Episode Show Notes
In this episode, Mike sits down with Lower School Principal and Assistant Principal, Hannah Park, to talk about spiritual development and the chapel theme: Attributes of God.
Mike Siciliano, Upper School Dean of Students, has a long history with Sante Fe Christian, sitting in several roles including alumnus, US history teacher, and football coach. As a student, Siciliano felt he had teachers and coaches who personally invested in him and made a huge difference in his life. Now, he tries every day to continue that legacy for current SFC students, live up to the standard his teachers set for him, and have a lot of fun.
Hannah Park, Lower School Principal, is in her ninth year as principal at SFC. With an MA in Education Administration and Curriculum Design, a BS in Public Administration plus California Administration and Multi-Subject Teaching credentials, Mrs. Park is well prepared to lead SFC’s Lower School. She was also an Assistant Principal at a prep school and has taught in all grades K–6 in both public and private schools. During her tenure, SFC’s Lower School was awarded the Exemplary High Performing National Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education for 2011, a five-year designation.
00:00:00 – Introductions
00:00:52 – What went into choosing Attributes of God as the current chapel theme
00:04:06 – What the program looks like for children in the Lower School
00:08:20 – Discussion about the Foursquare issue
00:11:44 – Each class takes a turn with chapels
00:12:25 – Why it is important for Santa Fe students to have a deep knowledge of what is holy
00:14:30 – Whether or not a student matriculating out of the Lower School can understand the standard of holiness to aim for
00:17:19 – Discussion regarding transitioning from public school to private school for Hannah
00:20:48 – Discussion about the Upper School having won the fire drill for the first time in a long while
00:22:21 – What it is like for the Lower School to be the K-12 bridge
Mike Siciliano [00:00:07] Welcome back to another episode of our Eagle Perspective Podcast. I am Mike Siciliano, Dean of Students of the Upper School. I’m joined today by Lower School Principal, Hannah Park.
Hannah Park [00:00:16] Thank you for having me.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:17] We are so glad that you are here. You’ve been at Santa Fe for how long?
Hannah Park [00:00:20] I’m starting my 16th year.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:23] Okay. Not that we’re counting, but you are the longest-tenured principal.
Hannah Park [00:00:27] That’s scary.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:29] You have bragging rights over Matt and Todd. Excellent.
Hannah Park [00:00:34] I do lord that over them. I’m pretty sure it’s not biblical, but it’s okay.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:38] But it feels good. I’ll say, too, you are one of the most beloved people on campus. Everybody in the Lower School says that working for Hannah Park is a joy.
Hannah Park [00:00:50] Well, thank you.
Mike Siciliano [00:00:52] One of the favorites on campus, for sure. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about spiritual development. This year in the Lower School your chapel theme is the Attributes of God. What went into picking that, and what are you hoping to do with that as a theme?
Hannah Park [00:01:08] Yeah. This is something that’s been on my heart, and it’s been moving on my heart for a while. Not just me, but the Lower School faculty as a whole. Typically, the Lower School chapel is on a theme, one theme. Last year was trust and obey. All the chapel presentations had to do with a story from the Bible or perhaps a situation that the kids are going through related to trusting and obeying the Lord. Felt like the thing to do last year. But what ends up happening is the answer just becomes trust and obey. They heard it. They know the answer, also. So, any question we asked them, trust and obey, trust and obey. It stops having any kind of meaning in their heart. Working with that I started thinking about okay, what do we want to really focus on? Bottom line, it’s their heart transformation. How do you have heart transformation? That started this long conversation that it started with a man, then me. What are we going to do? Literally, we were sitting there for hours going through topics and thinking about this. Pops in Mrs. Bruner. She happened to be on campus.
Mike Siciliano [00:02:38] Full disclosure, my daughter’s teacher this year. By the way, having a first grader, there is value to trust and obey as a chapel theme. Let me just tell you. We benefited from that little bit.
Hannah Park [00:02:50] That’s good. Mrs. Bruner shows up. She’s, “What are you guys doing?” We told her what we were doing. She said, “I’ve been struggling with that, as well.” She tells me that she’s currently reading Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. That did it. That started the spark. We started talking about the attributes of God. Really, if the children understood who God is, then it starts answering lots of other questions. If you were to ask a child, “Who is God?” they will give you he is the creator of all things, Jesus’s father. Pretty much that’s God. God is God, Lord.
