Why Leave the U.S. to Teach CCE in Africa

Why would a successful classical educator leave a school in America to move to Africa? How do you know if you are called by God to serve as a missionary? Don’t American classical schools need more educators as well? Five Rafiki Missionaries who will soon embark for their assignments in Africa will consider these questions and more. If you have ever wondered if you might be called to long or short term missions, or if you simply want to know more about the work God is doing in the lives of these servants and in Africa, this will be a great conversation to sit in on.

David and Michelle Graves

David attended a school that was a classical Christian school before anyone had heard of classical Christian schools. He’s experienced first-hand the life-long benefits of this model of education as well as seeing how it has enriched the lives of his children and his students. Michelle has a master's degree in classical studies and has been a teacher in classical Christian education for over 25 years. She has seen how classical learning has benefited her own personal walk with the Lord, and she appreciates the biblical worldview integration in Rafiki’s classical curriculum.

Anna Liebing

Anna has long been passionate about missions and prayed for an opportunity to serve in foreign missions long-term. Since Anna has a background in classical education, Rafiki is a perfect fit for her experience and passions. In 2014, Anna spent part of the summer at the Rafiki Village Tanzania teaching, training, and falling in love with the children and staff there, and Rafiki's mission has remained on her heart since then. She is now excited to now be raising support and preparing to serve long-term at the Rafiki Village Malawi as the Headmaster.

Jay and Maureen Richards

Jay has his Master’s in Business Administration which he has used in a variety of different jobs. Maureen earned her master’s degree with a teaching certification out of a desire to be more involved in their children’s education. The Richards originally learned about the Rafiki Foundation in the 1990s through Bible Study Fellowship. Early last year, Jay and Maureen saw the need for missionaries and were humbled to find out that Rafiki had been praying for a couple with just their skills. The Lord has made it clear that he is calling them to serve as Long-Term Missionaries with Rafiki, and they are excited to join in the work.

What’s So Liberal about the Liberal Arts?

In the middle of the phrase “liberal arts education” is the important word “liberal”. But how are these arts liberal? Some say it is that these arts are liberating; they free men and women who study them. Others say they are the arts suited for an already free person. Colleges describing themselves as liberal arts institutions often use the word merely to distinguish themselves from technical schools.
At the core of the liberal arts is a crucial notion in Christian thought: the freedom of conscience and worship. When Thomas Aquinas explains the meaning of the phrase liberal arts he grounds it in the statement, “man as regards his soul is free.” Josef Pieper echoes this notion saying, “Culture depends for its very existence on leisure, and leisure, in its turn, is not possible unless it has a durable and consequently living link with the cultus, with divine worship.” The term leisure in Greek is schole, the origin of our English word for school.
How do you teach math or read a book so that students experience these as leisure, as schole? What role do discovery and demonstration play in the liberal arts for persuading students of the beauty, truth, and goodness of a poem or pendulum? We will discuss not only the philosophy behind the liberal arts but particular ways this affects pedagogy and content in classrooms ranging from grammar school literature to upper school mathematics.

Ravi Jain

Ravi Jain graduated from Davidson College with a B.A. and interests in physics, ancient Greek, and international political economy. He worked at various churches, received an M.A. from Reformed Theological Seminary, and later earned a Graduate Certificate in Mathematics from the University of Central Florida. He coauthored “The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education,” now translated into Chinese, and the forthcoming, “A New Natural Philosophy: Natural Science and Christian Pedagogy.” He began teaching Calculus and Physics at the Geneva School in 2003 where he has developed an integrated double period class called “The Scientific Revolution.” In that class students read primary sources like Galileo and Newton in order to recapitulate the narrative of discovery and explore its deeper meanings while preserving the mathematical and scientific rigor expected of a college level treatment. He also teaches AP Calculus BC, in which the students strive to discover and demonstrate the “most beautiful theorem in mathematics,” and AP Physics C where they encounter Faraday, Maxwell, and Einstein. He has given over 150 talks and workshops throughout America, Africa, and China on topics related to education, theology, mathematics, and science. He has served as a deacon in his church and is a founding Alcuin fellow. He enjoys spending time with his two boys, Judah and Xavier and his wife Kelley.

