The 2018-19 school year came to an end for students at St. John Lutheran School in Redwood Falls May 24 at noon. Half an hour later Dave Gartner, school principal, and Todd Brassow, seventh- and eighth-grade teacher and newly hired principal for the 2019-20 school year, sat down to talk about the recently completed school year and events that helped to shape it.

“It was another fantastic year,” said Gartner, adding, however, it was a year that definitely had its challenges.

One of the most significant was the loss of its second-grade teacher, MyKayla Jensen.

“We had no idea how that would impact the school year,” said Gartner.

Brassow added while it was a tragedy for the school it became a blessing, as the loss of Jensen brought the school staff and students closer together and helped them to grow in their faith.

“I think the whole school really grew closer to God,” said Gartner.

Brassow and Gartner agreed at times it was the students who offered consolation to the staff members, sharing in child-like faith that Miss Jensen was in heaven, and so that was a reason to be happy for her.

Brassow added the students saw quite a bit of success in terms of athletics during the year, adding the group of eighth graders who helped lead the way for the school demonstrated that leadership in a number of different ways.

Over the year, said Brassow, the students learned that being a leader doesn’t just mean they get to tell others what to do.

“They learned to lead by serving,” he said.

This year’s group of nine graduates is competitive and energetic, and they will definitely be missed next year, said Brassow. 

Gartner added the academic success of this group of students demonstrates that they were ready to move on to high school.

The enrollment at St. John Lutheran School was approximately 160 students during the school year, said Gartner, adding he got hugs from a lot of those students on the last day of school.

During the year, the school saw success in a variety of events from its Kick-It kickball tournament to raise funds for children’s cancer research to its Read-a-Thon, which exceeded its goal and saw the students raise nearly $9,600.

“We challenged them to raise $6,000,” said Gartner.

The year saw a number of community events including concerts that continued to be a lot of fun, said Gartner, who added in the coming year music educator Laurel Otto will be stepping way from leading the Eternal Flame vocal ensemble. She will, however, continue as director for the band.

Gartner said the school says goodbye to a few of its teachers, but he said the school has already put in place those who will step into those roles. He is confident those who will come in next year will help to continue the mission of teaching students in a God-centered environment.

It is God who helped right the ship in the midst of tragedy, and it is God who was present in the school every single day helping to make the year such a good one, said Gartner.

Gartner expressed his appreciation to the entire community for the great demonstration of support during the school year, adding that encouragement really helped the school to see how much it is a part of the community.

“That was such a blessing for us,” said Gartner.

The 2018-19 school year is now over for St. John Lutheran School, but for those who were part of it, this will be a year that they will not forget as they witnessed the grace and love of God poured out when it was needed most.