23 Feb

St. Louis-area Lutheran Schools stayed open during the pandemic. Now they’re thriving.

February 23, 2024–Excerpt from Monica Obradovic, St. Louis Post Dispatch

Photo Credit: Laurie Skrivan, Post-Dispatch

Since the fall of 2019, public school enrollment fell by 5,500 students in St. Louis County and nearly 3,000 in St. Louis city amid a nationwide drop in enrollment. Some private schools saw a small bounce, but many, across both the region and country, lost enrollment.

But Lutheran schools in the St. Louis area saw the opposite trend. Since 2019, overall enrollment has increased 19%, according to the Lutheran Elementary School Association, a consortium of 36 Lutheran schools that together make up the second-largest private school system in the area. LESA serves the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — one of the most conservative denominations in the Lutheran church, and the second-largest with 1.8 million members nationwide.

Read Monica Obradovic’s full article on

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20 Feb

Kevin Rudzinski is LEA’s Distinguished Lutheran Middle School Teacher

Kevin Rudzinski was selected to receive Lutheran Education Association’s 2024 Distinguished Lutheran Middle School Teacher Award.

A 27-year veteran in Lutheran education, Kevin is the middle school science, math, and STEM teacher at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Des Peres, Mo. Kevin earned a B.A. in secondary education (Biology, Mathematics) from Concordia University, River Forest (now Chicago) and an MA in Curriculum and Instruction in Natural Science from University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Regarding Kevin’s greatest joy, he said, “When working with students, my greatest joys are found in the connections I make with students. Students come in all kinds. Some are gifted, some are average, and others come with an array of learning challenges. Sometimes students are very interested in science and other times they are not. My joy comes when I can connect with a student on a personal level with their personality, attitude, and level of learning, and make a breakthrough.”

Of his greatest challenge, Kevin comments, “I think teaching in a public-school setting would be more of a challenge. In our Lutheran school, I get to share the love of Jesus and provide biblical help, hope and encouragement. My greatest challenge is finding the balance between the preparation, grading, creativity, working with students who need encouragement, and extracurriculars with my call as a husband and parent.”

Supporting Kevin’s nomination, his administrator said, “Kevin is an outstanding middle school teacher of science and math. He is blessed with much knowledge in these content areas. When I have witnessed him teach, I am amazed that he is able to take his vast knowledge and teach it in a way that is understandable to middle school students. He brings the content to life for his students and makes it meaningful for them. I believe he does a tremendous job teaching the material and challenging the students in his classroom. The evidence for this is that several high school students have mentioned to me that they are very prepared for high school, more than any of their classmates. I cannot think of a better compliment for his teaching!”

One parent commented, “As an educator, specifically in the subject of science, Mr. Rudzinski has tied in the learning of God’s creation well with the physical world around us. Teaching the beauty and detail of God’s creation. He is able to contrast the worldly view, bringing to question things that contradict our understanding of the Bible and creation. He cares for the students in his class, offering extra assistance and clarification as needed. He goes above and beyond in getting each student involved and excited about learning with fun projects.

Mr. Rudzinski also leads groups of 7th and 8th graders to Florida on Marine Biology trips. Through hands on experiences, he leads the children through advanced biology, instilling joy and zeal in the students at every step of the way.

It is very evident in his role as a Robotics coach, that sharing God’s word with the community is important to him. It has been a goal each year to share Jesus and his love with those around them. The team shirts and team buttons that are given away have included a Bible verse. Other teams have commented on the Bible verses and how nice it is to see this public confession of faith. When the Gilded SPOTICS team competed at the World Competition in Houston, Texas, Mr. Rudzinski led devotions for the team each evening and prayers to close the morning meetings. It set a wonderful expectation for the team of their role as representatives of the school, and more importantly of Christ, to those around them from all over the world.”

Kevin’s personal mission statement is “My personal mission is to inspire and support others by using the gifts and abilities given to me by God.”


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02 Feb
0 names Child of God Lutheran School as a 2024 School of Character., a national advocate and leader for character, named Child of God Lutheran School of St. Peters, MO, as a 2024 State School of Character, the first Lutheran school to receive this recognition. certifies schools and districts each year at the state level that have developed and implemented an intentional, proactive, and comprehensive approach that embeds character into all aspects of the school life. Since its inception,’s Schools of Character program has positively impacted nearly three million students, staff, parents, and other community members.

There were 228 schools globally that applied for‘s State School of Character designation. Child of God’s overall score of 3.5 shows that the school maintains a high level of commitment to creating a caring community where students have ample opportunities to practice and reflect on their character strengths of love, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control. Criteria for selection are based on’s 11 Principles Framework for Schools: A Guide to Cultivating a Culture of Character. The Framework includes key indicators on creating a caring school community where everyone feels they belong, providing students with opportunities to practice and reflect on their character strengths, and engaging families and communities as partners in the school’s character initiative.