The Board’s Role in Building a Dynamic Leadership Team

Developing a clear and effective administrative structure is fundamental to building a great school. Often, schools operate on very thin margins hoping to save resources, reduce tuition, or prevent being perceived as “top heavy”? However, what they often fail to realize is the cost of under-valuing and under-resourcing the school. While the Head of School is responsible for building and hiring his/her team, the board needs to understand the cost and impact of doing so in a wise and strategic way. What is the board’s role in developing the structure the Head envisions? How many administrators are required to run a high functioning school? Is it the same for every school? What are the potential implications of an under-resourcing admin team? How does one phase in the respective admin roles effectively? What resources are necessary to attract the right talent? This session will explore these questions and issues by looking at some key foundational principles, best practices, and case studies.

Eric Cook

Having previously served as the Executive Director and Board Chair, Eric has been formally associated with SCL for over a decade. Eric is also the Head of School at Covenant Classical in Fort Worth, TX where he has served for 11 years. Prior to Covenant, Eric was the Head of Upper School at Faith Christian School in Roanoke, VA. Eric is from Lexington, Kentucky, but worked in schools in Ohio and Virginia before joining Covenant Classical School in 2009. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from Transylvania University, and a master’s degree in Instructional Leadership from Northern Kentucky University. He has taught history, political science, psychology, and philosophy in public schools, and served as an assistant principal for several years. In 2006, Eric felt called to join the classical Christian school movement and became the Middle and Upper School Head at Faith Christian School in Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to his leadership roles, Eric taught apologetics, theology, philosophy of religion, and served as thesis director. Eric and his wife, Liz, have six children.

Teaching Christian Rhetoric with St. Augustine

Given that Rhetoric itself is a disputed term–variously defined by different practitioners, theorists, and philosophers in different time periods–adding the adjective Christian to the word Rhetoric only serves to further muddy the waters. Nevertheless, as Christians, it is incumbent upon us to make sense of the world using reason illumined by faith.

St. Augustine, in De Doctrina Christiana, says “In a word, the function of eloquence in [Christian] teaching is not to make people like what was once offensive, or to make them do what they were loth to do, but to make clear what was hidden from them. If this is done in a disagreeable way, the benefits reach only a few enthusiasts, who are eager to know the things they need to learn no matter how dull and unattractive the teaching may be. Once they have attained it, they feed on the truth itself with great delight; it is the nature of good minds to love truth in the form of words, not the words themselves. . . . [but l]earning has a lot in common with eating: to cater for the dislikes of the majority even the nutrients essential to life must be made appetizing.”

A master of Ciceronian rhetoric and a devout and learned Christian bishop, St. Augustine takes what is best in classical Greece and Rome and commends it to his readers as an aide in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. Let’s join him on the journey.

Greg Jeffers

Greg Jeffers holds a B.A. in English and Biblical Theology and an M.A. in English: Composition and Rhetoric, all from Abilene Christian University. He is in his eighth year of teaching, the first two being in the university and the last six being at The Covenant School of Dallas. He currently teaches eighth grade Logic and Bible as well as tenth grade Rhetoric.

How CCE is Impacting University Students in Zambia

Since the African Christian University (ACU) is the only university in the country offering classical Christian education, it serves as a case study viewing the impact that CCE has on Zambian university students. These are primarily seen in the following areas: Biblical grand narrative, spiritual development, academic achievement, university preparation, and holistic education. His talk will take a closer look at the research found over the past 5 years, and how CCE has molded students in this regard.

Carlos Paul

Mr. Carlos Paul currently serves as the Chaplain and Head of Student Mentoring at the African Christian University in Zambia. He has worked in evangelism training for 15 years and is passionate about theological education. Carlos received his Bachelor of Theological Studies and Master of Theological Studies from Toronto Baptist Seminary. He currently serves as the chaplain and a theology lecturer at the African Christian University.

Developing The Executive Team: A Leadership Training Program

It’s lonely at the top. Every School Head bears the heavy weight of responsibility, but an effective, unified, executive leadership team not only lessens that burden, enhances the effectiveness of the top leader and extends his/her tenure, but also paves the path for sustained growth and mission accomplishment.

