A Passion for Christian Education: Hearts and Minds
Getting to Know Enlightium Academy’s Executive Director – Part 2
In my article entitled “The Formative Years: Education and Family Years”, I briefly shared about my early dream of starting a school with Christian values. Growing up in Kyrgyzstan, former Soviet Union republic, I longed to be able to learn about God in school.
Adapting to America
Spokane is known for being a family-friendly city with many parks and lakes. The climate is very similar to Kyrgyzstan, where we lived before moving to the United States of America. Our family came to Spokane in August of 1991. Within ten years, more than 20,000 Slavic refugees immigrated from the former Soviet Union and made Spokane their home.
Left: Elena with ESL students; Top-right: Elena conducting a lesson; Bottom-right: Elena with church kids
With a growing population of Slavic refugees settling in Spokane, public schools needed bilingual specialists, and I was among a few hired in 1993. First, I loved that students in the public elementary school did many hands-on activities and coloring. However, within a year, I noticed that not enough time was spent by students on academics. During my second year, with the principal’s approval, I began facilitating small seminars for Slavic parents. We met after school once a month and I taught parents how to teach their kids at home.
I had an eye-opening experience during a teacher in-service in May of 1995. The school principal announced state assessment results: the school received a score of 28 percent.
I was surprised and asked the principal after the meeting, “28% is in comparison to what?”
He said, “The school is located in the poorest area and this is the best achievement in years!”
I asked, “How, then, are my children receiving A’s and B’s?”
He replied, “It is based on the curriculum we offer to these students.”
That summer, my husband and I made a decision to move to an area with good public schools in Spokane. In my heart, I said, “I cannot allow my kids to lose their best years of life attending a school that manipulated their true grades.” So, we purchased an affordable home for our big family: three biological and five adopted kids. The adopted children were my husband’s nephews and nieces; they became orphans after a house fire in April of 1995 .
The family (December 1994): Aleksandr, Oleg, Alex, Val, Elena (clockwise)
In 1998, our big family became U.S. citizens. All eight kids were our first priority. They had private music lessons and participated in sports. Sometimes, it felt like we were taxi drivers. My husband would take one group of kids to one place, and then I would take the other group to the next place. In the evenings we had dinner, worked on homework assignments, and read the Bible as a family. That tight schedule after school continued for about five years. Though, with many achievements, I still feel that my kids lost a lot of precious time in public school; time that could have been used differently.
The Road to Making a Christ-centered Education a Reality
As our kids entered high school, we felt that public school morals began to influence them, and the foundation we set began to shake. Consequently, in 2002 my husband and I made a decision to enroll five of our school-aged kids in one of the private Christian schools in Spokane.
Being a graduate student from Whitworth University in K-12 with a Guidance and Counseling degree, I spoke at seminars and enabled parents to make a decision for their kids as well. In September 2002, about 100 Slavic students began their new journey at a private Christian school in Spokane; however, these families were struggling with monthly tuition payments and were planning not to return the next school year. I wondered, “what else could be done for these students so that they could have a proper Christian education.”
In May of 2003, I learned about the teacher-led Switched on Schoolhouse (SOS) program offered by Alpha Omega Publications. At the time online education was taking its first steps. In September of 2003, I launched the online program with 16 students. I was their first teacher and program coordinator. The second year, our student population doubled and we hired an additional teacher. By the end of 2007, we had 89 students working online from home.
At that time, under my leadership, seven Christian schools developed under the Northwest Christian Education umbrella, serving more than 1,000 students in the church communities in the Northwest.
In 2012 about 250 students were enrolled in the online program. In 2013, the online program began its operations as an independent Christian online school. The name “Enlightium” was chosen for the program.
We believe in helping students become lights to the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NASB).
About 3,000 students now attend Enlightium Academy from all over the world. Our goal is to continue to provide the best possible support to our students and families. Our core values lie in the Bible and strong family foundations.
My passion for Christian education is more alive than ever. I believe in education for hearts and minds. I believe that every child can learn and achieve the highest of their potential. I believe that parents should invest in their children’s minds more than in any earthly things.
The extended family (November 2016): Aleksandr & Elena with adult children and their spouses
Serving the Lord as we live our lives on earth (October 2020).