Tag Archive for: lutheran schools

Increased school enrollments offer new opportunities for outreach

Enrollment in WELS schools is up 9.8 percent this school year (8 percent for Lutheran elementary schools alone), according to the recently released 2021–22 school statistics, with 26,586 students in 282 Lutheran elementary schools and 11,672 students in 363 early childhood ministries.

This is the highest ever recorded enrollment for WELS early childhood ministries and the highest number for Lutheran elementary schools since the 2004–05 school year, according to Mr. Jim Rademan, director of WELS Lutheran Schools.

About 70 percent of WELS schools increased their enrollment this year, while 25 percent decreased and about 5 percent stayed the same.

Besides enrollment increasing, schools are seeing more opportunities for outreach. More and more students attending WELS schools are mission prospects, with nearly 33 percent of families in early childhood ministries and 16 percent in Lutheran elementary schools identifying either as non-Christian or no church home.

“Enrollment is up in our schools,” says Rademan. “Now how can we take advantage of the opportunity? Conditions have been favorable for having more students sit at the feet of Jesus in our classrooms. But how long will that window be open and how well are we going to take advantage of that open window and be as urgent and resolute as we possibly can about sharing the gospel with those children and their families?”

To help congregations and schools connect with unchurched school families, WELS Congregational Services offers a workshop called Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach. Available in person for groups of congregations or a single congregation or virtually for single congregations, the workshop provides resources and advice to help congregations develop outreach plans and strategies to share the gospel with school families.

Learn more about Telling the Next Generation.

Watch last week’s Together video with Mr. Jim Rademan.



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2022 WELS National Education Conference

The Commission on Lutheran Schools (CLS) is announcing the 2022 WELS National Education Conference, June 20-22, Pewaukee, Wis., with preconference sessions on June 19.

Mr. Paul Patterson, CLS associate director and member of the conference planning committee, says, “This conference is focused on teaching and designed by teachers for teachers. We have six compelling strands that offer sectionals in topics that are the focus in professional journals: social emotional learning, feedback and assessment, higher order thinking and questioning, student achievement, student-centered classrooms, and leadership in ministry.”

Three keynote speakers have been announced: Rev. Rich Gurgel, Martin Luther College president; Mr. Eric Jensen, a nationally known writer and trainer who connects brain research to the classroom and to enhanced attention and learning; and Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a Wisconsin pediatrician specializing in early literacy.

Patterson says, “We also have seven awesome preconference strands including early childhood; a new Christian Worship conference style presentation for those who missed the 2021 Worship Conference because it was canceled; special education; ministry development plan primer; and more!”

All WELS teachers are encouraged to save the dates. Registration will open in January 2022.

For more on the conference, check out this short promotional video and check out the conference website, which includes the opportunity to sign up for the conference newsletter.


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Amazing Grace Virtual Academy

Amazing Grace Virtual Academy (AGVA), formerly known as ALHS Online (ALHSO) is an accredited online service provider and virtual school.

AGVA has two primary purposes.

  1. Offer online courses that WELS/ELS schools can use to expand the curricular offerings available to their students. (AGVA part-time students)

  2. Offer a complete online curriculum that can lead to a high school diploma. (AGVA full-time students)

Through ALHS Online, schools can share quality online courses and qualified instructors, thus strengthening each school’s individual program of instruction and curriculum. Public and home school students can also enroll in courses to supplement their education.

Philosophy of Amazing Grace Virtual Academy
The purpose of AGVA is to support, not supplant, current WELS/ELS schools. Through AGVA, WELS/ELS schools can share quality online courses and qualified instructors, thus strengthening each school’s individual program of instruction and curriculum. Public and home school students can also enroll in courses to supplement their education.

AGVA also exists to provide the option of a Christ-centered high school education for students not able to attend a traditional WELS/ELS high school.

This online program will also give teachers who are not serving as a called teacher in a Lutheran school the opportunity to serve their Lord, high school students, and the church by teaching online courses.

Goals of Amazing Grace Virtual Academy

The AGVA strives to

  1. Maintain a partnership with WELS/ELS schools to offer quality online courses taught from a scriptural perspective.

  2. Develop a curriculum that meets the needs of WELS/ELS schools, students, and families who desire an online education informed and rooted in the Word of God.

  3. Offer a fully online high school curriculum leading to a diploma for students not able to attend a traditional WELS/ELS high school.

  4. Offer a series of religion courses for WELS/ELS students enrolled in a public or home school.

  5. Assemble a cadre of qualified, professional WELS/ELS teachers to teach the online curriculum.

  6. Develop a cost-effective and self-sustaining high-quality program.

  7. Foster continuous improvement through stakeholder input and feedback.

Learn more on the Amazing Grace Virtual Academy website.

A Christian education is bigger than distance

I feel compelled to write a few words about what it has been like, as a parent sending, my son and daughter to a WELS high school 3,000 miles from home. Our home is in Anchorage, Alaska, and my family belongs to Faith in Anchorage. The high school, Great Plains Lutheran High School, is in Watertown, S.D.