Mike Siciliano [00:03:38] The guy who decides where you go when you die.
Hannah Park [00:03:42] Right. Everything is just another definition of the word God. What we really want the children to understand is who God is. If they knew the attributes, then we can bounce off of that idea to introduce different topics. That’s how we came about the attributes of God.
Mike Siciliano [00:04:06] I’m struck by a couple things in that one. I think most people probably don’t understand how much thought, and time, and prayer goes into things like a chapel theme or really, just the whole spiritual program here. Obviously, it’s God’s school and his program, but you in the Lower School have put a ton of work into all the things we do really intentionally. I’m sitting here also struck by… There was a pastor. His name’s Aaron Cameron. He’s actually a Santa Fe graduate. We went to his church for a long time, and he’s had a huge impact on me. I think I was 31 when he asked me this question: what’s your favorite thing about Jesus? It’s a little bit of the same thing of typically, when people ask me that, giving the rote spiritual, intellectual answer rather than well, what are the attributes of Jesus that I actually enjoy the most, more of the relationship piece. I love this as a parent that you’re doing this. What does this look like in chapel for Lower Schoolers with the attributes of God?
Hannah Park [00:05:14] First of all, this is huge, but it’s heavy. How do we bring it down to a six-year-old, a seven-year-old? When we started researching different ways to bring it to the children, we found this other fantastic book. This one was created by two moms who really wanted to teach this to their children. They wrote this based off of this book. Everything just started rolling.
Mike Siciliano [00:05:46] Real quick, just because a lot of our listeners are listening on Spotify or Apple Music. When you said this book…
Hannah Park [00:05:52] Sorry. This other book is called The Attributes of God, as well, and it’s written by Linda White. Oh, I’m sorry. It’s called Attributes of God for Kids, and it’s written by Linda White. The way this works, and our teachers have this… I’ll give you an example. Last Sunday… Last Sunday because it’s chapel. Last Wednesday on campus it was Mrs. Julie Johnson’s class, and they presented the attribute of omniscient. Big word, omniscient. What does it mean? She presented it by having a couple of the teachers come up, and they played a game. She initially asked them a couple knowledge questions: two plus two, what’s the capital of California types of things. Then she asked them, “How am I feeling?” They had to answer them. They got it wrong. She asked them, “How many scars have I had?” They all got it wrong. She didn’t know the answer. That led to God knows all things, and because God knows all things, he knows what you need, what I need as a parent, as a teacher, as a friend. He will provide all things for me because he is all-knowing. She just did an incredibly beautiful job connecting this attribute of our God to how, then, it translates for a child. After that chapel, I came out, and I had a conversation with a fifth-grade teacher. They’re currently studying the constellation. The question was: now that you know that the Lord is all-knowing, how does this affect your study of the stars? It just started sparking these beautiful ideas and conversations among us. If we’re excited about it and we’re talking about it, weaving it into our curriculum, then it, of course, affects the children, because they get to see it from a different perspective. I changed my strategy yesterday because the big Foursquare issue that we’re having right now. Fantastic.
Mike Siciliano [00:08:20] Working in the Upper School, sometimes I get jealous of what your big issues are. The Foursquare issue is the big issue. Let’s get…
Hannah Park [00:08:28] What I’ve always said is it’s the same heart sin.
Mike Siciliano [00:08:33] Sure. Absolutely.
Hannah Park [00:08:33] It’s just simplified so it’s easy to see. It doesn’t make it complicated, then. Foursquare. We’re having issues. I just walked into the classroom. We’re just talking. I really, actually, wanted the children to understand that we get to play, we get to have fun. This is fantastic. You guys are growing. Your bodies are getting stronger. You’re getting smarter. As you get stronger and smarter, you also have more responsibility with those skills and those gifts. What they were doing was now they’re teaming up and targeting, of course. You knew that was coming. I was able to talk about last week our attribute that we studied was about God being omniscient, that he is all-knowing, and he knows what we need. Doing this, where you’re scheming and trying to trick others, that isn’t from the Lord. That’s not the way he wants us to operate. He wants us to treat one another with love. All the other attributes need to also be represented in this. He already knew that you guys were going to probably do this. Maybe that was the reason why we had this as chapel, why we can use that sometimes. We were able to weave it into curriculum as well as their behavioral issues that they were having. It’s hitting it in a different level. The other aspect of this that I… Of course, I knew, but I had that oh, my goodness moment when I was reading Tozer’s book that his attributes exist all together all the time. God is loving. That doesn’t mean he’s just going to let things slide. He’s loving. God is loving. He’s also just…
Mike Siciliano [00:10:34] At the same time.
