeks to positively disrupt a broken political system by advancing free market policies that help those our government has alienated instead of harming the poor, is an incredible gift. This is the work that God has called me to at AFP.”
When she first joined the development team, Sarah supported a group of major gift officers, helped plan events, and assisted with logistics and the planning – a diverse set of experiences that would be invaluable when she was promoted to lead the team a few years later. Although she initially felt unqualified, her track record has proved otherwise. She has raised more money than anyone else on the team.
“I had to start from scratch and build my own caseload,” says Sarah. “It was a numbers game – ‘how many meetings can I get?’ I traveled constantly because I wanted to figure out how to build as many relationships as possible. The numbers themselves are just a byproduct of relationships that are functioning well.”
From a young age, Sarah has worked hard with a healthy dose of integrity – two reasons she was promoted so quickly. “Authentic production doesn’t occur if you don’t exhibit humility and respect for one another,” says Sarah, noting how her own growth in these areas was encouraged by her family, church, and mentors at Westminster. “There were so many people focused on challenging me. My coaches’ and teachers’ willingness to make investments in me always humbled me,” she says, noting Scott Vonder Bruegge’s poignant journalism lessons and Mark Hearne’s deep love of history, passed on to many of his students. “Papa Hearne’s class is the only reason I remember key dates in history!” she says. “Westminster always made me hungry to learn. It’s rare to be in a Christian school where you actually get sound doctrine and a strong education.”
That education, like the one she received at Wheaton, she says, helped shape her worldview and, in turn, her political viewpoints. “God has called me to work for an organization that shrinks the scope of government in order to allow the church and other institutions to do their jobs, in turn allowing humanity to thrive and flourish the way God intended.”
In her role at AFP, Sarah manages 34 people, including the major gifts team, events team, support team, and communications team. She spends about a quarter of her time fundraising with the group’s high-level donors. How does she convince people her grandparents’ age to give? “At first, I thought my age was a disadvantage,” she says. “But then I realized I was the product they wanted to see. When they see a young person who shares their vision and values — who understands the threats
politically and culturally to our society — they get really excited.”
For Sarah, the most challenging part of the job is being the coach and the player at the same time. “It’s finding a balance between building out my portfolio and leading the team well,” she says. “People are the most important thing. Making time to invest in those people, to cultivate their talent and leadership, is my priority. In all organizations, it’s either ‘I’m here to serve you’ or ‘you’re here to serve me.’ Unfortunately in the political space, it’s usually the latter. But for me, my faith informs the way I want to lead. It’s about pouring into others so that they might succeed.”
This challenge also happens to be the reward. “I love seeing authentic, transformational growth in others – whether a donor, a peer, or someone on my team,” says Sarah. “There are two things that ‘sell’ in politics: crisis and hope. There is a great need, in both the private and public sectors, for Christian leaders who are able to expose others to the hope we have in Christ. I believe in exposing people to the gospel without smacking them in the face with it. This means loving people well. It is the greatest blessing to see others’ lives changed when they are exposed to the benefits of living a Christ-centered life,” she says. “Regardless of your industry or job title, because of this hope, we can see and encourage a better version of a person than he/she might ever have for himself/herself. The same for a team, the same for a country.”
“My time in D.C. has been characterized by learning God’s faithfulness as He consistently (and lovingly) nudges me outside of my comfort zone, giving me new responsibilities and opportunities for leadership, even when against my will,” says Sarah. “I would have never picked this job for myself, and frankly didn’t even know jobs like this existed! But the desire that God has placed on my heart is to build teams, inspire others, and cultivate leaders. It just so happens that in doing so, I get to work at a place where I can advance free market policies that allow for human flourishing. What could be more fun than that?”
By Jill Keith, M.Ed. / Advanced Expository Writing Instructor
In Advanced Expository Writing, I teach seniors how to write for life. Each Westminster student has a God-given ability to communicate. And we as Westminster teachers understand that, as our collective calling, we must help our students successfully unpack that gift and apply it to their lives. Engaging our culture for Christ requires discipline, insight, and persuasion.Read More
Writing across the disciplines is a pedagogical strength at Westminster. I often share with families who are exploring Westminster for their children that we are not preparing students to be English majors, (my major was humanities), though such is a noble pursuit. We teach students how to master coursework in all subjects and then effectively apply those lessons in life. In 2000, the Harvard Business Review shared that learning agility is the primary skill that professionals must exercise in the 21st century in order to be effective in their calling. At Westminster students experience a learning process that synthesizes close reading, thinking, and composing. Seventh graders engage in a progressive curriculum that builds expressive competencies in every subject through their senior year. Learning agility, the process of mastering new concepts, and then successfully applying them to life challenges, is the happy result. Whether in robotics, concert choir, statistics, chemistry, Bible, or language, on the playing field or behind the footlights, each student consistently practices persuasive communication skills. The ability to “stand and deliver” a compelling, authentic message serves our students as they move into the world beyond Westminster.
