Middle school is a pivotal time for children to grow in their faith, relationships, and sense of self. At Santa Fe Christian, teachers, staff, and coaches are devoted to the whole-person development of every student on campus.
Teachers at SFC care about more than academic instruction – they are mentors to their students. The mentorship model helps middle school students develop a strong foundation of faith, learn the truth of who God is, and discover who they are in relationship with Him.
SFC’s Middle School Principal, Dr. Todd Deveau, and Middle School Assistant Principal, Kristi Ellis, have each devoted over ten years to the middle school program at Santa Fe Christian. Therefore, they are both extremely familiar with the academic and personal challenges, hopes, and milestones of being a middle schooler. Dr. Deveau and Ms. Ellis share their experience of working alongside excellent faculty, enrolling their own children at SFC, and participating in all the fun that goes on at SFC’s Middle School.
What Are SFC’s Priorities for Middle School Students?
At Santa Fe, teachers intentionally develop strong, faithful young people through academics, retreats, special events, and a focus on mentorship. In turn, middle school students learn how to grow in a Christ-centered identity, become more confident in who they are made to be and develop a strong academic foundation for the years to come.
Forming Christlike Identities
As a Christian middle school, SFC keeps Christ at the center of all classes and student programs. From literature to geometry, students are encouraged to expand their understanding of the course content, and deeply consider how it relates to God and the world He created. Assistant Principal Ellis shares that the Middle School’s main goal is to help students develop their authentic identity in Christ. Ellis says, “it’s the mentorship of the teachers – pouring into them, recognizing their value and potential, and ultimately, developing their identity in Christ – that’s really what it’s all about.”
Students have daily opportunities to grow in their faith at SFC – opportunities that may be few and far between in public schools. As SFC teachers prioritize revealing the Lord through their subjects and modeling a faith-filled life, they encourage their students in their personal walk with the Lord. They begin to form their own understanding of their value as children of God. This is especially pivotal during the impressionable preteen years.
Developing a Sense of Security
The middle school years are some of the most formative years of childhood. Most children have yet to develop a strong sense of who they are, and more importantly, whose they are. Plus, the added pressures of social media make it challenging for middle schoolers to express their God-given personality confidently.
A primary goal of SFC’s Middle School teachers and staff is to help students recognize and develop security in their identity in Christ. Much of this identity work also occurs within peer groups as children’s relationships with their friends evolve and deepen. SFC strives to create an atmosphere of positivity and support for one another, where students are comfortable to share their unique gifts and interests.
According to Principal Dr. Deveau, one example of this congeniality is the Middle School’s Advisory Program, which provides students with ongoing mentorship and healthy peer relationships. “It has 11 to 14 kids per advisory and is single-gender. So, for example, our sixth-grade boys will have a male faculty member with whom they work daily, four days a week. They spend time diving into deep questions about their identity, playing games, and encouraging each other.”
Programs like this allow children to learn from adults whom they trust and receive guidance in navigating what can be a fickle time in their lives.
The partnership between parents and teachers also plays a huge role in helping children feel more secure. As Dr. Deveau explains, “Many parents have never had a sixth-grader before. We’ve had 25 years of them. So, we partner with parents – we walk alongside them, help them navigate this period, and help them communicate with their kids as they go through it.” Santa Fe Christian’s parent-partnership model begins in kindergarten and grows with each child’s maturation. The biblical call to collaborate with mothers and fathers creates a strong Christian community on campus, from which students benefit through their faith, personal development, and academic growth.
By the time children move on to Upper School, they must be ready to meet bigger scholarly challenges. Middle School prepares them with coursework that gradually increases in difficulty and rigor, teaching them to think critically and develop problem-solving skills.
While mastering the curriculum of each class and subject is important, SFC teachers also prioritize teaching students how to think. “We want our kids to think critically,” Dr. Deveau says. “It’s about being able to analyze and evaluate information to problem-solve creatively. The goal for Middle School is to transition into Upper School prepared and ready to think – not just memorize.”
Ms. Ellis adds that critical thinking skills have become increasingly important in the social media era, as children have endless feeds of bite-sized information at their fingertips. “There’s an increasing need for them to be able to look at something and think critically about it. Our teachers are aware of that changing landscape. It’s a hard one to catch, but we’re trying to help our kids be good stewards online with their thinking as well.”
What Electives Does SFC Offer for Middle Schoolers?
Santa Fe Christian offers over 40 distinct electives for Middle School alone. Along with standard options like language courses, there are many unique opportunities for students to learn about subjects they might never get to learn at any other time in their lives.
The electives SFC offers involving the arts include Acting, Drawing, Intro to Broadcast, Painting, and even Public Speaking with TED. Students who enjoy music can take electives like Choir, Battalion, Brigade, and US Concert Band.
SFC also offers some gender-specific electives in which students can focus on the physical gifts and talents that God gave them. Boys can choose Boys’ Action Packed PE Games, Boys’ Basketball PE, and Boys’ Football PE. For girls, electives include Girls’ Action Packed PE Games, Girls’ Beach Games, and Girls’ Identity & Sisterhood.