Hannah Park [00:10:35] At the same time.
Mike Siciliano [00:10:36] Even in our jobs it’s hard to sometimes think of this, but we can actually do those things at the same time. Proof that it’s possible.
Hannah Park [00:10:45] Right. That really resonated when we were studying it. We were unpacking it, and dissecting it, and trying to figure out how do we present it to the children. I think it’s been pretty good. We’ve had—what, now—all of October and September chapels. We will reconvene as a staff probably during our November faculty meeting to really assess and maybe even do a quick little assessment within the classroom just as a conversation of first of all, how many attributes do you remember, and what does that mean? Has it impacted you in any way?
Mike Siciliano [00:11:31] I can’t wait for my daughter to come home and tell me, “Dad, I’m omniscient now. So, you can’t tell me what to do anymore.” No. I was about to say she’d never do that, but I’m going to not say that.
Hannah Park [00:11:42] Never say never. They surprise us.
Mike Siciliano [00:11:44] I don’t think she’ll do that. You’ve talked a lot about chapel, and you mentioned a particular teacher that was up there doing one. If I understand correctly, the classes each take a turn with chapels. Is that right?
Hannah Park [00:11:56] Yes. Every single class will have their opportunity to come up and present. We’ve already had Mrs. Nixon’s class, Miss Keck’s class, Mr. Gambleson’s class. He did it on God is unchanging, and then he did a great video lesson that he did in his classroom. Videotaped the lesson, because it was messy, and then he showed the video to the students. We’ve already addressed a couple of these, and we’ll continue.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:25] Yeah. Just real quick going back to A. W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, why is it important for our kids to have a deep knowledge of what is holy?
Hannah Park [00:12:36] Oh, gosh, that’s an excellent question.
Mike Siciliano [00:12:39] Like I always say, I have one job here, Hannah: to ask questions. That’s it. I’m done.
Hannah Park [00:12:46] Oh, you’re done. Why is it important for our children to know his holiness? I think it gets to the core of who do we believe in, who is God. He is set apart from us. If he is holy, we are not. He is the creator; we are the creation, and that being set apart from God is a very important distinction, because the only way we can get back to the Lord is through the blood of Jesus Christ. That connection for the kids… We always talk about… We throw out these terms: what would Jesus do, be like Christ. What does that mean, be like Christ? Can you really be like Christ? That’s a pretty high mark, and it turns into this works thing very quickly in our society. I’ve done this many service projects; I’ve given…
Mike Siciliano [00:13:55] Or I’ve never done X, Y, Z.
Hannah Park [00:13:58] Yes. It’s the omission of perceived sin. Really, against God, we have all sinned. We are not holy. There’s only one true holy God. That being set apart is an important knowledge for the kids to understand and that there is only one way that we can go back to the Lord. That is by the blood of Jesus Christ, not because we’ve done anything. But because he’s holy, he loves us, and he’s all-knowing.
Mike Siciliano [00:14:30] Which doesn’t change that we want to strive for holy, even though we know we can’t get there. A fifth-grader, by the time they’re through the Lower School, can they understand that? Can they get this idea of we have the standard of holiness that we want to shoot for, but we’ll never make it, but thankfully, because of the blood of Christ, he redeems us?
Hannah Park [00:14:51] I would hope that they can understand their need for redemption, their need for salvation. Will they fully articulate it in some of those terminologies? Maybe not. Some may. Some get it in primary grade. A couple of our theologians come from the mouth of babes, for sure. But to understand the need for redemption is there for some. It’s a journey.
Mike Siciliano [00:15:23] Even as I asked the question, I’m sitting here like, “Well, do I fully understand this?” That’s a lifelong journey to really feel, and I don’t know that we ever fully grasp it.
