Today, for the first time since 1999 (when I was still considered “The Father of Three”) our family does not have a student attending what we have come to affectionately refer to as “our school” - Saint John the Baptist School in Jordan, MN.
Back when we moved to Jordan (late November of 1999) #1 of 5 was half way through fifth grade. Since St. John’s (then, and currently) is only K-6, we decided to enroll #1 of 5 in the public school to finish out the remainder of his fifth and sixth grade, therefore he is our only child to have never attended St. John’s. (He did attend Blessed Trinity in Richfield, MN though.)
#2 of 5 was actually our first student enrolled at St. John’s – starting with preschool. His Lead Teacher was Mrs. Hanek (and I am pretty sure the Assistant Teacher was Mrs. Colling – but she may not have been around until #3 of 5 started preschool… It’s hard to remember SO FAR BACK!)** Mrs. Hanek and Mrs. Colling were our first true “ambassadors” to St. John’s (more on them later). Back then the preschool was held in the old convent building (which has subsequently been demolished) and located adjacent to the actual school. I remember feeling a little intimidated by the big old school located next door to the little intimate preschool.
** This info was confirmed.
Below, you can see the location of the old Preschool in the former convent (yellow circle), the rectory where the preschool was moved to (orange circle), the old school building (red circle), and the parking lot which would later become the future new school (blue circle).
I remember the transition from the preschool to the regular school very distinctly! #2 of 5 preformed as an “elf” in the Christmas Program during his second year of preschool, the Kindergarten teacher (Mrs. Langsweirdt – the long time and much respected Kindergarten teacher at that time) approached us and inquired if she was going to have him in her classroom next year. She seemed thrilled because his performance was so “animated” during the program! We were filled with pride to have this pillar in our community specifically notice our son!
Over the next seventeen years our family grew. Not only did our family grow, but St. John’s changed. The preschool from the cloister to the Rectory. The cloister was torn down. Finally, the new school was built, and all St. John’s students (preschool and K-6) were put together in the same building.
Oh, and who could forget the story of the Guardian Angel?? (click through)
For those keeping score…
#2 of 5 attended preschool in the convent.
#3 of 5 attended preschool in the rectory.
#4 and #5 of 5 both attended preschool in the new school building.
I guess you can say we have experienced most all of the pre-school transformations!
In the two photos below, you can see the current layout of the Church and school properties…
Right: The whole campus! Left to right – the gravel overflow parking lot, the “old School” and the “new” school attached to the church and rectory.
The past seventeen years, St. John’s has been a significant part of our life, and a significant part of our family.
St. John’s has been “OUR” school. We are truly vested (and have invested) in our school
When we moved to Jordan, we were strangers in a strange land. We knew no one. Both The Mother of Five and I worked out of town, we played out of town, we did not know anyone from town. Our first real “roots’' in Jordan originated with St. John’s the Church, but so much more so – with St. John’s SCHOOL.
St. John’s School is not just a school, it is a FAMILY. It’s a small school. Class sizes average (in my personal experience) right around 12-18 students. When we dropped off our kids for preschool for the first few days, we looked around at the parents doing the same thing. We looked around and saw the teachers our children were going to be spending their day with. We looked around and noticed all the other wee-little-ones that would become a second family to our kids. Little did we understand at that time just how important these people would become to us.
To speak to just how much these kids will end up meaning to each other – look no further than my own personal experience growing up in a smaller private school. A number of years ago, I wrote about my own experiences having a second “FAMILY” (QUOTATION MARKS INTENDED). Go ahead. Click through. See this phenomenon through the eyes of adult.
Remember Mrs. Hanek and Mrs. Colling (our “ambassadors” referenced above)? Over the years each of these two teachers have taught our children in many capacities. They have taught as primary teachers, assistant teachers, combined classroom (multi-year classroom) teachers, Computer Lab teacher, and Librarian. They have seen our kids at their best, and at their worst. They instructed, inspired, comforted and corrected our children. They also had children of their own – around the same ages. Their children and our children interacted, and became friends.