Westminster writers land at the Academy from diverse backgrounds, both educational and cultural. As a consequence, we as faculty draw from a rich social palette when teaching our students. Reading, reflecting, and writing, Westminster students discover a powerful paradigm through which to process the world: they must shed their comfortable identities and learn how to capitalize on their distinctive, God-given characteristics. Often, that is not an easy process, socially nor academically. Consistent composition across the disciplines helps our students to not only build writing bench strength but also learn to share what they believe in an authentic manner. Writing projects develop a student’s confidence in expressing who they are and where God has them at any particular moment. It is exciting to see a student realize that he or she has a story to tell and can share it in a confident, compelling voice.
Wherever a youngster has landed on the composition spectrum, our goal at Westminster is to encourage and equip him or her to be the writer God intends. In 9th and 12th grade English, for example, that intentionality takes shape during personal writing conferences. Students complete more than a dozen original essays in multiple expository genres including research, literary analysis, narrative, and reflection, along with shorter writing pieces throughout the academic year. Their expository writing instructors read and comment on each student’s essay. In essence, an instructor conducts an ongoing gap analysis of a student’s coherent thinking and writing with a view to excellent mechanics and engaging content. The student and teacher then conference together, working through the composition’s lowlights and highlights. The student then rewrites his or her original essay with a focus on improving the impact of the piece. While on the surface this may appear to be time-consuming, conferencing and rewriting is a win-win process designed to develop intellectual reasoning across the disciplines. Each essay conference capitalizes on Westminster’s belief that relationship combined with academic rigor develops our students into competent, confident communicators.
Ultimately, our Westminster graduates carry their writing capabilities into the roles God has designed specifically for their unique talents. Westminster teachers exercise a fullcourt press in equipping our students to engage the world for Christ. While this process is not without its challenges along the way, our graduates understand that communicating persuasively in any discipline is essential to successfully running the race that the Lord has set before them. As Job aptly declares, “For He knows the way that I take, when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
“My college professors were consistently impressed with the level of my writing ability compared to that of my peers. I felt completely equipped for college as a result of the writing program at Westminster. I am still extremely thankful to Mr. Hughes and Mrs. Keith for the wisdom they imparted. I graduated with an English degree with a creative writing emphasis as well as with departmental honors. I especially owe my love of literature to Mr. Hughes and have nothing but fond memories of my English experience at Westminster.” – Libby McDonald Beldner ’07
“Scott Holley taught me how to think clearly and write clearly. Both disciplines have served me well through my career, as most of my work communication is written.” – Jerry Hertzler ’84
“The Westminster writing program may have been the most significant and impactful academic preparation I received for life and my professional career. Barbara Heimburger’s classes, including AP English during my senior year, taught me how to write effectively. The one-on-one conferences with her were extremely beneficial and set me up well to succeed as a history major at the Air Force Academy, as a law student at St. Louis University, and in 15 years of law teaching and practice. For the past five years, I have taught legal research and writing to sophomore college students at the Air Force Academy and, in both my teaching and professional roles, have found myself constantly returning to the fundamental principles of writing I learned from Mrs. Heimburger. The copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style that she gave me upon graduation from Westminster is still a treasured possession.” – Jeremy Marsh ’91
“I want to thank Jill Keith for teaching me how to write five-paragraph essays. My senior Advanced Expository Writing class wasn’t easy, but it was so incredibly helpful to me. Learning how to structure a cohesive essay was an indispensable skill in college! I’m also thankful that strong writing was emphasized even in 7th grade. In Miss Landes’ English 7 class, I was already learning how to tell linear stories and to communicate thoughts clearly. I was rarely returned an essay that wasn’t marked up, which I used to think was the end of the world. ‘Does she hate me?!’ I sometimes thought. Only now do I see how crucial editorial input is, as I became the editor of my college yearbook (shout-out to Scott Vonder Bruegge!) and regularly write articles for that publication. Not a day goes by that I don’t use skills I learned at Westminster. I am so grateful that my parents sacrificed and chose to send my brother and me to Westminster; it was well worth the tuition.” – Erin Guthrie ’11Read More
