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May: Finding Peace & Joy in the Perseverance

May, the “goddess of spring” according to Roman mythology; also derived from the flower name which references the hawthorn which blossoms in May.

For teachers, the month of May has many different meanings. It’s the final month. It’s the month where all has get finished. It’s the month of making sure students learned everything we ever intended to teach them and more, the month of end-of-the-year field trips, the month of awards and class parties, the month of field day and the last parent conferences, and the month all administrative matters have to be completed before walking out into the bright, shiny summer days of rest and relaxation.

For teachers, we can so easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle of finishing the year that we forget this is it, the last month to teach valuable lessons, to take care of bumps, bruises, and scrapes, to wipe tears and calm emotions from hurt feelings, to share in the joys, sorrows, and successes, to see the beaming faces of the children they’ve loved for seven months shine with excitement as they receive their awards, to watch them walk away – some to never see again – into the rest of their lives.

As May approached, I encouraged my own students to finish as strong as they started, but had I spoken the same encouraging words to myself?

I had allowed myself to become overwhelmed with the matters that needed to be finished that I had forgotten all it took to get to this point and how valuable it is to finish as strong as I had started. I was encouraged recently while in staff meetings and in my own personal prayer time to look at the month of May differently than in past years. Instead of seeing it as so little time to get things accomplished and finished, it was a time to slow down, pay attention, and be fully engaged in the last few moments I had with these precious young children. I had to find the joy and peace in the perseverance. It’s not hard to find them; it just requires looking at things with a different perspective.

Butterfly Perspective

I take refuge in what James said, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

It is my prayer that the students enter the next chapter in their lives having gained maturity from their faithfulness and find joy and peace in their perseverance.

~ Vanessa Robbins, Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher



Taking Kindness Outside of the Classroom Has Its Rewards

We have been looking for ways to show kindness in our classroom and I have been thrilled with what these little scholars have come up with – even down to giving a classmate a little Lego arm because “I knew he would like it.”  In conjunction with talking in Pre-K about ways we can show kindness to others, we have also been talking about pride. 

We have found out there are 2 basic types of pride:

  • the version we experience when we can rejoice in a job well done
  • the version we represent when we compare ourselves to someone else to try and make ourselves look better (remember – this is the Pre-K version). 

We decided to expand our “Let’s find ways to be kind in our classroom” to “Let’s find ways to show kindness around our school.”  As we were on the playground we noticed there were a lot of dead leaves and broken sticks on it. 

The question was asked,” Could we be kind and start to clean up the playground so it would look nice for everyone when they came to use it?”  The answer was a resounding YES!  We began spending a little time during each recess picking up leaves and sticks and before long we had bagged 7 big black trash bags of leaves and a trash can full of sticks. 

BCA K4 students extend kindness outside of the classroom and clean the campus.

BCA K4 students extend kindness outside of the classroom

Along the way we were able to feel the pride of accomplishing what at first looked like an enormous job as well as pride in how our playground now looked so nice.

What a great lesson to be able to learn when you are 5.

– Barbara Hammel, K-4 5 Day Teacher

BCA Students Take Kindness Outside of the Classroom and Clean the Campus and Experience the Pride of a Job Well Done

BCA Students Experience the Pride of a Job Well Done

BCA Students Experience Pride in a Job Well Done When They Helped Clean The Campus as Part of the Kindness Initiative

BCA Students Work Together To Clean The Campus as Part of the Kindness Initiative

BCA Students Working Together to Clean the Campus. The Kindness Initiative.

BCA Students Taking Kindness Outside of the Classroom to Make The Playground More Enjoyable for Everyone.



Choose KIND: Is it more important to be right, or be KIND?

In our society we’ve decided it’s A-Ok to be positively wicked to one another in the name of politics. Christians fight with fellow believers or (worse) with those who look to us to point to Jesus. We belittle and mock and snarl at one another through a screen. Then we go to church on Sundays and sing about Jesus’ love.

It’s appalling.

