8 Characteristics of a Positive High School Culture | Concordia Academy
The 2020s will certainly go down in history. Between the pandemic, political division, social issues, and an unstable economy, it seems that challenges are around every corner — and we’re only two years in! While it’s natural for parents to want to shield their children from the harsh realities of our world, you know that you cannot fully do so. The best you can do is ensure they are spending their days in a positive environment — one where they can prepare to make an impact after graduation.
Every school has a unique culture.
Your teen’s school culture is critically important. Culture encompasses the way teachers teach, the way students behave, the way that people interact with one another, and the core values that are held by members of the community. A culture that is marked by hostility and division causes students to feel overwhelmed, distracted, confused, or even unsafe. This ultimately affects their learning. A culture that is positive and encouraging produces students who are confident, motivated, and thriving.
So what makes for a positive school culture, and what should you be looking for as you tour high school options?
1. Invested teachers
High schoolers need to feel known, seen, and loved. This is only possible when faculty and staff view their jobs as more than teaching, also believing in mentoring, nurturing, and investing in the lives of their students.
“As our son enters his senior year, we’ve been blessed to experience the steady support of his invested teachers through his high school experience. He has risen to the high educational expectations of Concordia Academy.” - Sara A.
2. Engaged students
Students are not merely looking for a passing grade, they are actively learning and preparing for bright futures. They are continually pursuing opportunities around them to build new skills, make new friendships, and utilize their God-given talents.
“We have loved observing the support and sportsmanship of the student body at sporting events, specifically basketball games. Students come with signs, positive attitudes and are so encouraging to the athletes. It is so unifying and as parents, we are really impressed by the fun environment and energy it creates! We love attending basketball games!” -Kelly 0.
3. High expectations
Whether in academics, arts, athletics, or relationships, students pursue excellence. Further, they don’t view excellence as simply winning, but a process of growth and improvement that confirms that they are better than they once were.
“Concordia Academy is a special and unique community where strong Christian values are foundational to helping students engage and learn in creative and meaningful ways, surrounded by teachers who care deeply about their students and families who are invested in a healthy and safe learning environment. Concordia Academy sets high expectations for its students, sharing in the responsibility of ensuring they are well prepared for future academic success, have opportunities to form lifelong relationships and want to further develop their faith.” -Jennifer R.
4. Strong values
Values centered on Biblical principles — repentance, forgiveness, grace, and joy — permeate the hearts of students and prepare them for living in a complex and changing world.
“Her dad and I, and both her grandma and grandpa have recently commented that we cannot remember seeing her this happy in such a long time. She is absolutely a different kid. She comes home almost every day [excited] about what she is learning in chapel and scripture class, conversations with friends, and plans for coming events – none of which she had before. She has particularly enjoyed her Scripture class and learning about the Parables and the Woes. We have had a lot of discussions recently about the passage in Matthew 25, 'I was hungry and you fed me …,' and how her dad and I have tried to use that as a blueprint for how we live our lives as a family.” - Jori S.
5. Shared responsibility
A positive school culture cannot exist without buy-in from all members of the community. Every student acts as a leader and takes ownership of their role in the culture of their school.
“CA is a dynamic space for our son and family. We are so fortunate to have such a supportive team that truly values a shared responsibility in our son's future." -Sara A.
6. A safe environment
Students need to feel safe — physically, socially, and emotionally. A clean and secure campus, trusted adult mentors, and positive peer influences create an environment where learning is maximized.
“CA has provided a safe environment for our son to fail, succeed and thrive. Our community at CA is definitely one with involved and engaged parents that show up for the community. We LOVE CA!” Sara A.
7. Involved parents
Parents are vital members of the school community. Their involvement and support creates strong alignment between home and school and contributes to the overall success of students, in the classroom and beyond.
Our son's freshman year at Concordia Academy has been amazing. Concordia Academy has dedicated teachers and staff who provide a superior education, a variety of extracurricular activities, along with solid Christian values. Students, parents, and staff are equally involved, creating an atmosphere of high expectations and future-focused learning. We are beyond blessed to be a part of the Concordia community!” -Frank and Tina M.
8. Future focused
A positive school culture will keep students looking ahead, preparing them to make an impact in a way that only they can. Extracurricular activities, leadership opportunities, academic cohorts, and college prep make all the difference.
