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Educational advancements transform campus

Part 2 of a 2 part series on the founders of Fresno Christian. For part I of this series, read Campus nears 30th year of service to read the March 10, 2006, article by Kaley Hearnsberger.

On the first day of school students met in Sunday school classrooms without desks, equipment or offices. These and other surroundings from the beginning of Fresno Christian raises appreciation for the facilities available today.

?It didn?t matter,? Superintendent Tim Wilkins said. ?I made cubbies out of cardboard, and our desks arrived the last day of school. We walked to a nearby park for recess and lunches. I cherish those moments.?

Wilkins was the first teacher hired by Fresno Christian Schools in 1979 for a combined fifth and sixth grade class. He had previously taught in Tulsa, OK, but moved back to Fresno to apply for a teaching job that did not even exist yet.

The most recent changes have occurred in the past two years with a major retooling of the educational architecture. The administration is committed to meet the current California curriculum standards and other aspects such as accreditation.

?It is a huge effort to remain on top of educational design,? Wilkins said. ?A challenge with such advancements involves the older teachers and the younger additions to the staff.?

There is, however, no termination to learning. Teachers continue to learn as new methods arise. Research helps teachers better understand the brain and apply new knowledge to helping students better learn.

?The younger teachers help the old and the older help the new,? Wilkins said. ?My job is to bring the old and new together in a positive way.?

For instance, the youngest teachers enter the school system with new requirements for teacher education, like Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment training [BTSA]. BTSA allows local schools to receive state funding to induct teachers into the education system.

BTSA is California?s alternative to a non-paying teaching experience. New teachers, like choir and ensemble director, Aaron Bryan, and math teacher, Mike Fenton, currently take classes for teacher education.

The younger teachers bring up-to-date innovations to campus, while older and more experienced teachers contribute their maturity and experience.

?The alumni will tell you that what they remember most is that their teachers were their friends and mentors,? Wilkins said. ?They truly love their students.?

Though teachers on campus often are paid much less then public educators, jobs rarely become available anywhere else.

?What makes this school unique is the family feeling,? Wilkins said. ?Its hard to describe you just have to live it.?

The longevity of the teachers proves their active choice out of belief in education devoted to spiritual and mental development.

With seven churches involved in the development process, denominational conflicts were a concern. Church affiliations such as Mennonite Brethren, Christian Reformed, Foursquare, Evangelical Free and Assembly of God all seem to have different perspectives and sometimes disagree on issues.

For example, Mennonite Brethren beliefs include alternative service in times of war and Christian Reformed follow the teachings of 16th century reformer John Calvin.

Despite such differences, one constant core value remains, and that is the belief in God and in Jesus Christ his son.

Many people voiced their initial worries on the combined participation of the very different denominations.

?It is all really about the cross and Jesus,? Wilkins said. ?It is a good rehearsal for heaven, where there will be many different denominations.?

With a common purpose and goal of such a unique school, no conflicts prevented foundational growth. Thirty years of success has proven the skeptics wrong.

?Sometimes we don?t always agree,? Wilkins said, ?but we all get in the same boat and go to the same places.?

The mission on campus is to equip young people for life and service for Jesus Christ through Biblical foundations, character development, and academic preparation in partnership with the home and local church.

Many people made great sacrifices to help this school succeed. Churches have made financial commitments to the school and have contributed without mandate.

One of the mantras of any Christian school is fundraising. Financial stability depends greatly on outside contributors. Ken Kay, Director of Philanthropy, is responsible for helping Christian donors support the school and ministry.

?God has blessed Fresno Christian,? Kay said. ?We have some of the finest and brightest leaders and counselors from our community.?

Currently Dr. Phil Hinton, Foundation Board Chairman and former CEO of Community Medical Centers, has joined the Board along with Kay to help raise support for a new high school building. New developments spur enrollment numbers and expansion broadens the school?s scope of influence.

Through the great sacrifices of many devoted people throughout the history of the school, generations of young people have been thoroughly equipped for life and service. The love and commitment to family values has produced a community of countless alumni that greatly influence the world.

In order to read part I of this series, click on Campus nears 30th year of service to read the March 10, 2006, article by Kaley Hearnsberger.

For more information on Fresno Christian Schools or to become a supporter, go online to www.fresnochristian.com or contact the main office at 559.299.1695.

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