When Kurt and Beth Miyashiro moved to Lincoln, Nebraska from a small town in Illinois, they looked at all the elementary education options for their children. The family valued a small learning environment where older students interact and help younger children.
They found an education match at George P. Stone Elementary School, a full-fledged multi-grade, two-teacher elementary school operating on the campus of Union College under the direction of the Education Department of the Human Development Division.
“As parents, it is our most earnest desire for our children to develop morally and spiritually,” said Beth. “We want to have our children in a school that provides support and guidance that leads them toward eternity. The example of a quality Christian teacher ‘trickles down’ into our lives.”
This school is unique in that it is also a teacher-in-training learning environment where student teachers observe, interact with students, and model what they learn from master teachers.
Why the need?
America’s heartland today still is dotted with many one-, two-, and three-teacher elementary schools. In fact, 87 percent of all Seventh-day Adventist elementary schools in the United States reflect this learning environment profile. In the Mid-America Union, the percentage of elementary schools with three or more grades per teacher is even higher at 91 percent.
Special training for teachers planning to work in these small, multi-grade schools was virtually non-existent until the fall of 1977 when Union College opened the George P. Stone Elementary School. George Stone is fully accredited by the State of Nebraska and the North American Division.
George Stone School provides the best possible Adventist Christian education for its elementary students while providing practical laboratory experience for teachers-in-training and opportunities to develop curriculum materials especially suitable for multi-grade schools.
Practical teacher training
Union College students who are studying elementary education come into this dual-purpose learning environment for first-hand observation of multi-grade instruction. The experienced, multi-grade teachers at George Stone are open and willing to allow student teachers to observe, ask questions, and teach sample curriculum units. It’s an accommodating learning laboratory. For example, while teaching about Asia, student teacher Elizabeth Gustafson infused a trip to the Asian Market and then led her students through culinary activities as together they prepared and ate an Asian meal.
An end-of-semester activity for the elementary Math Methods class requires education majors to design an interesting math activity and prepare to teach it to elementary students. When Math Day arrives, students rotate through three of 12 math stations where student teachers lead out in an engaging math learning activity. This is a highlight of the year for George Stone students!
In addition, education majors conduct physical education activities with George Stone students, present worship talks and week of prayer sessions, and gain 100-plus hours of student teaching experience through observations and practicums at George Stone and additional off-campus educational partner schools.
All student teachers’ daily plans are submitted several days ahead of time for approval and suggestions, and their work is regularly monitored by the classroom master teachers. Because brand new, multi-grade curriculum units are being created through the teacher training program, George Stone students are regularly exposed to exciting educational innovations in addition to the standard curriculum requirements.
Top quality student instruction
When Jennifer Martin and her husband, Travis, began looking for an alternative to the public school their daughter was attending, they were drawn to George Stone because of the low student-teacher ratio and the teacher-in-learning classroom interaction. They wanted a small, loving, low-stress learning environment for their daughter who was behind in her learning.
Learning in the multi-level school allowed the Martin’s daughter to be mentored by older children. She gained confidence that her parents did not expect to see, and this newfound confidence turned into mentoring younger children.
Trudy Holmes-Caines, a professor at Union College, and her husband, Devon, enrolled their daughter in George Stone when she reached the sixth grade. Alexi already demonstrated her ability as an excellent student, and her parents noticed additional areas of growth, thanks to the multi-grade environment.
The Holmes-Caines family observed their daughter becoming more responsible. She is showing signs of being more patient, understanding and respectful of younger classmates. She is also learning how to express herself more clearly and explain things to others.
Alexi is benefiting from a personalized, continuous-progress learning plan. She completes her assignments during school hours and seldom has assigned homework, which allows for free evening hours to interact with her parents.
Ana and her husband, Venito, brought their son to George Stone part way through the school year. He was not experiencing success at his previous school and they were seeking another educational path for him. Within six months, the Taylors saw their son become more confident in his own abilities, more focused, realize the importance of academic work, and become more involved in spiritual activities at home. He now excels at math and reading—his parents say all he does now at home is read!
Crystal and Adam Schaecher’s son is a second-generation George Stone student. Adam attended during his elementary years, and next fall both his sons will be part of the George Stone School family.
The George Stone classroom curriculum includes Lego robotics for older students; exposure to current technology through using Chromebooks and laptops; and features hands-on learning with science fair projects, research paper writing, art classes, band class and more. Each year, George Stone students participate in Union College’s Project Impact day of service to the community. At an early age, George Stone students are experiencing how to live a life of service, learning and leadership.
Representing the best of Union College
The concept of George Stone School is well matched to the educational values of Union College: learning, discipleship, service, mentoring, diversity, community and stewardship. Union College education professors are training and equipping elementary teacher candidates to help students—no matter the school size—reach high achievement levels in language arts, reading, mathematics, science, social studies and other areas of learning.
The overall Adventist Christian education system benefits with the placement of Union College-trained teachers who understand small school, multi-grade learning environments.
Denise White chairs the Human Development Division at Union College.