And, sadly, our kids reflect this desire—our innate, constant, basic desire to be RIGHT. I have it, for sure. I’m right. You’re wrong. Let me prove to you with insults and wit just how wrong you are. Have you ever been swayed by an argument that includes personal attacks? Ever? And, yet, we all use this tactic over and over. I’ve heard students fight over how to properly pronounce Star Wars character names.  I’m willing to fight over health care or immigration or taxes but not think twice about the kind of day a person is having or whether he or she knows Jesus.

Well, last fall I read a book that convicted me of this constant desire to be RIGHT. The book is called “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. The author encountered a very different-looking little girl outside an ice cream shop and instead of treating that girl and her mother as she would other people; she grabbed her kids and ran away. She ran away from what she didn’t understand. The child’s physical appearance was so startling to the author, she couldn’t handle it and she fled. While she left the situation, the situation did not leave her and her memory of that moment outside the ice cream parlor prompted her to write “Wonder.”

Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Wonder by R.J Palacio – You Can’t Blend In If You Were Born to Stand Out

The story follows a little boy who has a couple chromosomes out of place and the result is a lifetime of surgeries, near death ailments and the looks of “a monster.” He attends school for the first time as a 5th grader. The story is told mostly through his eyes though others jump in once in a while for a different perspective.

One of his teachers shares this precept, “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose KIND.”

These words stuck with me in a powerful way though ultimately they are only a small part of the book’s message.

I’m reading this special book with our 4th and 5th graders right now. We’re discussing hard topics like friendship, prejudice, fear, birth defects, death and betrayal. It’s not always pretty. We disagree from time to time but books, really good books, do that to people. They make us think and feel as we haven’t before. They make us contemplate our actions and check ourselves:

“Is it more important to be RIGHT or does this situation call for being KIND?”

When we’re done reading it, you’re welcome to borrow BCA’s copy. Or take yourself to the public library and grab one. Our nation seems so divided, so busy being RIGHT but perhaps we can all learn from a children’s book about the importance of being KIND. Imagine the difference that would make!

Pledge to Choose Kind

Pledge to Choose Kind-ness instead of Right-ness

– Lisa Wellman, Librarian

Building a Kindness Tree: Instilling Habits of Kindness

I came across a blog recently by Kristina Sargent, a mental health therapist who works with children and families.  Her topic was “Growing Hearts of Kindness” and with Valentine’s Day coming up I was intrigued.  I had also been reflecting on the little acts and words of kindness that seemed all around me growing up and realized how much I missed them. 

These were things like seeing my dad open the car door for my mom (yes, we did have cars when I was little).  Could she have opened her own door – of course!  But I remember thinking how nice that was and later realizing it was an act of love and caring.  I remember people always offering to help whether it was carrying a bag of groceries or giving up a seat on the bus for someone older.  I remember hearing kind words and always a please and thank you response.

Then I started to think,  are we just so very busy now that we overlook these things in our quest to get on to the next task before us?  And just how do we go about teaching kindness?  

Ms. Sargent went on to say that she uses specific labeled praise during her therapy sessions.  Intriguing… so I continued to read and found some great suggestions.  Now, when I see one of my little friends saying or doing something kind, I quickly try to point it out – “Fred, I saw you help your friend clean up the crayons he dropped and you weren’t even using any of them.  That was so kind of you!  I bet you made Fred feel very happy when you did that.” Not only is the act praised, but also pointing out the feelings of the person receiving the kind act is important to reinforce.   I have also added a “Kindness Tree” on one of our walls.  The students get specific recognition for what they have done.  It has a label – it was kind – and to top it off, they get a heart with their name on it to add to our tree.  At the end of the day, they can take the heart home and Mom and Dad can see and praise them for their choice.

I am specifically using the word “kind” rather than nice because I think is has more meaning.  It also gave us an opportunity to talk about what “kind” would look like.  We have only been doing this for a few days, but already I have seen my little friends look for ways to be kind or say something kind to a classmate.  We are building habits of kindness in K-4.

– Barbara Hammel, K-4

Kindness Trees

Bannockburn Christian Academy instilling kindness in our junior scholars

BCA’s Physical Education Program

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.


At Bannockburn, PE class is a time for fun and exercise!  At each stage of development, students learn to understand movement and the importance of physical activity for enjoyment, health, and social interaction. 

