The Upper Valley Christian School celebrates 40th anniversary

For the Upper Valley Christian School (UVCS), this special occasion marks a time to reflect on the school’s history and celebrate its unique place in the Upper Valley community. UVCS began in 1979 when Jim West, a pastor at Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene, felt the need for a Christian school option in Leavenworth. Starting a new school was not without struggles. The first year, just days before the school was to open and needed an additional $10,000 to cover costs, a generous member of the community came forward to provide the full amount needed. With that help, UVCS started with 21 students, one teacher, and one Principal/teacher; John Bangsund. Mr. Bangsund continued to serve as principal for 31 years.

Former student Bella Rylaarsdam, currently a student at NNU, writes, “Upper Valley Christian School is a place where we were given countless opportunities to actively learn and serve our community. At UVCS we were pushed to be the best we could be in our academic, social, and spiritual lives and were taught by a dedicated staff who instructed us in the love of God with a serving heart.”

From the beginning, UVCS’s goal, along with high academic standards, has been to instill principles of love, truth, and kindness into students. An emphasis is placed on ‘family’, with the intent to be a trusted community school. There are several times during the school week that all students participate in activities together, giving the school a feeling of solidarity, where the older students help look out for the younger.

Dwight Pflugrath, the current school Administrator, leads a staff of 11 who serve the 52 students in Pre-K through 12th grade. Due to small class size and high teacher-to-student ratio, students are able to receive enhanced individual attention, helping them excel academically. Combined grade levels allow teachers to get to know students more personally and contribute to furthering their academic success. New opportunities and curriculum are often added. For the current school year, a grade 5-8 choir has been initiated along with re-introduction of a robotics program.

“The teachers and staff genuinely cared about me and were committed to my learning. They taught me well and I received a great education that prepared me well for my years at Running Start and then at the University of Washington. I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to study there because there were so many unique opportunities like the outdoor education trips and ski P.E.,” says former student Kellie Kuch.

Field trips, coordinated into the academic curriculum, have historically played a major role in the educational process at UVCS. “A goal of the school administration was then as it remains today, to not just study within the confines of a classroom. The wider community is their world,” said Kathy Bangsund, wife of the late former principal, John Bangsund. Field trips include outdoor education opportunities such as local camping trips and hikes for all grade levels. Students have visited the Olympic Peninsula, the rainforest, Deception Pass, Yellowstone, Washington D.C., New York, and Boston. To be able to facilitate so many hands-on and travel learning opportunities, parental participation is welcomed and encouraged. According to Mrs. Bangsund, “Parental involvement has been foundational to the school process and has enriched the school.”

Bella Rylaarsdam sums up the impact the school has had on her life, saying, “No words can describe how thankful I am to have been instructed with a Christian curriculum. Upper Valley Christian School has deeply impacted my life and continues to do so in countless others. Thank you to all who have made UVCS a possibility for us.”

Just as when UVCS opened, in 1979, the school does not receive government funding and operates solely on tuition, private contributions, and a silent auction/dinner fundraiser in February each year. Tuition costs are kept as low as possible and scholarship money is made available. With a rich history and strong community support, UVCS is poised to flourish for many years to come. To learn more about the school, sign on to uvcschool.org

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