Educator Spotlight: Lois Bongard-Newkirk, Covenant Christian School.

October 13, 2021

Lois Bongard-Newkirk

Educator Spotlight: Lois Bongard-Newkirk, Covenant Christian School.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, Staff Writer.

Educator Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

AMBER TOWNSHIP – Many educators spend their entire or almost entire career teaching the same grade level, but that definitely does not apply to Covenant Christian School, principal, Lois Bongard-Newkirk. Bongard-Newkirk has spent an incredible 48 years in the educational system, teaching many different grade levels and subjects.  And holding many different administrative positions as well.

“I taught second grade and special education in Breckenridge, from 1973-1980,” she said. “ I then taught special education (emotionally impaired) in Danville, Ky., from 1980-1984, special education (E.I.) and kindergarten in St. Louis, Mich., from 1984-1991, special education in Kalkaska, from 1991-1993, and I taught special education in Scottville, from 1993-1999. I worked at Mason-Lake ISD (now West Shore ESD) from 1999-2013 as a teacher consultant and special education supervisor. I retired from public education in June, 2013. Then I decided to sub as a teacher and special education supervisor at the ESD and began subbing at Covenant Christian School as well.”

Bongard-Newkirk attended Ithaca High School in the central Michigan area, graduating in 1969. She attended Central Michigan University, graduating in 1973 with a bachelor’s in elementary education, and then went on to pursue a master’s in special education with focus on learning disabilities and emotionally impaired in 1980. In 2006, she earned a certification as a special education supervisor at Grand Valley State University.

Six years ago, Bongard-Newkirk received the position of principal at Covenant Christian School, located between Scottville and Ludington.

“I have been principal at CCS for about six years,” she said. “I love working at CCS because I can freely share my faith story with staff, students, and parents. I also enjoy being in the classrooms and working with staff on curriculum and special education needs.”

Since CCS is a private Christian school, Bongard-Newkirk said she really enjoys being able to work with the variety of students CCS has, not only in the educational capacity, but also in a faith-based capacity as well.

“I really just love kids, even the most challenging ones,” she said. “They have taught me so much about life. I have also worked with so many fine educators over the years and have so much respect for those who dedicate their lives to working with kids. I have been so privileged to work in a Christian school as well. To get to share Jesus Christ throughout the school day has been such an honor.”

Throughout her educational experience, Bongard-Newkirk did mention that there were some things she would love to see happen differently.

“The changes I would like to see would include an overall higher regard for teachers and all they promote within their classrooms,” she said. “I believe the pandemic has heightened our awareness of how vitally important educators are to the ongoing development of our children.”

Bongard-Newkirk knows how important teachers are in the lives of children and she believes that those looking to education as a career should get to know and understand what it entails before jumping in fully.

“Spend some time in classrooms and find a trusted mentor before you get your college class work completed,” she said. “Make sure it’s really what you want to do and do it well.

CCS is in its 23rd year of educating children, grades preK through eighth, who are members of nearly 15 different church families in the surrounding areas. Being a Christian school, Bongard-Newkirk said she believes that some people in the communities surrounding CCS might not really understand how CCS runs and who is actually teaching its students.

“I think one misconception is that CCS does not have fully certified teachers and that we do not teacher to Michigan standards,” she said. “Another may be that the academic achievement of our students is underrated.”

All teachers at CCS must hold Michigan teaching certifications and the school teaches along the same lines as all the other public school in the area, meeting those curriculum standards. The big difference is that CCS also teaches and encompasses the teachings of Jesus Christ in what they do everyday at school.

“I am so grateful to God that I have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful kids, preschool through high school, with so many differing abilities, from gifted and talented to severely multiply impaired,” Bongard-Newkirk said. “They have been such a blessing to me.”

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