Hannah Park [00:15:35] I think that’s also the beauty of being here, for me, is my faith has grown so much more being at Santa Fe, working at Santa Fe, because I’m doing life with my friends and colleagues, and we challenge each other with the conversations we’re having. I had a conversation with a teacher who told me that she went to her doctor, got her regular checkup, and one of the numbers didn’t show up on her report. She immediately thought, “Oh, my gosh. Something’s wrong. I’m going to get a call.” This anxiety just overwhelmed her. The chapel that day was God is all-knowing. That’s the conversation we had where, “God, what am I anxious about? He’s all-knowing.” I’m telling the children this, and I have to live it myself. When you have those moments, and you are walking this faith walk with your friends, and challenging each other, and supporting each other, it, of course, helps you grow closer to God.
Mike Siciliano [00:16:47] I have to say it’s one of the neat things about working here is weekly chapel, and devotions and all these opportunities to grow alongside our students. It’s pretty neat. Along those lines, Santa Fe was your first time in Christian education. Is that correct?
Hannah Park [00:17:05] Correct. My last school was an Episcopal school. We had more of a… Faith was talked about in a bigger context.
Mike Siciliano [00:17:14] Yeah. Okay. You worked in the public sector?
Hannah Park [00:17:18] In public school before that.
Mike Siciliano [00:17:19] What’s that transition been like for you to go from public sphere, an a religious sphere where you couldn’t really talk about that, to Episcopal setting, to now Santa Fe where it’s the centerpiece of everything?
Hannah Park [00:17:35] I can see God’s hand as he led me through the different settings. In the public schools, of course, it’s a big system. I understood the big school system. Working at a private school it’s important for you to also understand what the public school counterparts are doing. Understood that. Moving into the independent school world, the biggest difference between the public and the independent school world was the focus on a mission. The school has a mission, and it’s distinct for that particular school. Everything for that school has to line up to that mission. For that independent school I worked at, that was a big change because in the public schools it was more about just standards, and curriculum, and things like that. Then from there to come to Santa Fe, I really thought that it was going to be very similar to my independent school experience. But it’s just so much more because we don’t just have a school mission that we follow. We’re doing that together as a school, but we have a single-minded, heart-connected life mission that we all subscribe to. Huge difference. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation at Santa Fe where we ended with, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” I don’t think that’s ever happened, because it’s important that we come to a place of understanding and show grace and empathy. Ultimately, we agree. We agree on the truth. That was the biggest difference. When I have conversations with parents, as well, it’s the same thing. We’re raising the kids together. We’re doing this life together. It’s a form of ministry. That truly was the change that I did not expect. Naively didn’t expect it. I thought, “Oh, it would be great. It’s going to be a religious school. We’ll sing songs.” It was almost like there was this separation, this dualism thing happening, where you’ve got the secular world, and then you’ve got the sacred world. You teach math, which is considered areligious to some people, and then you add maybe we’ll pray before we teach math. Then all of a sudden…
Mike Siciliano [00:20:25] How different could it really be?
Hannah Park [00:20:26] No.
Mike Siciliano [00:20:27] It is.
Hannah Park [00:20:28] Oh, my gosh. God created the numbers; he created the order. He gave us that knowledge so that we can know more about him and his creation. That was the bigger change.
Mike Siciliano [00:20:42] He shared some of his omniscience with us.
Hannah Park [00:20:47] Yeah. Big difference.
Mike Siciliano [00:20:48] I think a lot of people who come here, from the public sector especially, are surprised by how pervasive—really, and we shouldn’t be—how powerful the Holy Spirit’s presence is here and how unifying that is. Even within our competitiveness. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that for the first time in a long time I think the Upper School won the last fire drill. Am I right about that? Can you refresh my memory on that?
Hannah Park [00:21:16] I need to look into the camera to say this. But here’s the thing.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:21] There’s not going to be an excuse right now?
Hannah Park [00:21:24] Oh, no, no, no. There’s an explanation, however. The reason why the Lower School did not get first place in 15 years is because it was an Upper School student who pulled the trigger.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:36] It was a Middle School student. Let’s be clear about that.
Hannah Park [00:21:39] It was a Middle School student who pulled the fire alarm. Our teacher saw him do it. Because she knew that he did it, she knew it was not a real fire.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:52] That was the right decision?
Hannah Park [00:21:56] No.
Mike Siciliano [00:21:56] All of our teachers made the right decision. I’m just pointing that out. We got breakfast burritos for that.
