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Coach John Roelofs Retires after 51 Years of Faithful Service to ECS

“The poster child of the ECS mission.”

“The embodiment of everything ECS is about.”        

These are some of the descriptions of Coach John Roelofs by those who know him best.

As we honor Coach on the occasion of his retirement after 51 years of faithful service to ECS, we thank the Lord for using this man of God to disciple future generations of ECS students so faithfully for more than a half century.

The son of a farmer and homemaker, Coach learned the value of hard work in the onion and potato fields of Albert Lea, Minnesota. He attended Dordt University, an evangelical Christian college in Sioux Center, Iowa. His college friend, Arlo Kreun, began his career as a math teacher at a fairly new school in Memphis called Evangelical Christian School. A year later, Coach joined him in Memphis to teach PE at ECS, eight years after the school’s founding. 

As they say, the rest is history. 

The history of ECS unfolded during John’s tenure at the school, now in its 59th year of Christian education. And he has the stories to prove it.

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We are proud to open a new Upper Elementary school for 4th, 5th and 6th graders on the Shelby Farms campus this year. This marks the first time in ECS history that 4th and 5th graders have been students on the Shelby Farms campus, representing a new era for ECS. 

In August, ECS fourth and fifth grades moved to the Shelby Farms campus, and Lower School at the Germantown campus is now comprised of Little Eagles through third grade, alleviating previous space constraints at that campus. This move will also accommodate a growing number of families desiring the unique Christian discipleship education that ECS offers.

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DICE, diversity, integration, christian education, tuition assistance, low-income,

ECS is proud to announce our partnership with Diversity & Integration of Christian Education (DICE), a foundation which offers endowments to Christian schools that help provide a Christian education to children from diverse, low-income families.

Head of School Braxton Brady noted, "I am excited about this new partnership which will give more minority families who desire Christian education the ability to attend ECS. In turn, it will help diversify our student population at ECS, enriching our entire school community by better reflecting the Church as a whole."

DICE seeks to endow ECS with scholarship funding for students who meet the criteria for admission and who represent minority families who desire Christian education starting in elementary school all the way through 12th grade. DICE funds not only tuition, but also school lunches, uniforms, and fees for extracurricular activities such as athletics and field trips for the entire Christian education experience. 

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ECS Embarks on Inaugural Expo Week

“The world is the true classroom.”

In its inaugural Expo Week, ECS tested Jack Hanna’s theory and scored an A+!

Last year, ECS broke the mold of traditional classroom learning by offering our first ever Expo Week, a week dedicated to expeditionary learning, much like a mini-term many colleges and universities make available. It was a week to explore learning outside the typical school curriculum, and that took many of our teachers and students outside of the walls of a classroom and beyond the constraints of a class schedule.

  • Want to learn dance numbers taught by the cast of Wicked in New York City?
  • Want to learn how the music created in Memphis impacted history nationwide?
  • Want to learn how to build a brick oven to bake homemade pizzas?

So many of our students’ learning goals were met with these and other curiosity-piquing, teen-friendly, outside-the-classroom, fun experiences involving a choice of travel, workshops or internships.

How It Began

In March 2020, shortly before Covid hit, Assistant Head of School and Academic Dean Jenny Shorten, along with Chief Memory Maker David Butler and English teacher Debbie Ellzey attended a Round Square conference in San Francisco. ECS is a member school of Round Square, the very distinguished international academic organization built upon the following educational ideals: internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, good stewardship, adventure, leadership and service. Expo Week answers the call to adventure, and we’re pretty sure Jack Hanna would approve!

“Expo Week fits into our mission of excellence,” Mrs. Shorten stated. “Creating excellence means we are going to have to push ourselves and think outside the box. Learning has a ceiling in the classroom, but learning outside the classroom explodes because the opportunities are so much richer.”