I have done some pretty difficult things in my life, but this ranks at the top. I myself attended a WELS Christian High School over 30 years ago. So when my own children reached high school age, I knew it was the right thing to do, but we lived 3,000 miles from the school! I was very active in my children’s school life up to that point—coaching basketball, track, serving as chairman of the education committee, never missing an activity. How in the world am I ever going to do this?

I spent a lot of time talking with my Lord. I knew deep in my heart that it was the best thing I could do for my children’s spiritual welfare. But the doubts and fears crept in. What if they get sick or get hurt playing sports, and need to go to the doctor? Who will take care of them? How are they going to find their way through major airports? What if their flight gets delayed and they get stuck at an airport? How are we going to afford not only the tuition and housing, but also the very expensive airline tickets?

Eventually I was able to lay these worries at my Saviors’ feet, but it wasn’t easy. I thought to myself that if I can just get them there that first day the Lord will take over from there. My daughter was the oldest, so the first to go off to school. That first night after dropping her off at the dorm was very difficult to say the least. I lay in the hotel bed that night again wondering if I had made the right decision. The next day was even tougher as we drove four hours to the airport, and then flew six more hours away from my child.

Things at home were different now. Of course I missed my child, but I noticed my co-workers treating me a little differently now. Anyone who would send their children that far away to a “church” school must be some sort of a religious nutcase. That didn’t really bother me, but when my fellow believers would say things like “I could never send my kids away to school, I don’t know how you do it,” it cut to the heart. I knew they probably meant it as a compliment, but I felt as if they were questioning my love for my children. I have heard that comment several times, and it cuts deeper each time.

My daughter is a senior this year, and it seems like yesterday that we were dropping her off for her first day. I wish I could say that none of my fears about sending my children away came true. We have had doctor’s appointments, dorm closing due to flu outbreaks, two knee injuries resulting in acl surgeries, airline delays resulting in an overnight stay in a hotel, and probably a few others that I have forgotten. It has not been easy, but the Lord has always provided a solution. Part of the solution is the terrific staff at the school. They will do whatever it takes for our children, and we are forever grateful. Every time we faced something that just seemed like more than we could handle, the Lord showed us the way. It reminded us that we are just temporary parents, and who our children really belong to.

So if I knew then what I know now, would I do it again? Without a doubt! I have read some of my children’s homework assignments and marvel at the depth of their faith and understanding. They are both maturing into adults with a firm foundation in God’s Word. Does it really matter how successful they are in sports, or how well prepared they are to conquer the world? What does matter is that I know where they will be 100 years from now.

By Jeff Wockenfuss

Registration open for summer conferences

Registration is now open for the WELSTech Conference 2015, and registration for the National School Leadership Conference will be open soon.

The National School Leadership Conference will run June 15-18, 2015, at the Country Springs Hotel, Pewaukee, Wis.

“The goals of the conference are to strengthen and equip WELS professional educators to serve our preschools, elementary schools, and secondary schools. This year’s conference will strengthen participants’ minds, bodies, and souls for the work of the gospel. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to interact with other WELS professional educators from preschool all the way through college. Forming and developing these partnerships will mutually benefit our schools, but more importantly, strengthen the WELS school system,” says Mr. Shawn Herkstroeter, principal at Faith, Fond du Lac, Wis., and a chairman of the School Leadership Conference.

The WELSTech Conference will run from July 9-11, 2015, also at the Country Springs Hotel.

WELS Chief Technology Officer Mr. Martin Spriggs says, “The conference is designed for anybody interested in the effective use of technology for ministry. This could include pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay leaders. Each participant can select from over 100 sessions that will provide very practical tools and ideas that will aid personal and professional ministries.” Presentation topics will include the effective use of social networks, worship technologies, introducing tablets and Chromebooks in the classroom, networking, website building, productivity, and many more.

Find more information about both events and how to register at www.wels.net/events.

New associate director of Schools

On Jan. 9, Teacher Tom Plitzuweit accepted the call to serve as associate director of the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools. Plitzuweit will begin serving in his new position on July 1.

Mr. Jim Rademan, director of WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools, explains that Plitzuweit’s primary responsibility will be to oversee the WELS school accreditation program known as WELSSA. Rademan says, “Tom has displayed a love for Lutheran schools through his volunteer work as district schools coordinator for the Nebraska District. He encouraged all the schools in the district to engage in continuous school improvement. He has also demonstrated a willingness to improve and learn through his personal continuing education.”

Plitzuweit currently serves St. Paul, Plymouth, Neb., as a teacher and school administrator. He notes, “I have always felt that I am doubly blessed to be able to have served as a teacher in a classroom setting and as a school administrator at the same time. Having both the teaching and administrative positions simultaneously has given me a clear picture of what it takes to focus on school improvement initiatives.”

In his new role with Lutheran Schools, Plitzuweit says, “I look forward to working with schools to help them see and celebrate their strengths, as well as helping them analyze areas in which improvement is needed. Being part of setting vision and strategic planning for our WELS schools and helping schools achieve their gospel-centered missions will be rewarding.”

Finally, Plitzuweit says, “I firmly believe our church body has an amazing treasure in our Lutheran schools. . . . By devoting time, energy, and resources to the vital work of our schools now, we are working together to ensure that our church body is equipped with servant leaders for generations to come!”