Grace School: A great education in a loving environment
James and Amy Claud, parents of two young students at Grace, are both high school English teachers in a suburban high school district. This article was originally published in the church newsletter, Grace Notes, in January of 2014.
James and Amy Claud joined Grace Church in 2003, several years before daughter Anne was born. As they became active in the church, they got to know some of the teachers and as James says, “became more and more impressed.” So when it was time for Anne to start preschool, they took a close look at Grace School and decided to enroll her in the three-year-old preschool program.
As teachers, they said, “we wanted her to have a great first impression of school.” Three years later, Anne, now a first grader, loves to go to school and is enthusiastic about doing schoolwork. She frequently greets her teachers with hugs. And younger sister, Ellen, is now a preschool student at Grace.
Models of faith. One of the Clauds’ reasons for enrolling Anne and Ellen in Grace School was that they wanted their children to see the Christian faith lived out through others, outside of their family. They expected that teachers at Grace would naturally be models of faith. They’ve found that older students and peers provide great models as well.
Chapel buddies, for example, loom large in the lives of young students at Grace. A chapel buddy is an older student who is paired with a younger one for the duration of the school year. They sit together in chapel services and enjoy other activities together. Anne’s chapel buddy even pulled her loose tooth for her! These older students are “good to Anne, and very loving,” says James. “We’re excited about this and comfortable with the example they set.”
Strong learning environment. Academics matter to the Clauds. They both attended selective liberal arts colleges and hold graduate degrees in education.
“I admit, we thought kids who go to a church-based school would take a hit in academics,” said James. “The more we get to know Grace, we find those concerns were misguided.” He recalls a map displayed near the school office several years ago of all the colleges attended by Grace School graduates. “Not only were they attending good schools, but they were choosing colleges with significant faith commitments.”
Success in high school. He has also been impressed by information on test scores of Grace graduates who go on to attend Oak Park River Forest High School. Data shared by the high school show that 26 of 29 Grace graduates attending OPRF in the previous school year had taken an honors course at some point during their high school career. Twenty-one Grace grads at OPRF had a cumulative weighted GPA of 3.5 or higher, and four had ACT scores of 31 or higher. Graduates of Grace School achieve at similar high levels at other area high schools—a tribute to the rigorous, high-quality instruction provided at Grace School. “It’s not either/or at Grace,” says James, when it comes to academics versus faith and character. “It’s both.”
Enrichment opportunities. The Clauds also like Grace School’s commitment to art, music and language classes for all students, as well as opportunities for after-school enrichment classes that support their daughters’ curiosity and encourage them to explore many activities.
Peers and shared family values. As they look to the future, including the birth of a third daughter in February, Amy and James Claud anticipate a time when Anne and Ellen’s friends will be increasingly important influences on their lives. They’re glad those peers will be Grace School students, children of parents who share their parenting and faith values.