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.