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8 Tips to Help Your Child Transition to Middle School

The natural transition from child into teenager is unchartered territory for many parents, which can create uncertainty and even fear. As a middle school teacher whose own sons are in this phase of life, I have consulted some of my teaching colleagues, other trusted parents and former students for wise parenting advice. Together, we have compiled a list of tips for parents to help their children navigate this transition through adolescence.

1.      Don’t be afraid of failure.

Middle School is a great time and place to fail. It seems counterintuitive of what we want for our kids, but the consequences of failing are not as great in middle school as in high school. It should be a time in which the parents are pulling off and letting their student navigate through conflict and tension. It is such an opportunity for them to grow. Independence builds confidence. Don’t remove the speed bumps because it prevents that head-on collision down the road. We want to prepare the road for our child, but we need to prepare the child for the road. It can be painful. It requires us as parents to have a posture of surrender to the Lord and not control, which is hard. Let them mess up because it helps them learn.

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Last year, Laura and Tim Turner decided that ECS was the right place for their four elementary-aged children, Eli and Lucy (5th grade), Anna (2nd grade) and Jonathan (junior kindergarten).

The Turner children were all in the Germantown Municipal School District schools the year before. Tim said, “We actually weren’t actively looking to move schools. We were ultimately drawn in by the leadership, teachers, families and faith. We felt like ECS was so uniquely gifted in those areas, and we wanted to be a part of that.”

Laura added, “The Lord confirmed our decision in different ways throughout the year. We were able to see all four of our children flourish spiritually, academically and socially. It’s such a blessing to have teachers that pour truth and wisdom into the lives of our children.”

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Teachers: The Superheroes of 2020-2021

Batman. Spider-Man. Batgirl. These Superheroes come to mind for wielding their superhuman strength to restore good to an evil world.

Last year, a different type of mask-wearing Superhero emerged.

Cambridge Dictionary defines superheroes as characters in a story who have special strength and use it to do good things and help other people.

We assert this appropriately describes ECS teachers.

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Coaching for the Long Game

A few years ago, Coach Willie Jenkins came to ECS on a path few saw coming. But perhaps no one was more surprised than the coach himself.

“Coach Willie” as he is known to everyone, was biding his time during the offseason, waiting to return to play professional basketball overseas. His discipler Roy “Soup” Campbell, executive director at local Eikon Ministries, hooked him up with a gig teaching basketball skills at Memphis Athletic Ministries (commonly known as “MAM”) in the inner city where he charged neighborhood kids admission to his clinics with a memorized Bible verse instead of money.

ECS dad Travis Slater caught wind of this local talent charging Manna in lieu of dough, and asked if his daughter and her teammate could train under him too. After the training camp that summer, Slater admitted that he knew Coach Willie wanted to play overseas or coach young men, but he asked if he would consider coaching his daughter’s eighth grade school team.

Initially, Coach Willie bristled at the idea of coaching middle school girls. But his wife, Eryka, knew better.

She knew her husband enjoyed watching women’s basketball on TV because they are fundamentally sound.

Mrs. Jenkins said, ‘You are always watching it. It will help you become a better coach.’”

So he conceded.

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ECS Bolsters STEM Program

A New Emphasis

In the past 30 years, employment in STEM occupations has grown 79%, increasing from 9.7 million to 17.3 million jobs,[1] outpacing overall U.S. job growth, which is only expected to climb in the future, especially as companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google continue to dominate the economic landscape. Educating our youth on the disciplines of STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, is imperative to prepare students for tomorrow’s professions. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “If we want a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers have the ability to understand and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and to meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving workforce, building students' skills, content knowledge, and fluency in STEM fields is essential.”[2]

This increased emphasis on STEM acumen served as an opportunity for Assistant Head of School & Academic Dean Jenny Shorten to redefine her search for a new upper school math teacher two years ago.

“The exponential growth in technology today requires us to prepare our learners for that world that is dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math."

The exponential growth in technology today requires us to prepare our learners for that world that is dominated by Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Therefore, it was critical we added someone to our math department who understood this evolving paradigm. Dr. Stevens met and exceeded these criteria.”

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