The evaluators provided great feedback to validate Child of God’s effective practices in place and provided direction on approaches for continual improvement. Child of God Lutheran School appreciates the partnership with @CharacterPlus, which helps the school continue to reach their mission of developing Christ-like character.

To learn more about this achievement, visit

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12 Jan

Metro Area Lutheran School Enrollment Increases for Fourth Consecutive Year

For the fourth consecutive year, Lutheran schools in the St. Louis metro area have increased enrollment. The 36 member schools included in the Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA) encompass early childhood through high school and have seen a 3% increase during the 2023-2024 school year. Since the 2019-2020 school year, LESA schools have experienced a 19% overall growth. 

“We are thrilled to report these increases as part of overall enrollment successes,” said Libby Gutberlet, LESA CEO. “We believe that that our upward trend in enrollment speaks to the needs of Metro Area to seek safe, Christian-focused education that is both excellent and affordable for all families.” 

Our Savior Lutheran School in Fenton experienced the largest growth among the 32 LESA schools serving early childhood through eighth grade. Principal Linda Dehn attributes the need for safe, values-based preschool education with consistent staff as reasons for their increased enrollment numbers “We hear stories of a high turnover in preschool staff in the community.  Our preschool teachers are full-time teachers.  This means that the same teacher that greets your child in the morning is the same one that says farewell at the end of the school day.  This allows a special relationship between a family and their teacher.” 

Another area school that experienced significant growth of 11% this school year is St. John’s-Arnold. Head of School Brenda Spieler agrees with the need for consistent staff. “Our preschool staff is caring and qualified. They consist of teaching professionals, college students earning a degree in education, and retired teachers. For our staff, teaching isn’t a job. It’s a calling.”  

Spieler and Dehn have also noticed a renewed desire for a faith-based, traditional curriculum in a safe environment. “Many families appreciate the way we incorporate Christian values into our school. It truly affects not only the way we teach and learn, but also the way we think and act. And the fact we make our school financially accessible to all is also a pleasant surprise for many.” 

Laura Montgomery, LESA’s Director of Educational Resources attributes the growth as a positive outcome of the Covid pandemic.  “Many of our schools increased enrollment during the pandemic because our schools remained open, providing consistency for families amidst a time of chaos and unpredictability.  Families that came from public schools discovered the affordable benefits of a Lutheran Christian school environment, fell in love with the teachers, curriculum, and family feel of the school and not only re-enrolled their students, but also told others about their positive experiences.  As part of that success, LESA is blessed to aid in the upward trend by  awarding over 2,600 scholarships totaling over $2.19 million in tuition assistance to families over the past four years.” 

Enrollment is ongoing for Lutheran Schools, with many open houses occurring on Sunday, January 21, 2024 as a kickoff to National Lutheran Schools Week.  A listing of open house dates and times can be found at Private tours are also available at all schools by appointment.   

 To download this press release, click here.

About LESA  

More than 9,800 children attend LESA member Lutheran schools in the St. Louis Metro Area, making Lutheran schools the second-largest private school system in the Bi-State area. A Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, LESA represents 36 elementary and high schools and five related agencies. For more information, visit 

# # # 

 LESA Contact:
Amee Colvin   
Director Fund Development and Marketing

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05 Jan

Zion Lutheran Church and School Wins Four Awards at Annual Best of the Best Event


Sarah Koch, recipient of Best School Principal award for the second consecutive year.

Zion Lutheran Church and School of Bethalto were recognized on December 1, 2023 at the 2023 Best of the Best reader’s choice award event at Hatheway Cultural Center on the campus of Lewis and Clark Community College. Zion was nominated for six awards and won four including Best School Principal, Best Local Private School, Best Place to Work, and Best Volunteers. Zion received nominations for Best Teacher and Best Pastor. This was Zion’s fifth consecutive year winning the award for Best Local Private School.

Sarah Koch, recipient of Best School Principal award for the second consecutive year, said their success lies within the dedication of staff and church members. “Our staff works hard to create the best environment for children,” Koch said. “Our church members continue to invest year after year in the children in our community by helping provide affordable Christian education.”

It’s a labor of love for Koch, who said, “I enjoy seeing so many children from the community come through our doors!” Being recognized as Best Principle is an honor for Koch. “God’s love shines out of Zion,” she said, “and I am honored to represent such a great group of children, families, church members, and employees as we make a difference in our community together.”

Togetherness was apparent during the awards ceremony for Zion. They were represented by several staff members. Among them was Megan Pfeiffer, who was nominated for Best Teacher. The nomination reminded her how special Zion is for the love shown to students. “Not every church has both a staff and members who are willing to go out of their way to serve others,” Pfeiffer said. “I feel so blessed to be part of this awesome ministry and pray that it will remain a vessel of God’s love for many years to come.”

