Unfolding the Heart of Learn Forward

Blog Home  |  November 18, 2019 by Willowstone Academy  |  no comments  |  From the Office

At Willowstone Academy, we are unfolding the heart of Learn Forward.  Our story began 25 years ago.  We are celebrating!

Our celebration is focused on three big ideas found in the Scripture passage from Mark 9:33,

Mark 9:33-37 New International Version (NIV)

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

What is the formula for Greatness?

One day as Jesus and his disciples were travelling the disciples began to argue about who is the greatest?  It’s an interesting question, one we continue to wonder about.  It’s our humanity.  We wonder about greatness and how to create it or how to raise our children with it.

There is a season in life where those musings and curiosities are more pronounced: pregnancy.  

Do you remember what you dreamt for your children before they were born?  Then, as you got to know them, what are your dreams now?

We want smart kids, athletic, kids, and kids who fight for what’s right.  We all want to raise lawyers and doctors and capable kids.  We’re wondering about the formula for success.

It’s an age-old question.  One we’ve been talking about for millennia.

There’s another time when the hope and ‘pregnancy’ for greatness are full.  At the start of an organization.  When our school was launching, when it was brand new, I can almost guarantee they were asking about how to create a dynamic and effective school community.

I’m sure George and Diane wanted the best for Lindsey when they registered her for the first class of Willowstone Academy (formerly First Lutheran Christian School) in the fall of 1994-95.  I don’t know if they knew there would only be 2 other students in the whole school, Alex and Raelynn.  But, I’m very confident they wanted the best for Lindsey and were dreaming of being part of something bigger than themselves.

They were pregnant with the question, “What is the formula for greatness?”

Now, those first three students from 1994-95 are a Ph.D. in math who is teaching, an engineer, and a lawyer.  Those three students, whose school playground was the snow pile in the parking lot, are reaching for greatness.

So, I’ve spent the last 25 years of my professional life (14 at Willowstone Academy) asking myself about that formula for greatness for children.  How do we cultivate the conditions for thriving?

I think there are some secrets here…


One part of that greatness is found in the next verse in Mark 9.  Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

At Willowstone Academy, we are grateful for the service of First Lutheran Church!  Just like parents, for many years, they nurtured us and served us.  They built a brand new building to host a school, hosted dinner theatres to buy textbooks, and sold apple pies to start a computer lab.  They laid the planks down on the gym floor and painted the walls that the children marred throughout the year.  First Lutheran Church served our students, our families, our teachers, and our team.  They embodied Jesus’ instructions because they believed in this formula for greatness.

Our Manifesto

Now we are carving out some more ideas for greatness.  Ideas based on our faith and our experiences with children.

Our Learn Forward manifesto reminds us that we are a community for “being, becoming, and believing,” so it’s developmental.  It happens over time.  “We invite all to the table to ask, receive, and give.”  We’re better together.  We have a Table.  We gather at it.  And, “we are champions of the extraordinary potential that lives within every child.”

Check out how our philosophy looks in practice at our ALL-NEW tour video here.

You can also see it…

In the turtle sculpture made from single-use plastics found in our school when art becomes a commentary on sustainability.In Chapel, when students are creative, playful, and take risks to share their faith journey.

When our volleyball teams play their first-ever exhibition game with the French school across the street.

When Ms. Parker re-tells the story of Esther with humour and honesty amidst our teachers’ inquiry, “What is the Bible?”

During robotics, when students work like Nasa and begin uncovering the limitless scientific explorations possible with new technologies.

Or, when our littlest changemakers lead the collection of socks, gifts, and food for our community’s most vulnerable.And, even in the Appreciation that covers our walls.

A Welcome

You see, ultimately, Willowstone Academy’s goal is to welcome students each day.  Jesus took the child in His arms and said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”  It’s our role in the greater church.  It all begins with a welcome, a twinkle in our eye, and a “Good Morning!”

I hope each of you has met Jesus’ welcome!  He welcomes the small ones, the weaker ones, the dirty ones, and the unkempt ones.  He welcomes you and me!

For the sake of the children,