Children are God’s apostles, they say. Their rightful education is one of the most important duties of not only their parents, but also of the community as a whole. Since the majority of a child’s day is spent at school, it is important to consider the influence a school has on his or her life. The school environment has a great impact on how a child develops.
Throughout centuries, a Christian education has enabled students to not only learn about the world around them, but also cultivate a deep and lasting relationship with God. The values, morals and perspectives inculcated in a Christian school helps children grow into perseverant and well-educated students with sufficient proficiencies and strong moral fibers. This is the promise of a good Christian education which the Arizona-based Casas Christian School has successfully delivered since its inception.
While most educational institutions still follow an outdated, mostly ineffective learning model, Casas Christian School in Oro Valley, Arizona is revolutionizing how students learn and believes that in doing so they point them to God in a more profound way. But along with a strong faith-based education, Casas also offers a rigorous academic training whilst catering to mental and emotional well-being, physical proficiency and scientific training, aided by the integration of latest technological tools and devices.
Established in 1970, Casas Christian School (CCS) is unique as a readiness program that is also a missional school. Most programs take a curricular-driven approach to learning. Since it believes that all students are fearfully and wonderfully made individuals, Casas Christian School’s philosophy is that you cannot believe that and still articulate to students the idea that where they actually are at in life, does not matter. Because ‘missional schools’ are unique in themselves – anyone can enroll even if they have different belief systems.
Hence, it becomes more vital to create environments where anyone and everyone can belong even if they do not all believe the same way. The school takes a student-centered approach that really does allows its learners to grow despite where they fall in their learning continuum.
At Casas, the educators and accompanying staff strive to provide a rich academic and spiritual experience that lays a foundation for a lifetime of excellence while also creating an environment where each student can excel in an engaging, Christ-centered climate. The school is passionate about relational, readiness-focused, and relevant learning experiences that provide a strong foundation and built-in support for all learners.
The Student-centered Approach
As mentioned above, Casas really does emphasize on taking a ‘whole child approach’. Academically, the school has created a category of its own called ‘Student Instructional Support’, and the teachers are part of this instructional makeup at CCS.
Where many programs struggle with teacher-student ratio, CCS classrooms often have two qualified educators pouring into the individual needs of those students. Whether they are multiple years ahead of the grade level norms, the institute simply says, “You’re fearfully and wonderfully made, so what’s next for you”. If they may be multiple grade levels approaching the grade level norms, it simply says, “Ok, you’re fearfully and wonderfully made, so what’s the next growth goal for you?”
This approach allows students to be known, valued and appreciated while also ensuring growth! Removing labels from children goes such a long way in allowing them to love learning again while also creating a really special culture at Casas. Spiritually, where sometimes in Christian schools, aspects of faith are regulated to only certain times of day, CCS takes a cross-curricular approach to faith integration.
Elaborating on how faith integration takes place in a fruitful manner, the Principal of CCS – Josh Kempf, said “We do not want our students to believe that things of God only exist in the Bible class, or in a chapel. We do not believe there is a ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ so, we integrate faith intentionally and strategically across our day in a collaborative manner.”
The Steadfast Leader of CCS
Prior to coming to Casas, Mr. Kempf was Head of School at an International School in Southern China for over a decade, and during that time his readiness philosophy and missional objectives were really honed. Now, as principal of CCS, his role uniquely still allows him to be the first touch base for all new families, allowing them some crucial time to communicate with the leader of the school from the very beginning.
He loves this aspect of his job, and certainly, this is a large component to the school’s growth over his time as principal. Despite his age, the CCS community seems to connect to his relational leadership style and approachability.
Professionally, Mr. Kempf was recently named to the ACSI Regional Commission where he will now use his expertise to support other Christian schools in the Southern Arizona region. Mr. Kempf ’s passion for creating an environment where Christians learn to love God and love other people well. It is contagious and it is something that he hopes most to see his students grow in for the future.
“Casas believes teaching its students to ‘love well’ – the very best articulation of what God calls us to do,” noted Mr. Kempf. “Preparing them with service opportunities, missions experiences all while creating a culture of grace and compassion prepares the students in all ways for their next steps in the world,” he added. Standing Apart There are only five per cent of Christian schools in the country that allow people of all kinds to enroll, regardless of faith background or religious affiliation, Casas Christian School being one of them. So, Casas naturally stands out in this regard naturally.
There is also no other program calling themselves a ‘readiness level’ program, boldly striving to broaden the reach of the educational experience for students while removing many of the grade level aspects that either hold them back or restrict growth for learners. Casas Christian School hopes to continue being an instructional model that other programs study from and provide best educational practices to their programs as well.
One of the most impactful aspects of student life at Casas is ‘Warrior Week’. A chance to collaborate with other students and faculty, focus on school spirit and class unity, this fun week of competition is one of the highlights in the CCS school culture each year.
The Challenges of Today
Due to the sustained growth over the past five years, the challenge that Casas now faces is one of space restrictions. The school leadership is once again evaluating the feasibility of adding a high school which would provide the kindergarten through high school continuum which the community desires.
Because of the uniqueness of its readiness philosophy, CCS knew that protecting its in-person model of classrooms will be essential. To accomplish the same, the CCS team created grade-level bubbles within their entire program with multiple new sanitization processes. This allowed them to successfully remain in person for the duration of this school year.
The Trendsetters in Holistic Education
Casas Christian School achieved accreditations through not only the Association of Christian Schools International, but also through AdvancedEd. This is done by CCS in order that the families of students have the confidence that after leaving the school, their children’s accomplishments will be recognized everywhere whether they remain in a private, faith-based program or not.
Casas has also been voted as the ‘Best Private School in Tucson’ for three consecutive years (i.e., in all the years they have been nominated).
“Due to the potency of our instructional program, we see our school being a model for other institutions to follow,” said the principal, Mr. Joshua Kempf.
Additionally, the school envisions continued growth as more and more families understand the beauty that is the fact that a missional Christian school, focused on readiness, can offer to the community. Casas Christian School also hopes to be able to add a high school in the future.