"The administration, teachers, and staff at CA are so approachable and caring. They do such a great job of engaging our kids -- both in and out of the classroom -- and instilling strong Christian values that will prepare them to be difference-makers in this world." - Dave W.
Learn More About the Positive School Culture at Concordia Academy
Download a copy of our Parent Info Packet to learn more about all we have to offer your teen.
Advancing CA's Mission
I first walked through the doors at Concordia Academy as a freshman in 1995. I remember nervously standing at my new locker and watching the veteran students like they were celebrities. As an elementary student at Central Lutheran School, I had watched many of them perform in theater productions, sing with His People, or compete in sporting events. Then, suddenly, I was here and one of them. I was a Beacon.
Now, 23 years after my 1999 graduation, I’m back. As Director of Mission Advancement, I’m still a Beacon, but I'm looking at things from a whole different perspective. As my title implies, I will be helping to advance the mission—to lead, teach, and inspire students to become all that God would have them be. And what an exciting time to jump back in!
Though much about my alma mater is the same, much has improved. There have been academic innovations, providing exceptional opportunities for students in the classroom, especially in a school of this size. I’m impressed by opportunities like ICE Lab, a Robotics course, Concordia Cohorts and Cohort Conversations, and more than 100 college credits taught live on-campus!
Attending Concordia Academy was integral in my faith journey. I gained knowledge not only through Religion (now Theology) classes but also in every other class, because each teacher taught through the lens of being a Christ-follower. It has been exciting to see unique new programs implemented that complement the continued excellence in teaching and spiritual development: Family Life Groups, the Vision4Life service week, student-led Bible studies, and daily class devotions.
I have also learned that we just finished a five-year strategic plan with all goals met; we are financially stable, and enrollment has increased 27% in those five years. We are now starting a fresh five-year plan which feels like the perfect time to enter into this role as Director of Mission Advancement. What a mission to advance! What a story to tell!
One thing I love about working in advancement is that it’s a two-way street. I get to tell this story of Concordia Academy, and I want to hear your story, too. Getting to know the individuals who are supporting CA, whether by holding this school up in prayer, working the concession stands, or being involved in countless other ways, helps me to advance our mission in partnership with you. Knowing the alumni who are out there making a difference helps me to see how your stories reflect CA. And if you feel called to support us financially, really knowing you helps me to understand where you’ll feel best about your gift being used.
I’m looking forward to meeting you or reconnecting with you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me via phone or email, and don’t be surprised if you hear from me so we can get to know each other over lunch or coffee.
Director of Mission Advancement
P.S. Want to hear a little bit more about my days as a Beacon and why I’m excited about CA’s future? Watch this short video.
5 Questions Christian Families Should Ask When Choosing a High School
As a parent, you know that high school will be a critical time in your teen’s life. During these four years, your son or daughter will become more independent, form their own beliefs, and start to live out their values. You want them to be surrounded by positive role models, meaningful friendships, and opportunities to have fun in their final years of grade school. At the same time, college is right around the corner, and planning for the future is at the top of your mind.
You may be wondering if your child’s current school offers the right environment for these ever-important years. As you explore your options and search for the right fit for your family, here are some key questions to ask:
Who will be teaching my child?
The influence that teachers have over their students cannot be overstated. Even teens who look up to their parents will begin searching for additional adult role models with unique life experiences and perspectives. As you explore school options, ask questions about what the administration looks for in teachers. See what you can find out about their beliefs, values, and personal stories, as well as how they invest in their students’ lives.
What opportunities will my child have to grow in his or her walk with the Lord?
You’ve spent years sharing biblical truth with your child, but you know that they cannot take your faith as their own. You want them to experience spiritual growth and a personal walk with Jesus. This is accomplished by taking Scripture and Life classes, having meaningful discussions with spiritual mentors, worshiping in community with other believers, and serving as the hands and feet of Jesus.
How will my child be influenced by peers?
No parent can guarantee that their child will never experience negative peer pressure; however, you can talk to school leaders, other parents, and members of the community about the social atmosphere at each school you’re considering. Look for an environment where your child can build authentic friendships based on shared interests, rather than being distracted by popularity contests or unhealthy cliques.
