S.H. Christian graduates first class

Under the direction whom a teacher called the greatest potter, 2-year-old Sweet Home Christian School graduated its first class Wednesday night.

The first graduating class had two in it, Paul George Wyckhuyse and Fallon Nicole Baxter.

Dolores Wyckoff, supervisor at the school, related the story of the prophet Jeremiah’s visit to a potter in the Bible.

Parents, grandparents and teachers are responsible for shaping young lives, she said at the graduation. “Sometimes, we just have to take that change and slam it on the table,” working students into something pliable “so that you can form them into a work of art…. You say okay, God, here I am, the teacher, parent, principal, and say, ‘Lord, You are the Master Potter.'”

The adults in the lives of students are His tools, she said. “We have been privileged to mold and form and help them become the person God wants them to be.”

“I think it was pretty cool,” Wyckhuyse said. “I’ve been going to this school for two years. I was having a hard time in public school.”

In public school, by the time he could get help from a teacher, it was time to go to the next class.

At Sweet Home Christian, “you really had the one-on-one help,” Baxter said. In class there, there aren’t 30 other students. “As soon as you raise your flag, they’re (teachers) are right there to help.”

The school uses the School of Tomorrow curriculum, formerly Accelerated Christian Education, which is a self-paced learning environment, where teachers respond to students, assisting as they need help. Instead of raising hands in class, students put a flag up at their cubicle and continue working in other areas. Students work through booklets, called PACEs and can complete all of their work early. Baxter graduated a year early.

The curriculum is tied into the use of computers and other technology.

Students do not need to go from class to class, Baxter said. If they need to spend more time in one subject, they can. During accounting, Baxter was able to spend time one-on-one with her teacher, Wyckoff, during class or after school a half hour to 40 minutes at a time.

“There were things I missed in public school that I had to go back and fix,” Wyckhuyse said. At Sweet Home Christian, the school started him a little lower to catch the material.

Wyckhuyse started at Sweet Home Christian his senior year. Baxter, who was supposed to be in the Class of 2002, started in October.

“It’s great,” Baxter said of graduating early. “I it was scary because I thought I wouldn’t be ready for college.”

It would have been harder to achieve in the public school system, she said. She has just completed her college placement testing and did well.

“I’ve been done with school almost a month,” Baxter said, but she has stayed busy taking college credits.

In addition to earning her diploma, Baxter has earned her certificate of initial mastery through Sweet Home High School and served on the certificate of advanced mastery committee.

Being the first graduates, “it’s going to set a standard for the other students that come to this school,” Wyckhuyse said. Baxter set an example, and another girl in the school wants to graduate early now.

“It’s exciting,” Wyckuyse said.

Having just two persons in their graduating class was a little different than most persons are used to.

“I liked it because we could have our own time at graduation,” Baxter said. They were both able to give their own speeches and talk about schools.

Both were impressed by the higher standards they had to meet to graduate.

Both were on the “B” honor roll, which requires an 88 percent to 93 percent average grade on tests. PACE tests require an 80 percent to pass.

Wyckhuyse earned a freshman GPA of 1.5. His GPA is now 3.0.

Baxter is enrolled at Linn-Benton Community College. She plans to become a legal secretary. She works for RAM Trucking.

Wyckhuyse will attend LBCC, but his major is undecided.

His experience showed “people that don’t think they can achieve the goals they set … if they just put their heart into it, they can,” Wyckhuyse said.

“I was just able to gain a lot of confidence in myself,” Baxter said.

“Mrs. Wyckoff is a great teacher,” Wyckhuyse said. “Anybody is just blessed to have her as a teacher.”

“You can tell she’s not just here to teach,” Baxter said. “She teaches beyond the books. She teaches you everything. That comes from her heart.”

Both also wanted to recognize Karen Pulis, another teacher.

The school is in its second year. It had 20 students this year, up from six last year.

“(Baxter) gave a speech last night in the ceremony. It was very touching, if you will,” Sweet Home Assembly Pastor and Principal Dan Helland said. “Her take on it was nice just to hear that she was thankful for the change of atmosphere.”

There were times when staff wondered if Wyckhuyse would make it, Pastor Helland said, but when it started coming down to the end, he did exceptionally.

“It’s nice to sense that we’ve had a little piece in their future,” Pastor Helland said. “I told them in the ceremony last night not to depend on just their education. We want them to be prepared spiritually, culturally and socially.”

Education is just a factor in preparing students for life, Pastor Helland. While Sweet Home Christian and no one else can provide the “perfect atmosphere,” the school still tries to prepare students for life.

He cites Proverbs 3:5-6 which says to “trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.”

Not minimizing the value of education, that passage demands more, Pastor Helland said.

Looking toward next year, the school is adding kindergarten and first grade, which will be integrated in a separate room from the rest of the school. Students in second through 12th grade all share the same room, called the learning center.

The school will expand its numbers some, but enrollment will remain capped at some level, Pastor Helland said. That level has not been set yet.

For information about the school, persons may contact the Sweet Home Assembly office at 367-2038.