Reading and Writing…and Christian Values

Story by Kelsey Boyd

Growing up in school, children are taught basic reading, spelling, writing, math, science, and social skills. They learn how to add and subtract, write complete sentences, spell correctly and interact properly with other students.The Community Christian School, located in Russellville, takes learning a step further, educating the minds and souls of each of its students.

In fact, CCS has served children and parents in the River Valley for around 20 years. The school has seen many changes in the past two decades, including changes in its name, enrollment, and location, but the Christian principles on which the school was founded remain constant.

Currently, 61 students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade pay tuition to attend CCS which is housed in First Baptist Church.

Anice Tedford was chosen to serve as principal of CCS at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year. According to Anice, CCS is not affiliated with a particular denomination but teaches Christian students from a number of churches and religious backgrounds from around the community.

“The focus is Christian education with God as the center,” said Anice. “Not only do we strive to have excellent curriculum…but we also teach children about God and all the gifts that He gives us.”

Anice believes in building relationships with her students, and at the beginning of each school day, stands outside to greet the children as they arrive.

“That’s one of the things I wanted to do as an administrator so that I would get to know all the children,” she added.

The first activity of the day for CCS students is a morning devotional, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements. The students then split up according to grades and head toward their classrooms to begin their schoolwork.

Students’ academics at CCS are the same as those taught at public schools. Children are involved in the same standardized testing procedures, core curriculum and activities as students in public schools. CCS offers classes for art, music, physical education and Spanish. Many of the children participate in outside sports including Upward basketball, gymnastics and softball.

In addition to their core subjects, the students also have a Bible curriculum, and for 30 minutes a day, all grades study the Bible according to the Association of Christian Schools International curriculum.

Anice explained how teachers at CCS study secular textbooks and, when writing lesson plans, integrate Christian teachings into their lessons, showing students how their learning material impacts them as Christians.

This year, CCS has five teachers. Tawnya Motley teaches pre-kindergarten, Lori Ball teaches kindergarten, Amanda Fong teaches first grade, Heather Olson teaches second and third grades, and Becky McVay teaches fourth and fifth grades. Two other individuals have unique teaching roles at the school—Mrs. Konkel and Mrs. Utley, both of whom are grandmothers of students. The women drop their grandchildren off in the morning and stick around during the day to assist teachers. Mrs. Konkel and Mrs. Utley are known affectionately as the school’s “Grannies.”

“They are invaluable to us,” Anice said, “I really appreciate their help.”

Anice also acknowledged the help of former teacher Debra Aylesworth. Debra serves as Anice’s assistant, helping with daily tasks and keeping the school running smoothly.

“She helps a lot around the school and is very active in the community” Anice said.

All teachers at CCS have earned their teaching certifications and even participated in an extensive staff development program this school year. The program instructed teachers in Arkansas history, helped begin the Accelerated Reader program at CCS, and even taught the teachers CPR. CCS is in the process of becoming accredited by the Arkansas Association of Nonpublic Schools and is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International.

As explained in its mission statement, CCS has long been “committed to educating the minds and touching the hearts of students by upholding God’s Word as the standard for a lifetime of living and learning.” It was this purpose statement that convinced Anice to come to CCS.

Before serving as the school’s principal, Anice taught pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and special education students for 30 years. She also coached students as a reading specialist. A native Arkansan, she and her husband, Dr. Bruce Tedford of the Physical and Life Sciences Department at Tech, traveled to and lived in a number of places, including California, Louisiana and even South America. Anice and her family settled in Baton Rouge while her husband worked on his Ph. D.

Despite their many expeditions, the Tedford family’s goal was always to come back to Arkansas.

And eventually, they did.

After moving home, Anice taught fourth grade at Crawford Elementary School for five years, then joined the staff at CCS as principal. Presently, she is working on her degree in administration at Tech and jokes “I can’t get out of school!”

Her favorite part of being an administrator at CCS is being with the children.

“I really enjoy going into the classrooms and being able to work with kids,” she said. “One of the things I like to do is go in and read books,” which is something she does on a regular basis.

Anice also oversees the school’s governing board which is comprised of seven parents of current and former students who represent all grades. They meet once a month to determine policy and to make plans for the school.

Buddy Babb serves on the school’s governing board. He and his wife Jasa are parents of Leighton, a fourth grader, and Reece, a second grader. Buddy and Jasa are confident in the school’s Christian teachings and close-knit environment.

According to Buddy, he and Jasa enrolled their children in CCS in order to “give them more of a Christian foundation” in their childhood. He said Leighton and Reece “really do look forward to getting up and going to school in the mornings.”

Jasa is particularly pleased with CCS’ teachers and their close relationships with the students. After hearing how the teachers were chosen based on a passion for Christ, children and teaching, she was convinced CCS was the right place for Leighton and Reece.

“I have seen both of my kids excel there,” she said. “At this point, we can’t imagine going anywhere else.”

This year, the school is in a growing stage. CCS expanded its enrollment during the 2007-2008 year to include three-year- olds in pre-kindergarten.

“Next year, we’re looking to add teachers and grades,” Anice said.

Her goals for CCS in the future are continued growth, a building for the school and a sustained positive influence in the Russellville community. She wants to provide an alternative for parents in considering where to send their children to school.

Anice is encouraged by the supportive environment at CCS and wants to share it with new students. In summing up her attitude toward the school, Anice said, “It’s a community feeling. I know all the children, I know their parents…it’s a home.”

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