Sixteen years of involvement at St. John’s has left most of the staff members of St. John’s not only our children’s former teachers, but they have become our FRIENDS. It’s not just Mrs. Hanek and Mrs. Colling. No, it’s the ENTIRE staff St. John’s (past and present) – the administration, the teachers, and the support staff. Principals, Secretaries, Teachers, Custodial, and Parish support. There are so many names to drop – I am certain I won’t get them all – so please forgive me. I am not going to try. Named or not, their influence helped mold our children into the young men and women they are today in so many ways.
Beyond the staff – The parents of fellow classmates became the parents of our children’s friends. Together, we shared so many experiences. So many firsts. So many lasts. So many in-betweens. We sat next to each other for weekly mass, concerts, and programs, and author’s teas, and science fairs – and that’s just AT SCHOOL. There were birthday parties, and sleepovers, and playdates. These amazing people also helped influence our children. While there certainly is diversity in the ranks, there is also a commonality. Each and everyone we met through St. John’s displayed an incredible involvement in their children, in the school, and in the (or their) church / faith.
Neither the Mother of Five, or I could be any more grateful for what St. John’s was, is, and (with all hope) continues to be for so many families for years to come.
I know what many people are wondering about… Tuition.
St. John’s is a private school, and operates on tuition and some support from the parish. I am not going to lie. Over the years, tuition has been a sacrifice for our family. We have had anywhere from one student enrolled (when we started and when we ended) to having four students enrolled at the same time. All added up, we paid for a total of 36 years of (cumulative) tuition. (Four students x Nine years each student (two years preschool plus K-6)).
Having had children enrolled in a couple of different schools over the years (Blessed Trinity and St. John’s) – I can tell you that in my experience St. John’s tuition is less costly than most. Even so - all added up, we spent more investing in our children, and the St. John’s family than we paid for our first home.
Inevitably, people ask me how I justified the cost. It was very simple. When I look back I am unable to put a price on the education my children received.
But wait… That’s not all! (as they say in the infomercials)
Beyond the invaluable education – I would not know where to begin to value the feeling of family and involvement St. John’s provided us. The friendships that were made (both for our children and for us), the influence that the staff and the extended family have had on our children, and on the roots that St. John’s provided our family – socially, educationally, and faithfully.I can think of no better way to share with you just how much our time at St. John’s meant to us (regardless of the cost of tuition) than to sum it all up by saying… “We have NO REGRETS.” Not only do we have no regrets, we both agree that we would do it all over again if we had to!
My experience with St. John the Baptist School in Jordan, Minnesota – has been one of complete satisfaction.
Last spring, as #5 of 5 graduated from St. John’s, I really struggled to write a “goodbye” to our little school. I knew my time (as a parent with a student at St. John’s) had ended, but it didn’t feel real. During the graduation ceremony I heard our name called out as parents who’s youngest child completed their time at St. John’s and would join the ranks of families not returning in the fall. It was just a little too surreal. How could this be?? St. John’s has been part of our family since we moved here. St. John’s was part of the beginning of each and every school year for the past 16 years. St. John’s is part of our family.
St. John’s is (was?) OUR school.
I spent the better part of the summer trying to decide how to write a goodbye to St. John’s here on FOF. Try as I might, the words just never came. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and before I knew it, the new school years was starting, and St. John’s was not part of it for or family. I think the absence of St. John’s this morning was my inspiration and my motivation.
After dropping Melissa off for her first day of Middle School, I had to drive by St. John’s. I drove by and said a short prayer for the school, for the staff, and for the parents – and I thanked God for having put St. John the Baptist School in our back yard, for having made it part of our family for the past seventeen years.
I doubt that as long as we are living in Jordan, Minnesota we won’t have something to do with St. John’s. We just need to find our way through the transition from DIRECT involvement to INDRECT involvement. I am confident that over the next few years that The Mother of Five and I will find a way to continue supporting the school, the staff, the students, and the family that is St. John the Baptist School. Fundraisers, volunteer work, Cadillac Dinner, the Marathon, and whatever comes along. I don’t think I could every really say good-bye.
Thanks St. John’s. You have been the best!