Hannah Park [00:22:03] Did you really?
Mike Siciliano [00:22:04] Yeah. I should thank that teacher.
Hannah Park [00:22:05] Oh, my goodness. That’s fantastic.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:06] It’s rare that the Upper School wins a fire drill. You guys are good at the line-up, march around, sit up, stand down. For us that’s hard. Highlight of the year so far.
Hannah Park [00:22:18] That’s good. We aim to please.
Mike Siciliano [00:22:21] Yeah. Well, in all seriousness, you guys do an incredible job down there in the Lower School. I get to be the beneficiary when these kids come to high school of having been already so deeply versed in things like the fruits of the spirit. It’s a fun partnership. I’m curious for you. You have kids that come in kindergarten, and then 13 years later you see them walk across the stage at graduation, or you run into them later during their high school time when they’re with us. What is that like for you to be that K-12 bridge, really? You get the full experience of that.
Hannah Park [00:22:59] It’s so fun to see our high school kids. I actually had a ninth-grader come to me. I didn’t recognize him immediately, because, gosh, they change a lot.
Mike Siciliano [00:23:11] They change. They change quite a bit.
Hannah Park [00:23:12] First of all, they’re way taller, although truth be told, they passed me by in fifth grade. It’s not that big of a stretch to pass me by. To have them come back, their demeanor almost changes. I watched them with their friend, and then when they come to say hi to me, they’re like back in kindergarten. There’s a softness that shows up, which is so fun to watch. It is really exciting. For me, there’s nothing better for Lower School teachers than to watch these children, because if you’re just in elementary school, you only see them until fifth grade, and then they disappear. You actually don’t get to see this huge growth that happens. The child that struggles to sit down in first grade…
Mike Siciliano [00:24:09] Or struggles to read.
Hannah Park [00:24:11] …or struggles to read is now off going to college doing amazing things. The kid that never stopped talking in class is now using that gift for something great for his school or her school. We get to see this play out. That’s what reminds us of how we should interact with our kids when they’re young. We never see a kindergartener as a kindergartener. We see that kindergartener as a kindergartner, a third-grader. What is she going to look like in eighth, and then how does she graduate out of Santa Fe? And then come back and visit, too. I have two graduates. When they come back, we are able to now journey back and talk about what was that experience like for you in 8th and 12th.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:04] You have at least one I can think of that’s now teaching.
Hannah Park [00:25:07] She’s not teaching yet.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:09] She’s not teaching? No, I mean, you have one on your teaching staff who is an alum who went through. Two.
Hannah Park [00:25:17] Yeah, two. Allison Miller just joined us. She’s teaching Spanish to K and 1. Then, Tara Flyckt is our second grade teacher, and she graduated from Santa Fe. Jassy Verdult is our instructional assistant, and she graduated from Santa Fe.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:32] They’re all doing an amazing job.
Hannah Park [00:25:35] Definitely. Last year we also had other alumni. Haven Deveau came back to help us. Allie Corsi came.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:43] Baylee Reynolds, I think, was there.
Hannah Park [00:25:45] Yes. Oh, my goodness. We could keep going.
Mike Siciliano [00:25:46] Which says a lot about their experience. I have to say, you do an amazing job. We’re just on the front end of it with our first grader and our preschooler. We’re already seeing the fruits of it. Thank you on behalf of so many. I can’t wait for us to win the next fire drill and make it back-to-back. Is it cheating if I pull my daughter as she’s running out to the field? Would that be frowned upon?
Hannah Park [00:26:15] You know what? It’s okay. We can let you win.
Mike Siciliano [00:26:19] Are we too competitive? Is that what you’re…?
Hannah Park [00:26:21] We can rise above that. We will win. I’ll just let you know.
Mike Siciliano [00:26:26] Okay. Well, we’ll see. Bring your A-game next time.
Hannah Park [00:26:30] Breakfast burrito it is.
Mike Siciliano [00:26:32] Okay. Deal. All right. Well, thank you, Hannah, for joining us. We’re thrilled to have you. Thank you once again to everyone who’s listening, watching, for listening to another episode of our podcast. We have other episodes. If it’s your first time, you can always check us out on Spotify, Apple Music, and on YouTube. If you haven’t seen any of the video podcasts, feel free to take a watch. We look forward to seeing you again soon.