Pre-K and Kindergarten

In pre-K and kindergarten, students focus on locomotor skills (running, jumping, hopping) and non-locomotor skills (bending, stretching, twisting) as well as general spatial awareness.  Students advance in their ability to operate in their own personal space with greater body control through teamwork and physical activities.  It is exciting to watch students at this stage become increasingly aware of their strength, endurance, and flexibility!

1 – 2 Grade

In 1st and 2nd grade, students are more engaged with eye/hand/foot coordination and begin learning vocabulary and function of specific skills for each activity (games, sports, etc.) through focused learning and practice.  The concept of developing a lifestyle of physical activity and healthy eating has been introduced to students as well.  While 1st grade students are developing greater body control, 2nd grade students are gaining more mature form in locomotive skills. 

3 – 5 grade

In 3rd through 5th grade classes, based on the foundation of fully understanding locomotor and non-locomotor skills, students develop mature body management and balance with greater strength, endurance, and flexibility.  As students learn more about what it means to have Christ-like teamwork and sportsmanship, they have doors opened for them to enter into the world of complicated activities, dynamic games, and competitive sports.  At this level, students gain further understanding of safety and proper technique during physical exercise allowing them to develop fitness goals and exercise hobbies. 

In the end, students in PE at Bannockburn are able to safely run, play and enjoy as they develop physical knowledge and ability!

Shanshan Rothlisberger, Physical Education Director

Reading Buddies

Anyone who has known me for more than about five minutes knows I love to read.  In fact, I have been known to sit in the same chair virtually all day reading a good book (especially if my husband is traveling).  I keep at least one book with me at all times.  You never know when you might have a few minutes waiting at the post office or that really long traffic light as you drive home.  That is always good for at least a paragraph.


When my children were little we probably had more books in our house than some libraries.  They were always read to – in the morning, before dinner, at bedtime – you name it.  We would read at the drop of a hat.  When each of them was in first grade, my husband and I took turns reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them at bedtime.  I know it was a special time with them because when one of my son’s friends had his first child, Matthew wanted to get the Narnia series as a gift to give them.

Hammel2     Hammel3

Now I get the joy of reading to my little K-4 friends.  It doesn’t matter what we are reading – a brand new book or one we have read 5 times.  They get so excited!  The pictures – new words – guessing what comes next or remembering what comes next and being able to tell everyone else.  All these things are very exciting when you are 4 or 5 but are also very important components of reading (making connections, building vocabulary, making predictions, recall).  And they are catching that love of reading.

Hammel4     Hammel6

At Bannockburn Christian Academy, Ms. Robbins (the 5th grade teacher) has teamed up with our class to be our Reading Buddies.  Every Friday we go upstairs for the last 10 minute of school and pair up with a special 5th grade partner.  The kiddos listen with rapt attention as their “buddies” read stories picked out just for them.  What a wonderful gift these older students are giving – the time and attention of a “big kid”.  Whenever we see them away from the class, you will hear the excited calls of “Our Reading Buddies!” and “Hi Reading Buddy!” shouted enthusiastically.  And you can be certain this will be a very special memory not only for the little ones but also for the 5th grade students.

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Barbara Hammel, 3-day Pre-K

Fear and Faith

I was blessed to be born into a generational Christian family going back to my great-grandmother, Nettie Jewel Culpepper. Each generation of parents that followed new the importance of raising their family to know God’s ways and come to a personal relationship with Him. I accepted Christ when I was six knowing the decision I was making. I continued to grow in the Lord attending three different private schools through 7th grade.

From 8th grade through 12th grade I attended public school and found it challenging. My teen years were trying to my parents, but their love, support, and guidance in God’s ways brought me through a period of redemption.

I attended college at the age of 22 and began my teaching career when I was about 29. Through all of this I saw God moving in my life but I took Him for granted. He had always been there for me, which I believe was greatly a result of my mom’s and grandmother’s prayers over my life. I had not fully committed to walking with Him every day. I’m not naturally a fearful person. I consider myself to be pretty optimistic, but this last summer, that was tested.

