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Rochester Central Lutheran School


RCLS mom and her son
Robin Kaufmann


A Bobcat Blog story comes about in any number of ways. Sometimes I know a family’s history with RCLS and determine it would make a great story. Other times I get a lead from a faculty member or another family, or I write to answer a question that a parent has posed about the culture or curriculum of the school. And still other times, like with the Dance family, I walk down the halls of RCLS and see mom leading a reading group in one hall and dad tutoring students in math in the next. Then I have to wonder: what’s the story here?

When I exclaimed at the surprise of seeing Charlotte Dance in the elementary hall after I had just run into her husband, Sherman, with a group of students at the other end of campus, I silently mused about the quality of the families at RCLS. It says a lot about a family that both parents are active in the school’s classrooms, don’t you think?

I wanted to learn more.

A Place to Learn

Sherman and Charlotte Dance arrived at RCLS when their youngest son, Del, was in kindergarten. Determined to find a school that was the right fit for their active boy, the Dances explored both public and private school options in town. Charlotte had driven by RCLS on Elton Hills Drive a number of times, so she decided to investigate. She didn’t know a lot about the school, but when she walked into first grade and saw the CLOVER tool of learning being used in the classroom, she instantly perceived that RCLS “would be a great place” to learn. CLOVER, an acronym that helps students remember the six syllable types of English, is an aspect of many systematic phonics programs, including Orton-Gillingham, a highly structured, multi-sensory approach to learning to read. As a Reading Center-trained tutor and the mom of two older children who struggled with dyslexia, Charlotte was impressed to learn that most of RCLS’s elementary teachers were Orton-Gillingham-trained instructors, and she was immensely encouraged to see those teachers “teaching every child in a way they could learn.” While Del did not necessarily struggle with reading, his mom saw CLOVER as a signal that the school employed proven methods of instruction, and she was impressed by the individual attention students received from teachers. Charlotte was also excited to learn that RCLS provided two recesses each day along with regular gym classes. She worried that the once-a-day opportunity for physical exercise that she saw at other schools would not be sufficient for her busy son. Educationally, then, it appeared to the Dances as though RCLS would be a great fit for Del.

students working at desks in class

Yet even more compelling to the Dances was the idea of putting their son in a Christian learning environment. Sherman notes that he had hoped “to find a private school that promoted Biblical principles.” What he saw and heard in the public-school system discouraged him, and he was eager to have his youngest child in an environment that teaches Jesus and promotes Biblical morality. Now, having volunteered in both public-school classes and at RCLS, Sherman insists that RCLS teachers spend more time teaching and much less time disciplining than their public-school counterparts. For this, the Dances credit other school families who share their priority for faith and learning. These families, according to the Dances, help shape the “good environment” that makes RCLS the place of learning Sherman and Charlotte had hoped to find for their son, now a thriving 5th-grader at the school.

A Place to Serve

So, why is it these two can be found in the school hallways as often as they are?

To be sure, they are equipped to be there. Both former IBM electrical engineers, Sherman and Charlotte have high regard for education. As a reading tutor, Charlotte has spent a fair amount of time volunteering in kindergarten and first grade, as she says, “helping those kids get a real base in reading,” and she serves as a Reading Center tutor for some RCLS students during the school day. Likewise, Sherman uses his aptitude and experience to benefit RCLS students when he subs as a math teacher or when he tutors small groups of 5th-grade math students. To talk with these two about their efforts at RCLS is to know that they love the time they spend at the school. “It is very fun to know so many of the kids,” Charlotte explains, and “I love tutoring students when I know they are getting the same type of instruction and hearing the same language from their classroom teachers. It’s just so much better for the kids.”

Also, Charlotte appreciates the “supportive culture” of the school, even as she and Sherman play a role in offering that support. “There is a real culture of kindness,” she explains. “The teachers really appreciate the kids,” even the ones that require nontraditional approaches to learning. Charlotte “enjoys seeing the different styles of the teachers and what they are able to get out of the kids.” For example, Del’s teachers have always held her busy son to high behavior standards, Charlotte says, but they have grace for him “when he doesn’t meet [those standards].” These teachers manage to “discipline and encourage” Del at the same time, Sherman explains––a treasured support in their mission to shape the academic wellness of their child and his moral character.

As they consider the ways in which RCLS has been the right school for their youngest child, the Dances identify those aspects of the school that make it the right place for their family: a Christ-centered environment, systematic instruction, talented teachers, individual care and attention, grace and kindness, and “the outstanding families” that surround their son.

Outstanding families, indeed.

It appears one only needs to roam the halls at RCLS now and then to find them.

RCLS is immensely grateful for the “outstanding families” that commit so much time and talent to the school. The high level of engagement of our parents, grandparents, and church members who volunteer in the classroom, the office, the library, the athletics program, the arts, and otherwise is much of what makes RCLS the extraordinary community and education experience that it is. Last week, we honored the school’s regular volunteers at Wednesday’s Chapel. This annual recognition is the smallest of ways to thank those who contribute to RCLS so significantly. We love our community of volunteers and school families. Thank you, thank you!

RCLS volunteers

Some of RCLS's parent and community volunteers were able to attend Chapel last week, when we honored them for their gracious service to our school.