In most independent Christian schools, our leadership benches lack both depth and breadth, with too much falling on too few talented and experienced people. What happens when those key people disappear?

As School Board members, Heads, and Principals, it is our responsibility to steward the valuable human resources entrusted to us—especially those full of promise—instead of leaving them underdeveloped and then scrambling to poach from other Christian ministries when a key hire is needed. But how can an already too busy Head effectively train the leaders beneath him/her?

This session will introduce components of a one- to two-year, biblically-based leadership development program for key and emerging leaders that encompasses instruction in leadership and school operations and employs a mentoring program to develop more confident, secure, and experienced leaders. Most, or all, of this program can be delivered on site to (and with) your leadership team or cohort, increasing their exposure within the organization and building a shared commitment to the mission and trust among those responsible for executing it.

Starrla Fowler

"Starrla Fowler has served at Veritas Academy since its inception in 2004. She and her husband, Jef, co-founded this school of over 600 students now residing on its 97-acre campus in southwest Austin, Texas. For the past 17 years, Starrla has served in various capacities as the Academic Dean, Academic Team Chair, Grammar School Head, and School of Logic Head, in addition to her continued service on the school board and its Governance and Nominations committee. Starrla graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin with a BS degree in Elementary Education. Just out of college, she taught in Houston’s Spring Branch ISD where she was a teacher-of-the-year and served on several task forces in this large school district, including multi-year studies for inclusion of learning disabled students, math curriculum development, and campus development. While at Veritas, Starrla has developed curriculum and academic programs, trained hundreds of teachers, served on accreditation teams for similar schools, and helped many classical, collaborative schools launch and grow. She is passionate about kingdom building through the expansion of classical, Christian schools. After receiving her Masters in Leadership through Gordon College, she shifted her focus to developing programs for training future Christian school leaders. Starrla and her husband, Jef, live in the Texas hill and are the parents of three adult children."

How to Create a Mission-Aligned Student Culture in a Collaborative Model Upper School

If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then what are some strategic initiatives we can devise for consumption that will replicate within our student bodies (their culture) the altruistic elements and distinctives of our classical, Christian, collaborative (CCC) schools?

At Veritas Academy (Austin TX), we make no apologies for surreptitious efforts to season our student culture with the core values and virtues of the school. In this workshop, we will present ideas and efforts that are intended to promote an atmosphere in our school and mindset in our students that reflect what we desire for them and their student community, highlighting in particular those opportunities that our unique model of CCC schooling better affords us.

We will also share freely of our failures, as well as our designs to end certain popular but non-mission-aligned events and traditions of our students, while encouraging the sharing of similar stories of successes and failures from other schools. This should be an engaging and constructive conversation between colleagues.

Jef Fowler

Jef Fowler is the long-time Head of School at Veritas Academy, a classical, Christian, collaborative school of more than 650 students gathered on its 97-acre campus at the southwestern edge of Austin in the bucolic Texas Hill Country. After unsuccessfully attempting to “kill this deal” 18 years ago when his wife, Starrla, said she was serious about pioneering this unique school model, Jef was soon prayed into the venture and co-founded the academy. He and Starrla continue to serve on the School and Trustee Boards as Jef attempts to put himself out to pasture, literally, on a tractor down in the valley field as the school’s next generation of leaders has emerged and is assuming greater responsibilities. (He has spent years watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette with his daughter (for training purposes), so he knows how to, like, use the word “literally.”) Jef & Starrla’s three children have all graduated from Veritas.

Troy Schuknecht

Troy Schuknecht is the Associate Head of School and long-time School of Rhetoric Head since he first joined Veritas in 2008 and effectively built the high school from scratch. Previous to that, Troy had taught science in public schools for six years and attended The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before eventually completing his MDiv in 2016. Troy and his wife, Stevi (the school’s Director of College Advising) have four children, all of whom attend Veritas.

