Sharing Gifts on Option Day

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-58-10-amThe energy and excitement in the school was quite noticeable within minutes of arriving.  I soon found out that it was Grade 4-6 Option Day at Edmonton Christian Northeast School. This is a yearly event that sees parents/grandparents/community members come into the school and lead students through half day activities.  Students this year were offered 20 amazing options.  They chose two of them, one for the morning and one for the afternoon.  Here are a few pictures of the afternoon options:














We are thankful when we challenge students to play their role in God’s story, that it is a wide and rich and varied story.  Further, we are thankful that it is a story that involves a community of people finding joy in life as they share their gifts and live that story together!  A huge thanks to all the gift-sharing volunteers that made this a great day.

Brian Doornenbal

“I Didn’t See That Coming!

Another “Throwback Thursday” alumni story


I didn’t see that coming!  It’s something Matthew Oosterhuis, award winning coach of The Kings University Eagles soccer program must have said a number of times since his graduation from Edmonton Christian High School.

Work in education?  I didn’t see that coming!

Kanazawa, Japan

Live and teach for 4 years in Japan?  I didn’t see that coming!  

Work to get troubled Edmonton youth through high school? I didn’t see that coming!  

God has used and continues to use many people to shape and twist the plotline of Matt’s life.  Matt attended Edmonton Christian for 13  years before his Spring  1997 high school graduation.  Studies continued in the Fall of that year at The King’s University where Matthew managed the

1997 ECHS Yearbook candid

demands of a double major in history and psychology, was a student athlete (soccer) and squeezed in some part-time work at a couple of IGA stores.  The summers were no less busy, and no less formative as he spent his time doing the challenging work of tree planting.

2001 was not only university graduation year, but it was also the year he and his wife went to Japan to teach English and travel for the next four years.

In 2007, back in Edmonton, Matthew worked as a youth worker with kids who were in the care of social services.  This eventually lead him to doing a pilot program in cooperation with Alberta Health Services at Jasper Place Composite High School.  The program was aimed at increasing graduation rates for “at risk” youth.  All these school experiences must have had some appeal, because in 2012 he went to the U of A to attain his Education after-degree.  He was hired immediately by Edmonton Public Schools and has been filling temporary positions and substitute teaching ever since.


While this may seem enough, there was one more role for Matt to play in God’s story.  Soccer was still in his blood and since he had coaching certification, he was asked to coach the men’s soccer program at Kings.  Of all the twists and turns in this story, this is one that Matthew says he DID see coming.  He didn’t know where or when, but he knew, upon return from Japan, that he would one day coach the beautiful game.  Soon, he also became the Head coach and recruiter for the women’s program and  in 2015/16  was the ACAC North Division Coach of the year in men’s soccer.  Another, “I didn’t see that coming” moment.

I caught up with Matt one day, when he was teaching at Edmonton Christian High School for one of his former teachers.  He said,  “ It feels a bit odd to be working in this teacher’s class, because to be honest I was not a very good student in her class….but I enjoyed school.  I had a good group of friends.  I knew the teachers were people of support. The problem is: I think I was typical, in that I took a lot of it for granted.  I understand that now.  In the end,”  Matt said, “I would not have chosen [schools] any differently.”

Teaching in a room where he was once a student.
a man out standing in his field 🙂

What’s next for Matt?   He muses about writing a book on coaching Millenials.  He’ll keep coaching young men and women to, “be good people, treat others properly and be good teammates.”  And he will keep faithfully playing his role in God’s story, even if it leads him to something he could not have seen coming.

By Brian Doornenbal

Those February Blues

book-1945459_640The January calendar page gets flipped over, torn off or grayed out.  And just like that, the new year isn’t so new any more. The excitement that brought us into Christmas and into this new calendar year has waned. Though the days are getting longer, winter is not yet ready to let go. January blues.  February blues.  Doldrums.  Whatever you call them, many people experience them.

img_6438We have reached the midpoint of the school year.  Doldrums and blues aside, this is a great time to step back for a moment and reflect on our school theme:  Growing In Grace and Gratitude.  Doldrums and blues can make us forgetful people.  Forgetful of the loving God.  Forgetful of how we got to this midpoint of a school year, and to this moment in our life.  Forgetful that in spite of our brokenness, God has woven us together into a school community. img_5520He has stitched us into a fabric of many classrooms, staff groups, parent councils, supportive grandparents, teams and friendships.  And somehow, by grace, God has made it possible that within this stitched-together community called Edmonton Christian Schools,  we can all grow and discover ways to actively play our role in God’s story!  Amazing, blues-beating, doldrum-defeating grace!

