Building expansion benefits St. John Kendallville: New Classrooms Are Better Equipped for Student Learning

Posted on Feb 01, 2016 by Alicia Levitt - Funding the Mission

St. John Lutheran School in Kendallville is undergoing a building expansion that means big changes for students.With the addition of new classrooms, a cafeteria, library, and bigger bathrooms, teachers Alexandra Klaehn and Linda Atz are seeing the effects of these changes firsthand.“We needed space. We had a portable classroom for many years. It’s just wonderful,” says Linda Atz, a first grade teacher at St. John.Both teachers moved into new classrooms this year and noted that the rooms are both quieter and better equipped for students’ learning needs.“The kids have more room to spread out and it makes the atmosphere more conducive for the students,” Mrs. Atz adds.Since starting at St. John in 1983, Mrs. Atz knows firsthand the challenges the school faced before they expanded.“We used to eat in the gym and it got in the way of physical fitness,” she says.Other problems like small classrooms and a growing student body made it necessary to add a portable classroom. Then there was the problem of the bathrooms—with only three stalls in each for the entire school.New second grade teacher, Alexandra Klaehn, agrees that the additional space is an asset for the students.“If we were in an old classroom, there’s barely enough room for desks,” she says. “We can move around more and do more kinesthetic and independent work. It definitely has a positive impact.”She notes that for students who have special learning needs, the added space is a big plus.“One of my students doesn’t do well with others and gets frustrated. In this classroom, kids have room to work in their own space,” she says. “They can focus.”Ms. Klaehn’s new classroom also boasts an interactive projector that turns a plain white wall into a computer screen controlled by a pen, not a computer. This allows the teacher and students to write on and control the projected image, without the teacher traveling back and forth to a computer.Besides the more spacious classrooms, the school also has the added benefit of a new library with more room for books, a cafeteria for lunch, and a contemporary worship space for chapel. Even the wider hallways provide better access for students with disabilities.The cost of the 1.4 million dollar building program is funded through church donations, capital campaign pledge drives, a grant from The Lutheran Foundation, and the sale of property. A grant from the Dekko Foundation provided experienced support to plan and carry out the capital campaign. St. John has raised enough money through these sources to cover new construction and capital improvements on the expansion.But the reason teachers like Linda Atz have stayed at St. John go beyond the physical building. It’s the caring family atmosphere, she notes, where everybody supports one another.“This last February, I had major surgery,” she says. “My family didn’t have to cook a meal because people just helped. We’re like a family.”Ms. Klaehn has also noticed the supportive atmosphere at St. John, remarking that the teachers “do everything they can to help students across grades.”Besides academic growth, St. John also focuses on spiritual growth as well.“We pray for every student. We pray for the families,” Mrs. Atz says. “Learning about Jesus--that’s our main goal.”Although the building adds to the student learning experience in valuable ways, it’s the caring, Christ-centered approach that helps children succeed at St. John Lutheran School.