BCJA was awarded the Adventist EDGE School of Excellence August 2011. Read below to see what it takes…
By Don Tucker
Since the Adventist EDGE (Educators Delivering a Great Education) initiative began more than nine years ago, numerous schools across the Southern Union — from pre-K through grade 12 — have been improving education for hundreds of children. Just how are these schools doing it? What do they all have in common?
The answer is dedication. An excellent school doesn’t happen overnight; it takes hard work and intention to build a culture of excellence, but when a whole community — the church, school, and home — comes together to create an excellent school, the results are astounding.
Education is an important topic in today’s culture, as pundits and experts debate the best ways to teach children. In the Southern Union, the answer to that debate was the EDGE initiative, which follows a scriptural mandate to strive for excellence. The EDGE formula for excellent schools is to deliver GREAT education that is God-centered, Results-oriented, in an Environment that is safe and nurturing, Aligned with Adventist and national standards, and a Team effort.
Those who received the Adventist EDGE School of Excellence award said the results of the certification process were better than they had anticipated.
“We in the Adventist system need to go beyond the minimum requirements for accreditation and focus on the core elements that will identify our schools as the highest quality of education,” says Richard Stitzer, principal of John L. Coble Elementary School, Calhoun, Georgia. “We want to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers.”
“We looked at all the components of what GREAT meant,” says Yvonne Brown, principal of Decatur Adventist Junior Academy, Stone Mountain, Georgia. “We worked with that acronym to find out what we needed to improve.”
EDGE certification starts with a six-step process that helps schools define their long-term goals and identify areas for improvement. In order to become certified, schools examine every aspect of their operation, from the grounds and facilities to curriculum and customer service. The spiritual aspect of education is emphasized and the schools work hard to focus on building positive relationships and compelling experiences by being courteous, kind, friendly, warm, caring, accepting, and Christ-like all the time. Ineffective teaching methods and outdated tools are discarded or replaced. A teaching system called 4MAT helps faculty make the most of good teaching practices, and teachers work to meet students’ needs on an individual level.
Like any worthy endeavor, meeting the requirements for EDGE certification takes time. Parents, board members, faculty, and even students work together as a team to help the schools make necessary improvements. Becoming a School of Excellence sometimes means making changes to the way things have always been done, but those changes are worth it to help the school reach its potential. All of these new improvements are regularly evaluated to make sure they are continuing to be effective.
“We had to push ourselves a little bit beyond what we were doing,” says Shirley Johnson, former principal of Berean Christian Junior Academy, Atlanta, Georgia. “It was a growth process for us. We’re excited that the Lord has blessed us.”
By the time the school is certified as a School of Excellence, its mission and vision have been refined; parents and students begin to take more pride in their school, and the faculty act with a new sense of purpose.
“Our enrollment has increased, confidence has improved, and the board has more clarity in its vision and direction,” says Keith Nelson, principal of Greeneville Adventist Academy, Greeneville, Tennessee. “The community has become more aware of the school and its mission, and the staff has a level of pride in the institution they serve, as well as an improved sense of mission for the kingdom of God.”
“I have seen students that try harder because we are a school of excellence,” says Wanda Beck, principal of Silver Creek Adventist School, Morganton, N.C. “The congregation looks at us differently because we are providing quality education for their children. Our teachers teach at a higher level because we are EDGE.” That kind of change doesn’t happen by accident — it is the result of a purposeful dedication to excellence.
“There were a lot of things we had been doing before, but we just weren’t very intentional,” says Aaron Raines, principal of Ridgetop Adventist Elementary School, Ridgetop, Tennessee. “The process of EDGE certification caused us to step back and look at things in a more intentional way.”
“Being EDGE certified made the community aware that we were striving for something more,” says Arthur Cheney, principal of Madison Campus Elementary School, Madison, Tennessee. “If you’re going to affect positive change, you have to cast a vision.”
That vision is the core of the EDGE initiative. Any school can produce good test results and stellar scholars, but EDGE Schools provide so much more than that — they are dedicated not only to excellence in education, but also to transparency with parents and students, relationships with the community, a vision of an ever-brighter future, and Christlike spiritual instruction. Serving the Lord and creating God-centered education is the most important of all the EDGE goals. Once that center is established, everything else falls into place around it.
Don Tucker is marketing consultant for the Southern Union Office of Education.
Published October 4, 2012