What tools will my child be given to prepare for college?
College admissions are becoming more and more competitive, with the best schools looking for excellence in academics, involvement in extracurricular activities, and evidence of community service. A good high school will have a solid guidance department and advanced curricular opportunities or dual enrollment. There will also be a system in place to help students balance both academic and extracurricular commitments without becoming overwhelmed.
How will my child be equipped to live in today’s complex world after graduation?
Teenagers have big questions and need to be surrounded by adults who can help them make sense of the world. When biblical truth is integrated into all subject areas and activities at school, students understand how God’s word is living and active, and can be applied to life’s challenges. During a season when so many teens walk away from their faith, developing a strong biblical worldview provides a strong foundation for life beyond high school.
Learn More About Concordia Academy
Now that you know the questions to ask, we'd love a chance to answer them for you! Please download a copy of our Parent Info Packet to learn more about our Christ-centered high school program, extracurricular opportunities, and college prep. When you’re ready, we’d love to talk with you and help plan your visit to campus. Email us or call 651-796-2679 to set up your tour!
The Case for Cohorts — Bringing Career Prep to the High School Arena
Meet three high school students:
Kiara knows she wants to be a doctor. From a young age, she was fascinated by how the human body functions and heals, and had a strong desire to take care of those around her.
Ethan loves art and has been doodling in his notebook since he was a kindergartner. He knows he wants to use his creativity in a meaningful career, but wants to explore multiple fields.
Jack is just starting to evaluate his strengths and interests. He knows he enjoys connecting with others and wants to make a difference in people's lives, but he hasn’t thought much about how that might translate into a career.
Each of these teens is on a trajectory to a bright future! Whether your child knows exactly what career they want to pursue or is just beginning to explore their strengths and interests, they are on the right track. High school is the prime time for students to evaluate their unique strengths, talents, and passions, and to start turning these into tangible skills.
Concordia Cohorts were designed to help them do just that, maximizing their potential in high school, college, and beyond. Based on their interests and goals, juniors and seniors have the option to join cohorts in the following areas:
- Fine Arts
5 Key Benefits of Cohorts
1. Students have the opportunity to go deeper into content that is meaningful to them.
Every child needs foundational knowledge across all core subjects, but by the time they’re in high school, it’s easy to tell which subjects matter most to them. This is why high school is the optimal time to provide students with choice and voice in their education. Students who join a cohort focused on their favorite subject matter develop deeper knowledge and tangible skills for a likely career path, all while maintaining a zest for learning.
2. Students develop friendships with like-minded peers.
There’s something special about relationships that are founded on shared interests, and cohorts provide students with opportunities to make new friends. Students who are passionate about the same things can enjoy rich conversation, spend time together working on shared projects, and keep each other motivated while moving toward specific goals.
3. Students are mentored by adults who can guide them as they pursue future opportunities.
High school students all have one thing in common — they want to feel known, heard, and valued. When students join a cohort, it allows their teachers to better understand their unique passions and creates opportunities for authentic mentorship. As students spend more time with the same teachers who are passionate about the same things, they feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Through monthly Cohort Conversations, they also get to network with industry experts who can help them identify future opportunities and inspire them about what’s possible. These lunchtime gatherings have featured many expert guests, including from 3M, Concordia University, the Guthrie Theatre, and Preemptive Love, a global humanitarian organization.
4. Students get real-life training in project management.
In each cohort, the Senior Capstone Project is the result of hours of planning, time and project management, collaboration, and creativity. Throughout their senior year, students shape their Senior Capstone project, which looks different for each cohort:
Arts - presented as a gallery exhibit or a public performance.
STEM - research project and paper designed for and entered into competition through the Twin Cities Regional Science Fair (TCRSF) organization.
Humanities - student research is presented in a public exhibition.
5. Students become more competitive for college, internship, and job opportunities.
A focused high school education allows students to get a jumpstart on their resumes by building relevant experience early. Even if a student completely changes their mind about their career path, there is still value in receiving hands-on experience and training prior to graduation. Being a part of a cohort provides the type of meaningful learning and universal skill-building that colleges and future employers are looking for.
Learn more about how Concordia Cohorts can open doors for your teen, and plan on attending our Winter Open House on February 10, 2022! If you have any questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 796-2679.