And their is one more gift of grace.  Gratitude.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  
…it turns what we have into enough and more.
…it turns denial into acceptance,
   chaos to order,
     confusion to clarity.
…It can turn a meal into a feast,
   a house into a home,
    a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision  for tomorrow.         

Melody Beattie (formatting and emphasis mine)







bulletin board at ECNS

May our thankful hearts, right now, help us to understand the past, find joy and serenity in today and give us excitement, hope and vision for the remainder of this school year!

by Brian Doornenbal                                                                  (pictures taken from this year’s files)
Note:  This piece is in no way meant to minimize the realities of something which is much more than just “the blues.”  Depression is a medical condition that requires medical help and compassionate friendship. 


img_7654The amount of energy in a room can tell you lots about the event that is going on.  When I stepped into the Edmonton Christian West School gymnasium yesterday, believe me, there was real, positive energy. The students, ranging from grade 2 to grade 9 were seated on the floor in front of long sheets of paper.  Spread out in front of them were collections of 2.5 inch by 3.5 inch cards which they had recently created in their Art classes. Many of you will recognize the size of these cards as being that of trading cards.   The subject matter of the cards ranged from stickmen to wisdom sayings and the style ranged from abstract to anime.   Welcome to ECWS’s first ever, beauty-creating, community-building, art Trade-A-Palooza!

img_7718After some instructions from the organizer of the event, art teacher Jenessa Lowe, the students did a gallery walk, and enjoyed the creativity of some of their schoolmates.  This fit very well with the through line* focus for January– Beauty-Creating.  Then, the energy let loose as the students were allowed to go around the gym trading cards with others.










Energetic, engaged students, creating and interacting in a community-building (another through line) event.  This was the first ever Trade-a-Palooza but I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

*at Edmonton Christian Schools ten Biblical through lines are used to organize our curriculum and shape our teaching.  These through lines describe who we want our students to be in God’s story.  The Beauty-Creating through line teaches and acknowledges that as people who reflect a creative God, we too practice our own acts of creation, embracing diversity, complexity and creativity just as God does.  If you want to know more about these through lines, ask at your child’s school!
by B Doornenbal

More Than Just a New Look


No two classrooms ever look the same.  But for years, perhaps going back to when you were in school, there have been similarities.  Typical classrooms would have individual student desks, often with the chair attached, frequently arranged in rows facing the front.

If you walk through  the Edmonton Christian School buildings today, you will see some classrooms with furniture that looks different.  But it is more than just a new look.  This is part of a pilot project looking at classroom re-design in conjunction with our deeper learning pedagogy (teaching for transformation).  And like everything else, the deeper learning pedagogy is driven by what we, as a school believe. We believe that we are a community, God’s people seeking to find our place in God’s amazing story.  Deeper learning classrooms acknowledge that we are together in this seeking and learning.  They strive to become communities of collaborative learning.  Furniture that can be moved easily, and has a variety of configurations for group and individual work can be a big part of this.

We also believe that in God’s story there are many different kinds of people with gifts to develop and roles to play. All are valued.  Deeper learning classrooms are designed to activate students to  lead their own learning through choice.  Their learning is something they are participating in, not something that is being done to them.   You can see from just a few pictures below that students can make choices in a well furnished learning space that will help them to be engaged in their learning.

student whiteboards hang on each table
more traditional configurations can still be used as needed
community is promoted
students can find a space that works for them as a learner


stand or sit in this Art class
work spaces have multiple configurations

Of course, deeper learning happens in all kinds of classrooms, regardless of the furniture.  But, drop into one of the newly furnished classrooms.  Ask the learners if the furniture helps them.  Chat with the teacher. We think you will find out that 21st century furniture makes sense in a 21st century learning space!

Watch for more here in the future on the excitement of deeper learning in our schools!
B. Doornenbal

Island Hopping?

img_7176I imagine on a cold winter day, like the day I am writing this, more than a few people will be dreaming of life on a tropical island somewhere.  A place where it is warm and where in true island fashion, one is a “country to themselves”.  Maybe they even dream of island hopping so they can experience different ways of life from island to island.