Staff and church members working together has created a unique atmosphere at Zion. Pastor Brandon Metcalf, who received a nomination for Best Pastor, said one of his favorites aspects is the family atmosphere. Pastor Metcalf said, “We’re a family gathered around God’s gifts and sharing His love. Zion is a church where people find hope, community, and, most importantly, the life-changing Word of God.” That message is being heard in the community. Pastor Metcalf said the church is seeing more people get connected at Zion.

Zion Lutheran Church was formerly organized in 1859. In 1877, the church opened the elementary school. Reverend J.G. Neutzel was the first teacher as well as the congregation’s pastor. Tuition cost was 75 cents per month.

Both church and school have seen significant expansion throughout the years. Zion currently offers classes for preschool through 8th grade to both members and nonmembers alike. For more information, visit

The Best of the Best event is a joint sponsorship between The Telegraph and The Edwardsville Intelligencer. Both are members of Hearst Media Group. A new record was established this year with 24,983 nominations submitted and for the most public votes cast at 164,368. All online votes are tallied by a third-party vendor with no affiliation with any person or organization in the Madison County area to prevent regional bias.

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29 Jun

Congratulations to Freya Blackman, LESA’s 2023 Student Christian Leadership Award

Congratulations to Freya Blackman, 14, eighth grader at Christ Community Lutheran School (CCLS) in Kirkwood, named the recipient of LESA’s 2023 Student Christian Leadership Award.

Freya was nominated for the award by Mr. Royce Hartmann, Middle School Principal. “Freya is the embodiment of a student Christian leader.  She has a strong faith, a huge heart for Jesus, and is compassionate, kind-hearted, and driven.  Freya is so friendly to everyone.  She regularly serves others at her church and has been on a mission trip to Honduras. Freya is the type of person everyone would want their child to hang around.  She leads by example and shares her faith.”

Freya shared that “Being a Christian leader means being an example to the rest of the world of how Jesus loves all of us. In today’s culture, we are so quick to point out mistakes and focus on hatred and anger that it is easy to forget how Jesus would want us to act. Being a Christian leader means that you strive to show mercy, kindness, empathy, and spreading the love of God to all.”

Freya’s mission work is her greatest passion.  She has been involved in missions since the age of five. “My grandmother and I started writing Christmas cards to the Micah boys. The Micah Project is a non-profit Christian mission in Honduras. They take boys off the streets and give them a loving Christian home and educate them to help make an impact in their community by being amazing Christian leaders. It has been a little over nine years since God planted my love of missions in me and since then, I have become Micah’s mission ambassador, and I was able to travel to Honduras and see His work firsthand. During that trip, I learned so much about God and how he can work through the most broken people.”

Freya’s favorite school subject is history. “If people are educated in history, it can help prevent conflict. I also love to learn about people who have done amazing things to make the world a better place and inspire me and children in the future. I like to say that the Bible is a Christian’s history book. It teaches how to live, and it gives us the history of the world in one book.” said Freya.

“I will forever be grateful that part of God’s plan for me is to be a part of the CCLS community. I have developed unbreakable friendships and connections that I thought were never possible. CCLS is like no other. It is a family in Christ, there to support and uplift everyone. The love and support that I have been shown is overwhelming and I am incredibly grateful. I can’t imagine wanting to go anywhere else.”

Freya is the daughter of Reed and Annekin Blackman.  They are members of Central Presbyterian Church.  Freya plans to attend Lutheran High School South in the fall, and will receive a $500 scholarship underwritten by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) as part of her award.



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05 Jun

Geospatial leaders hope St. Louis teachers will bring the technology to classrooms

Photo credit: Kate Grumke, St. Louis Public Radio

Dee Leible, a teacher at Christ Community Lutheran School, has applied geospatial technology in the classroom and ignited a profound sense of alignment with her interests. This year, she took the exciting step of introducing data analysis and mapping technology to her students, a decision that has had a lasting impact. Inspired by the transformative experience, Leible is now actively advocating for other educators to embrace this innovative approach.

The integration of geospatial technology into her teaching practice allowed for engaging discussions with her students, prompting them to delve into the significance of the data and explore ways it could contribute to a better understanding of our community, classroom, and the wider world. Leible’s passion for this educational method stems from its ability to empower students to make meaningful connections and actively participate in shaping their environment. These are the type of educators who make Lutheran schools an amazing experiences for our students. Read Kate Grumke’s full article on

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26 May

Things to Consider when Choosing a Faith-Based Education

Photo credit:, St. Paul’s Lutheran & Joanna Hoeltge

As St. Louis parents consider the ideal educational environment for their children, they are presented with a wide array of school options. For some, a Lutheran or Christian school holds appeal due to its alignment with their faith. Others seek an educational context where their children can learn Biblical morals and values alongside core subjects. Additionally, some are drawn to the intimate setting of a school that prioritizes individual growth and achievement. If you are exploring this decision, consider this article: “St. Paul’s Lutheran: Things to Consider when Choosing a Faith-Based Education” from guest contributing author, Joanna Hoeltge, when selecting a school for your child. Read the entire article here.