Transformational Moments with Aslan: Encountering Christ in Narnia

C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia offer young readers both delightful stories and incredible spiritual insights. In this presentation, we will explore the transformational power of Aslan as the Christ figure of Narnia. We will look at seven scenes in the Narnia books, one from each Chronicle, in which Aslan has a special moment with one of the children. The way Aslan speaks and acts toward Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, Jill, Shasta, Digory, and Emeth can help our students grasp how Christ speaks and acts toward them in pivotal moments in their lives. He is their redeemer, guide, leader, teacher, and much more. Attendees will come away refreshed by these wonderful stories and equipped to share Christ with their students through the literary character of Aslan.

Alex Markos

Alex Markos is the Grammar School Latin teacher at Geneva School of Boerne, TX, where he has taught 3rd-5th grade Latin and 3rd grade ancient history for five years. He received a bachelor’s degree in History and Classical Languages from Hope College and recently graduated with a master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University. During his time at HBU, he had the privilege of studying The Chronicles of Narnia under Oxford professor and C. S. Lewis scholar Michael Ward. He has also spent the last 20+ years learning from another Lewis scholar—his father, Dr. Louis Markos. He recognizes the powerful influence that story and imagination have on the spiritual formation of children. In class, he loves sharing stories, like those from Narnia and mythology, with his students in a way that points them to Christ.

The Trauma-Informed Classroom

This workshop will focus on the integration of recent studies on the physiological impact of trauma on the brain with best practices and classroom strategies for teachers in serving high-trauma students in a classical Christian classroom setting. 

Lucy Olson

Lucy Olson, M.A., L.P. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and specializes in psychological assessment and diagnosis, educational consultation and instructional coaching. She has more than 15 years of experience in K-12 classical education settings, and currently serves as a Psychologist and Learning Specialist at Hope Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is passionate about bringing a Christian perspective into conversations around trauma and recovery, abuse prevention, and imagination/identity formation in children from at risk backgrounds. She is married and is the mother of four school aged children.

Cultivating a Curious Scientific Mind

The necessity to acquire a scientific knowledge base often leads to instruction over-emphasizing vocabulary, definitions and algorithmic problem solving. While these fundamentals help students supply correct answers on basic science tasks, they stop short of producing inquirers who are at home asking productive questions, dialoguing with peers and mentors, and articulating explanatory scientific claims supported by evidence and reasoning. Once developed, these intellectual capacities equip learners to move past static knowledge bases as science advances, yet keep them grounded in truth and sound reasoning. Moreover, practicing these skills instills in learners the generative gift of inquiry, which they carry to their every subsequent conversation. This workshop will equip teachers with one such method, a highly effective curricular sequence and pedagogy for teaching first year Chemistry in a classical school. Such an approach welcomes hesitant, passive students into actively conversing over shared experiences, sense-making of data from description to explanation, and working as a community to harmonize contrasting accounts into coherent and defensible models of scientific phenomena. Through this approach, teachers are transformed from content providers to skilled mentors and lead questioners, and learners experience science not as a stagnant body of knowledge to acquire, but a dynamic and active practice applicable to inquiry.

Mandy Taylor

Mandy Taylor is a chemical educator, engineer and entrepreneur. At Regents, she leads students to master chemical concepts and grow their verbal and quantitative reasoning, equipping them to know, love and practice the true, good and beautiful. She specializes in recovering, synthesizing and implementing in the classroom both time-tested methods such as Socratic questioning and research driven practices like Modeling Instruction. Her teaching practice has been influenced by an apprentice year with the Circe Institute’s Master Teacher program, prior posts at Wilson Hill Academy and Regents, wide reading in the classical and chemical education literature, and extensive work with young people and parents in religious, charitable and scouting organizations. She is a member of the American Modeling Teachers Association, the Society for Classical Learning and Tau Beta Pi. Outside of education, Taylor co-founded and led product development for specialty manufacturer Fulcrum Chemicals and produced water management firm Waternex. Taylor was honored with a Presidential Endowed Scholarship by the UT Engineering Foundation and a Research Experience for Undergraduates from the National Science Foundation. She earned her MS Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and her BS Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas with high honors. A native Texan, she and her husband Tony are the parents of three children.