Islands with their own cultures and visions and their “we can do it our way” mindsets might be great for vacations, but island hopping isn’t something we strive for at Edmonton Christian Schools.  Rather than our three schools being islands, each with their own mission and mindset, we strive to be a continent.  Sure, you will find some uniqueness in each of our schools, but from the first day in Kindergarten at Northeast or West, to the day they cross the stage to collect their Edmonton Christian High School diploma, students will hear, know and experience a consistent vision of how they can be active in God’s story.  No broad leaps in philosophy from year to year or from building to building.  At Edmonton Christian we are a continent and it is one mission for all:     

Responding to grace, [we] challenge students
through Christ centred education
to actively play their role in God’s story.

img_7184That’s certainly one of the reasons why the Grade 10 Mentoring Module being done by a group of students overseen by Mrs. Jewett, is so successful.  When the 10th graders who signed up for this module make their weekly one-hour visit to the grade one classrooms at Edmonton Christian West school, they aren’t island hopping. They are staying on the continent, and are steeped in it’s ethos.  And both groups of students are finding these continental journies beneficial.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the two girls I work with.  It’s fun”   . . .   “I enjoy coming here.  I love it.”   Gr. 10 mentors

“I like that there is someone to help us.”  . . .  “I like it because we do stuff!”  Gr. 1 mentees

“It is great how it goes from organized chaos to groups just really working well together.  One of the greatest things is listening to the chatter.” Gr. 1 teacher, Ms. Van Driesum

“The best thing is just the relationships that are build.  Bonds are formed.  And, being a mentor gives them [gr 10] the responsibility to deal with issues and potential conflict.  It’s a life lesson.”  Gr. 10 teacher, Ms. Jewett





On the day pictured, just before Christmas, the task was making cards.  As I saw the smiles on the faces, the secret handshakes, the patience it took to complete the work and as I listened to that wonderful chatter, I was glad to be on a continent.  Island hopping may just be overrated.

by Brian Doornenbal

A Throwback Thursday Rescue Hero

img_7076Like anyone doing this kind of work, Michael Walters would be uncomfortable being called a “hero.”  But, c’mon,   he spends  12 hour shifts driving a “Rescue Van.”  A  RESCUE  van.  Sounds like hero’s work to me.

At Edmonton Christian schools, our learning is guided and held together by 10 Biblical through lines that we think describe the roles that we are invited to play in God’s story.  In a December assembly at West School, the focus was on the Servant-Working through line.  This throughline challenges us to set aside self interest and actively work to heal brokenness and bring joy to individuals and to culture.

Mike Walters

Mike Walters, who attended Edmonton Christian School for nine years, may not be a hero, but he is a servant-worker.    He believes that his last fifteen months of driving one of the Hope Mission Rescue Vans is God’s calling for him here and now.  The 26 year old who said that a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) experience as a young adult was a turning point in his life, has a Police and Security Certificate from Grant McEwan and one day hopes to be a police officer.  Right now however, he says, “God is keeping me here for awhile.  I’ve learned to follow God’s lead.”

Mike admits that bringing food, water, clothing, toiletries or just some friendly human contact to people whose life is mostly on the cold streets of Edmonton is challenging work. He sees people in difficult and desperate situations and often has to endure some verbal abuse from those that are not well. Servant-working is challenging,  and no one doing this work in Edmonton is getting wealthy from it!  Mike is very quick to remind us though, that in God’s upside-down story, where to gain life you need to lose it,  the rewards are great. “There is no greater joy than when you help somebody who needs your help,” he says with clear conviction.  These are the words of a servant-worker, who no doubt, is a hero to those that he serves.



In December, on a -20 celsius day,  Mike visited (Mom) Lori Walter’s grade 4 classroom to pick up more than 300 pairs of gloves that the students had collected as part of their study of Alberta.  Grade 4 student Trayke explains it best:  “We did this because we are learning about Alberta and it is cold here in the winter.  We learned that there are people in the cities of Alberta that do not have homes.”  He goes on to reflect, “When I brought 4 pairs of gloves I felt happy because it was helping more of the world.  I learned it IS better to give than to receive.”

Touring the rescue van

Classmate Asher seems to agree. “Christmas takes so long to come when you are just waiting to get, but when you give, time just flies by,” he says with contagious enthusiasm.

“It fills you with joy,” adds another classmate, Ben.

And so we learn, with Mike Walters,  who once was that grade 4 student at West, and with current grade 4 students that serving others is good work and it is part of that great rescue story that we celebrated this Christmas season. We are so grateful that it is a story we too can take part in.

All the gloves were given in love, but ones like this will be reserved for some the “friends” Mike has made.
by Brian Doornenbal