I have also been very blessed to live in a large family, most of which live right here in Austin. I grew up doing everything with my family, and so much so with my cousins, that today, they are like siblings. We are a family of faith. We also have not had much death in our family. We had a few expected deaths of grandparents and great-grandparents, but we’ve only had one unexpected. We are grateful, but for me, I believe this played a big part in how I lost sight of God’s provisions for our family; that because of Him, we were blessed.

For the past few years, my dad had felt short of breath and weak, but he just assumed it was because he was getting older. Come last May, my parents took a trip to Colorado. Shortly after arriving, my dad had great trouble breathing. He of course told my mom, but not to the extent of how bad it was because he did not want to frighten her. They cut their trip short and came home. My dad later told my mom that he was trying to at least get her to Colorado Springs, where they have friends, because he thought he was going to die, and he wanted her to be near people she knew.

Thankfully, God sustained him, and they made it home. He felt better when he got home, mostly because of the elevation relief, but was still having trouble breathing. He took a stress test and failed. He then went on to have an angiogram.

That day everything changed, and fear I had never experienced before entered my life. My dad had always been the rock I knew him to be. He was NEVER sick. Really! He had never spent the night in the hospital and rarely took medication for anything, even for a headache. We thought at most, my dad would need a stint put in his heart. We waited patiently to hear from the doctor on the progress of the test. Then, the phone call came. They needed to take a closer look. We wanted to hold strong that all was okay, but silently we feared the worst.

We finally were able to see my dad and speak to the doctor. We were told my dad had heart disease with 80% blockage in his heart. I cannot express the emotions that came over me, or how I suppressed them for the sake of my mom. I didn’t want my emotion to cloud hers. I didn’t want her to fall apart because I had. I held it all in. I would hold it all in for quite some time. We all listened intently to the directions and recommendations of the doctor.

Within a week’s time, my dad was going in for triple bypass surgery. The fear I felt was overwhelming. We prayed and prepared and held to our faith that no matter what the outcome, God was in control. I had never prayed so much until then. I soon realized I had taken God for granted for all he had ever done for me and my family. This forced me to look back at my life and the lives of those closest to me and recognize just how much God was a part of moving in our lives, providing for us, protecting us. My dad was out of surgery in a little over an hour and was one of the quickest to recover that the nurses and doctors had ever seen. He is now doing very well. I was the most grateful I had ever been in my life.

It was not until Bobbi asked the teachers during inservice this past August to come prepared to share who or what was important in our lives, that I allowed myself to experience the emotions I had been holding in. When it came time for me to share what I was grateful for, I could barely speak through the tears that came pouring out. I expressed how I had taken God for granted and it took my dad almost dying to see how important it was to spend time with Him and in His Word.

It was never that God wasn’t there. I just failed to see Him. My greatest joy now is recognizing when God is with me, moving in my life in ways I could never do for myself, opening and closing doors according to His will, and simply His ever present presence in my life that brings the greatest peace.

Vanessa Robbins, 5th Grade

Pieces of the BCA Puzzle

The school office is a very busy place. It is where families have their first interaction with BCA. It is where students come if they need help or feel bad. Teachers come to get information or supplies. Parents come by to get answers to questions or to just visit. Jackets and water bottles come here to find their owners. It is a busy place.

As I sit at my desk in this office, I have a great view of the different pieces of the BCA puzzle. One part is the parent. Parents come to the front door at all times of the day. Some have a special way of entering which always gives me a laugh. (You know who you are!) These adults can be zany, but they have servant hearts. The varying gifts shared with our school are invaluable.

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A school and class without a leader would be chaos. That’s why we have a principal and teachers. I see them as the sides of the puzzle keeping the loose pieces from spilling out. Teachers spend a lot of time preparing lessons, organizing experiments, deciphering handwriting, and praying for the children in their classrooms. Our principal educates herself to be a better leader, answers so very many questions, and supports all of us in every way she possibly can.

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Every parent who comes into the school is looking for one thing – a safe place for the student they love to enter and receive an education in a loving, Christian environment. These students are the best part of the puzzle making up our school. They want to learn and wiggle and please and laugh and question and wiggle some more. They put the joy in my day.

