UCAES Focuses on the Joy of Learning

July 01, 2020 | Education | Ryan Irwin

While growing up, I loved playing outside and getting my hands dirty. I could play outside for hours. In college, I got a degree in teaching kids to play games. What I’ve realized is I learned because I was having fun. I had real joy in what I was doing.

Upper Columbia Academy Elementary School in Spangle, Washington, has made it a focus to make learning fun and to help the kids find joy in learning. In a small-school setting where students have only one or two teachers, life can get routine. Assignments come and go. It’s important for students and teachers to enjoy their time together. They’re going to see each other eight hours a day for 38 weeks.

Our first goal is to have strong academics, whether through hands-on learning or preparing students for assessments. Each day we challenge our students to think and problem-solve. We prioritize the process of learning, knowing it will lead to the answer.

Our second goal is to develop leaders of integrity. We want our students to care about each other, their school, the community and their church. We teach our students to understand their responsibilities to those around them. We serve our community by having the kids do service work in our area.

Our third goal is to develop Christ-like characters in our students. If we fail at this one goal, then all we have done prior is for naught. UCAES is dedicated to sharing, showing and leading our students to know Christ and reflect Him in all we do.

One of my fondest memories of my eldest daughter as a tiny girl is when she asked me if I would marry her one day like I was married to her mother. To this day, my heart aches with joy from her wanting to be like her mommy and how much she looked up to me as her dad — so much that she wanted to be, in her mind, “married.”

Children learn from those around them. They see and do, they hear and speak, what they witness. As I did with my daughter, we strive to be great examples to our students, both academically and through the way we walk, talk and teach.

Joy is what opens the heart and mind to learning. Though we’ve weathered major challenges this school year, we look forward to bringing joy to our students next year. Our kids are watching and ready to learn.