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19 Jan

Thinking of the Future

Endowments to Benefit Lutheran Education

The Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA) offers the opportunity for donors to establish an endowment to fund Lutheran education in the St. Louis metropolitan area.  These funds are held in perpetuity and invested for long-term growth while providing income for purposes chosen by the donor. Only earnings will be used for the designated program. Endowments ensure that LESA will continue to provide need-based tuition assistance and educational resources well into the future for our member schools and the students we serve.

Endowments are funded by individuals with a minimum gift of $25,000 which may be funded at one time or over a period of five years.  The donor may name the fund in honor or in tribute of someone.   An eligible matching gift may be available from the Lutheran Legacy Foundation, Youthbridge Community Foundation or private individuals to help offset or increase the initial investment.

Your investment and commitment to Lutheran education help build the future of young leaders in our community, and are critical to helping advance Lutheran education. Below are LESA’s Named Endowments that we have permission to disclose; all endowments to benefit LESA total nearly $11 million. We give God all glory for the blessings these endowments bring to the students LESA serves!

Building Blocks Scholarship Endowments
Jacqueline Appelt Scholarshp Endowment
Tim & Jackie Branneky Fund
John & Marilyn Brickler Endowment
Marilyn K. Brickler Scholarship Endowment
Bradley Bunte Scholarship Endowment
Robert & Lorraine Duesenberg Fund
John W. & Nancy Gerber Scholarship Endowment
Dr. Richard Graul Endowment
Dorian & Bernice Magwitz Endowment
Vernon & Joann Schroeder Fund

Programs and Operation Endowments
Dancy Family Fund
Duane & Marjorie Hingst Education Endowment
Edith A. Kalbfleisch Education Fund
John K. & Joan A. Komlos Fund
Niewald Family Fund
Roland & Hilda Pflantz Endowment
Phyllis Miller Rowold Fund
Phyllis Ann Rowold Memorial Fund
Steve & Sandy Siepman Fund

Contact the LESA office at 314-200-0797 or visit for more information on establishing an endowment or to contribute to an existing endowment.

 The Lutheran Elementary School Association (LESA) is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran  Church – Missouri Synod and is a  registered Missouri not-for-profit corporation that holds 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service; LESA’s federal EIN is 43-1853158.

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19 Jan



Students at Green Park Lutheran School work with touch pads during the 2020-21 school year.

The Summer 2021 Tokyo Olympics highlighted not only the physical strength and skills of the athletes, but also brought to light the need to care for mental health. When our darling of the gymnastics team, Simone Biles, bowed out stating emotional issues, it made a tremendous statement to the world: the mind is a powerful thing, and without health in this area, our body suffers.

Our schools are tasked to prepare students to succeed in life, not just to do well in school. Beyond academics, Lutheran schools spiritually care for students and share the message of life-saving grace. It’s the basis of our mission.

Lutheran schools also help students develop social and emotional skills that will enable them to work with others and achieve their potential. In 2019, Forbes Magazine identified emotional intelligence as the #1 job skill for the future. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and express our own emotions and understand someone else’s emotions. In the past year, LESA teachers have learned about Social-Emotional Learning and the skills of empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit.

One of our professional development speakers, Dr. Thomas Hoerr, shared this statement with our educators: Who you are is more important than what you know. This means students having a secure self-view. We need to be intentional in teaching students how to be caring, disciplined, honest, accepting, and resilient. Students need to develop skills in both social-emotional learning and academics to become understanding and respectful as well as skilled and productive. In a world where the only constant is change, learning these skills prepares students for success.

For Lutheran schools, the statement, “who you are is more important than what you know” has deeper meaning. We teach “who you are” is a forgiven, loved, and accepted child of God. This gospel message is taught alongside the law, to develop future citizens of heaven.

In addition to professional development, your gifts also help fund counseling services for member schools who do not otherwise qualify for any funding for student counseling services.  Last year, your gifts helped us reach 761 students who receive 2,057 hours of counseling at five member schools last year.

Amidst the ongoing challenges of routines and schedules students crave in order to be successful, please keep our LESA educators lifted in prayer this school year as they address not only academic needs, but care for students’ emotional and spiritual needs. School ministry is not an easy calling. Give thanks to those that have answered the call to help students grow in grace, knowledge, and wisdom in Christ.

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