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God is involved here, too. His hand created each individual and brought them together at this time in this place. He is moving the loose pieces around to their proper place. The amazing thing is that the image on our puzzle was known by God from the very beginning.

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Each day I look forward to seeing each new section being completed. With the amazing people God has brought together I can’t help but believe it will be a masterpiece.

Kim Graham, Administrative Assistant

Instructions for Life

Remember the test your teacher gave in which you had a long list of activities to complete in only three minutes? And then when the time was up, the teacher announced that the whole class failed? My fourth grade scholars took it, and every single one learned a valuable lesson about following directions. At the beginning of the test, they were told to read everything before answering anything, and then at the bottom of the test it said to only complete numbers one and two (read everything first and put name on paper). None of them got that far because they were too busy completing the activities they didn’t have to do!

Well, in case you cannot relate to that, everyone has a story of trying to put something together without the instructions, yes? Or perhaps you had the directions and refused to use them? No, I’ve never done that! My thoughts immediately jump to furniture from IKEA… it doesn’t come assembled as seen in the catalog or viewed in the black hole, I mean, store (ha ha). Navigating the instructions can make you want to jump ship, literally.

Thankfully, our God doesn’t make following directions that difficult. He neither leaves us without, nor does He make them confusing. My fourth graders learned this lesson in Bible class with a bunch of Legos. (Wait, what? Legos in Bible class?? Teaching a class of all fourth-grade students might seem daunting to some, but it’s also really rewarding and fun!) I gave the scholars matching sets of Legos and asked them to build a shipping tanker. Both groups had a picture, but only one group had instructions. I asked them to match the pictures as closely as possible.

Photo of “mission”:


Seems simple enough, right?

The group without instructions came up with this:

Granted, these students are self-professed Lego “Master Builders” and stated they made “modifications.”


The group with step-by-step instructions may not have built it exactly to specifications, but they were a LOT closer…


The point of the lesson in class that day was that having the instructions and the correct tools makes every task easier, and not having directions makes everything harder. (The no-instructions team still disputed this heavily, which then turned into a lesson of following God’s Way or our own way.)

Even though we have examples to follow, sometimes we might feel like we are still fourth graders when it comes to following God’s Instruction Manual, the Bible. Having the assembly instructions is vital, regardless of one’s ability to visualize and put things together! In 2 Timothy 3:16, God tells us His Word is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” We are weekly revisiting the importance of slowing down, re-reading the instructions, using the correct tools and completing our tasks. We are not perfect, but we are in training to live God’s Way. By looking to God’s Word, the Bible, every day, we can know we are living out the will of God and one day, the reward in heaven will be hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

By Shannon Johnson, 4th Grade


Character Awareness

In Second Grade, we are creating a classroom community with character awareness.  During our Morning Meeting, we began talking about how it feels when someone compliments you. We talked about how to give a good compliment.


When giving a compliment, you should be positive. You should be truthful; make sure you believe what you say. Try to be as specific as possible. Think about what you like or admire about the person. Consider the person’s strengths and talents. The discussion centered around paying attention to what the person says or does. The boys and girls came up with many adjectives that describe a person on the inside.

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Throughout the year, we will highlight a different character trait to develop. We will have slips of paper available for students to write down the good character traits they witness in each other.


Character traits that will be highlighted include:

  • Compassion – caring for others with kindness.
  • Integrity – Always doing the right thing even when no one else is watching.
  • Patience – Ability to remain calm and to wait for what you want.
  • Confidence – Freedom from doubt and believing in yourself.
  • Responsibility – Taking ownership of what you say and do.
  • Respect – Treating others with courtesy.  Having control over one’s actions.
  • Citizenship – Being loyal to your school, community, and country.
  • Self-Control – Having control over one’s actions, words and emotions.
  • Tolerance – Accepting differences and the uniqueness of others and celebrating the common ground we share.
  • Honesty – Being truthful in what you say and do.
  • Cooperation – Working together toward a common goal.
  • Perseverance – Demonstrating determination and commitment to complete a task.


Mary Ellen Erwin, 2nd Grade


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