“Westminster provided an excellent foundation of writing skills that I use today in both my day job as a software quality assurance consultant and in my work as an author. I had a near-drowning experience several years ago and had to rebuild my faith because I realized I wasn’t ready to go. What started as some simple journal entries ended up as part of my first book, Rude Awakening: What If Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong? I am slowly but surely working on my second book. I am grateful for the quality of education I received at Westminster and hope to send my three kids there in the future.” – Mark Donnelly ’88
“Dr. Holley took the time to sit with each one of his students after each of their essays and walk through them page by page. He wasn’t just looking for correct grammar and spelling; he challenged us to examine our clarity, ingenuity, and logic. He always made us redo our essays. I remember being vulnerable at the time, as the process was difficult, but the lingering effect was that it made me love the (often) painstaking process of refining my words. Later, as an anthropology major in college, all I did was write. I’m so thankful for Dr. Holley and others at Westminster like him who went the extra mile knowing that we were capable of more than our first, or even third, drafts.” – Jill Ridderbos Fager ’07
“Westminster has, without a doubt, impacted my writing skills and made a lasting impact on me. At Westminster, Mrs. Keith and Mr. Vonder Bruegge taught me not only to write but to write well. Mrs. Keith challenged us to think logically. ‘What makes sense? What do I need to edit out or add to my paper?’ Not only did she challenge us, but she also encouraged us and built upon our successes. Often, she would tell me, ‘Not yet, but try again, Natalie!” When I learned from my mistakes and understood a concept that improved my writing, she was the first one to encourage me. She would even let the whole class know when their peer did well! When I write 12-page papers for my college classes, I am able to write easily without a second glance and edit for errors that she taught me to find. Mr. Vonder Bruegge also made an impact on me. When I wrote stories for the yearbook, he would challenge me to think more deeply about what I was trying to portray. ‘What do you want to communicate? What mood are you describing? Make the reader feel like they were present in that moment.’ His advice has stuck with me to this day. I also appreciated the professional experience that came from Yearbook, as we had to meet deadlines and stay on top of tasks. It was challenging, but he made hard work worth it as we learned both good writing skills and communication skills. Westminster has an incredible writing department; I’m so thankful to have learned from these great teachers!” – Natalie Bell ’13
“I always felt that I had a huge leg up in college compared to my peers in the area of writing. I wanted to write Mr. Vass a letter when I graduated college thanking him for giving me (all of us) such a good foundation. Westminster’s writing program is outstanding, evidenced in the reading choices, the vocabulary, the way grammar and sentence structure is taught, the amount of writing we did, and the high grading standards. Mrs. Kinmonth, Dr. Holley, Mr. Vass. I am a math/science person but I LOVED all the English classes at Westminster. I’m so grateful for everything I learned. – Natalie Dixon Bland ’02
“Westminster’s English department was one of the school’s strengths, and the lessons I learned from my middle and high school English teachers directly affected the novel I wrote a couple years ago. Some of my favorite memories of classes at Westminster are of 8th grade English with Mrs. Bye. She used to go through the novels we read, page by page, and point out her favorite phrases, the strongest verbs, the best characterization through dialogue. She taught me the impact that a single sentence or even just a well-chosen word can have, and I learned the importance of taking the time to choose words wisely. Also, in my junior year American Literature class with Mr. Graham, we analyzed every novel we read thoroughly, and not just for its literary value. The class discussions he led were equal to many of the ones I had in my college literature courses, and I had some of them in mind as I wrote my own novel, A Shopkeeper’s Daughter.” – Rachel Wisdom ’07
“I am truly humbled by the willingness of my colleagues, our students, and volunteers to put forth such hard work to make Night of the Arts a success. It makes me happy that people within our community are always brought together in a special way on this night! One of the highlights of the evening was hearing the audience sing along to the orchestra’s rendition of My Girl by The Temptations. I do pray that the Lord is pleased by this work!” – Aaron Layton , Director of Diversity
Jonathan Haas and his wife Stephanie spent two months in Montrouis, Haiti, in the fall working with Canaan Christian Community, a local children’s home and school. Stephanie worked in the medical and malnutrition clinic as well as in the school, and Jonathan helped the administration and did some media and design work for the community. Learn more at canaanchristiancommunity.com