Students who love math and science can choose from electives like Marine Biology (a popular choice), STEM Robotics and Engineering, and Problem-Solving. For those passionate about design and technology, SFC electives include Movie Making, Graphic Design, Creative Writing, and Advanced Computer Coding.
Ms. Ellis and Dr. Deveau highlight other uncommon electives, including Current Events, Following Christ in our Cultural Moment, Foundation in Personal Finance, Yearbook, and Student Council. All of these electives are phenomenal choices for children who are interested in pursuing leadership.
SFC’s breadth of elective options allows kids to explore and develop their unique interests.
What Does Homework Look Like in Middle School?
Homework helps middle schoolers develop important study skills and habits necessary for high school success and beyond. It also reinforces the concepts and skills children learn in class, and, most importantly, it teaches them time management skills, responsibility, and self-discipline.
The amount of homework teachers assign at the Middle School level is commensurate with their students’ ages – about ten minutes of homework per grade level. That typically translates to about an hour of homework per night. Dr. Deveau’s Ph.D. dissertation emphasized that homework shouldn’t merely be busy work. According to his research, it needs to be meaningful and relevant and shouldn’t take an inordinate amount of time.
“Parents are the primary educators of students,” he says. “Homework shouldn’t take away from family time. That’s the most important thing.”
What Fun Opportunities Does SFC Provide for Middle School Students?
Between academics and extracurricular activities, the life of a well-balanced middle schooler also includes time for play, rest, and fun. Santa Fe Christian provides exciting opportunities like trips, retreats, and campus events to build school spirit and help students integrate into the campus community.
Trips and Retreats
SFC provides options for students to participate in several fun trips, community outreach expeditions, and grade-level retreats throughout their time in Middle School.
One popular example is the seventh-grade trip to Tuscon, Arizona. Seventh graders can sign up for a mission trip to Tucson, a city with one of the United States’ largest homeless populations. SFC seniors join the trip as well, most of whom participated in the same trip when they were seventh graders.
This particular trip is one of both faith and action. The work varies from direct ministry with kids in the adoption system to painting old chapels. Assistant Principal Ellis shares, “We do all kinds of incredible work. I always wish I could package it for parents so they could see just one day in Tucson because it’s the most spectacular light we get to see these kids in all year. They get to be independent and do hard, important work.”
Ms. Ellis says that encountering God’s people in other spaces and circumstances is incredible and life-changing. “These kids have never experienced anything like it. They come home transformed. And I would argue to say the adults come back just as transformed.”
Spirit-Filled Campus Events
Fun campus events at Santa Fe Christian build school pride and encourage students to be part of something bigger than themselves. School isn’t only about academic achievement. As Dr. Deveau puts it, “School needs to be fun! We want kids to want to come to school.”
SFC encourages students to take ownership in planning and organizing events and clubs. “We want our students to run the Middle School by creating leadership opportunities and making Christlike leaders,” says Dr. Deveau. “We have large groups of students – like Student Council and our Chapter Chapel Leadership Team – that get together and plan different, fun events.” He cites French Toast Day and Spirit Weeks as some of the past events these groups have helped produce.
Teachers often support students in these endeavors, creating a greater community atmosphere. Eighth-grade science teacher Missy Schick recently planned a chemical studies unit around concocting optimal dye to create tie-dye t-shirts for the Middle School’s Decade Day during spirit week. Choir and theater teachers coach and encourage students as they choose to participate in singing or speaking at Middle School’s weekly chapel.
By punctuating the school year with plenty of fun, SFC helps middle schoolers enjoy and make the most of this time in their lives. “When kids get into middle school,” Ellis explains, “there’s an automatic notion of, ‘I suddenly need to be cool.’ It’s so wonderful to be able to show them they can still have a really fun time and be themselves.”
How Does SFC Partner With Middle School Parents?
There’s a transition that takes place when a child starts Middle School. When they’re younger, children defer to their parents and tend to adopt their opinions and worldviews. When they get to Middle School, they begin to form identities that are separate from their parents, and the role of their peer group becomes much more significant. This marks a major shift for both children and parents.
“Through the elementary years,” Dr. Deveau says, “the parent needs to be the police officer, so to speak – to protect and serve. And when they get into Middle School, that transitions. Parents are no longer cops – they become coaches.”
So, while parent-child relationships may start to look slightly different in Middle School, SFC aims to support parents through the transition and provide plenty of opportunities to stay informed and involved in their kids’ lives. For example, parents play essential roles in putting on school events, volunteering, and building up the community. SFC also provides parent engagement events and seminars where visiting experts shed light on salient parenting topics.
What Sets SFC’s Middle School Apart?
Assistant Principal Ellis taught in public school for a long time before working for Santa Fe Christian. And while her experience in public school was generally positive, she says there’s something extra special about SFC.
The difference, she explains, lies in the values that permeate SFC’s atmosphere and speak to the heart of the school. “The conversations among faculty and the prayers I hear are incredible. The essence of SFC Middle School always comes back to what’s best for the kids. That shows up in the classroom, on retreats, and on the field every day.”
By the time SFC middle school students move on to high school, they are academically prepared, they know the truth, and they’re equipped to make a difference.
Ready to partner with SFC in giving your child a memorable, transformative, faith-filled middle school experience? Submit your child’s application to Santa Fe Christian Middle School today.