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Northwest Christian School
Dear NCS family,
As this edition of the NCS Spotlight e-newsletter hits your inbox, the school is wrapping up a wonderful tropical-themed faculty and staff appreciation week ("The Great Faculty and Staff Food Truck Festival of 2019") that saw parents and families really step in to express love and appreciation to NCS teachers and staff--Thank you!  To add to the levity and fun of this past week, I had what I thought was a pretty bright idea:  each day this week, I would wear a Hawaiian floral shirt, a colorful visor, a pair of shorts, and Vans shoes.  Just before leaving the house on Monday morning, I checked myself in the mirror and thought I looked pretty good.  Everyone is going to love this, I told myself.  (Truth be told, I thought that I might kind of have this Magnum P.I. thing going on.)

Meanwhile, I have some frequent flyers--students that swing by the office once a day or so to sit and talk with Mr. Brown.  Truthfully, every day, these visits are the highlight of my day.  That is, every day that is except Tuesday.

On Monday, one of my regular visitors swings by and we're arguing about whether the new Avengers movie is really, really good or really, really, really good.  But, all the while, I can tell that something is truly troubling my pint-sized frequent flyer and he's not putting it on the table, but I can tell that something is really wrong.  So, on Tuesday, seeing that some sort of internal conflict is still roiling inside my little friend, I ask:  "Hey, is something wrong?  I'm wondering if anything is bothering you."  The student sits in silence for a minute as if wrestling with what to say.  Finally, he says, "Mr. Brown, of all the looks that you can pull off, apparently this is not one of them."  An awkward silence descended upon the room as I think back to the clear image of Magnum P.I. that I saw in the mirror that morning and try to sort out whether this was a complement or...  After a minute, I say, "Hey, I get it.  You are used to seeing Mr. Brown in a sports coat and tie.  It's probably strange to see me dressed this way--you're just not used to it."  That has to be it, right?  The mirror cannot lie, can it?  The awkward silence persists one or two beats past the "awkward" zone into full-on "embarassing".  "No," he responds, "that's not it.  It's just that you look a bit goofy."  Suddenly, Magnum P.I. turns into Bozo the Clown.  Ouch.

Now, before a couple dozen Northwest Christian parents text, call, or email ("Hey, was that my kid?"), the uncomfortable truth is that it's really not on the kid at all.  It's on me.  (And, yes, it was your kid.)  The hard truth of the matter was that it wasn't Magnum P.I. that was looking back in the mirror on Monday morning.  I wanted to see Magnum, I really did.  But, it took the plain-spoken honesty of a student to help me see the unvarnished truth:  if this superintendent gig ever fails, apparently there's room for me in the clown car at the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

At some point, this next week, in your inbox, all of our Northwest Christian families will receive a link to the 2019 NCS parent partnership survey.  It will take about 20 to 30 minutes to anonymously complete between forty and fifty questions.  Please take the time to complete it!  You will have until the end of the school year. Each summer, we use this annual survey to assess our progress and trajectory as a school.  We use the feedback that we receive to pace school improvement and we prioritize projects and initiatives based on the feedback we receive from families.  I have learned that over time, plain-spoken, candidly anonymous feedback is the best way to go if we are truly serious about providing parents with a school that best suits the needs of their students.  And, as well intended as we are, it is possible that there are a couple of areas--even in this great school that we want to believe has reached Magnum P.I. levels of performance--where we might be a bit closer to Bozo.  Honestly, we appreciate the perspective that you will be providing to move away from Bozo and closer, with each passing year, to Magnum.

Hey, by the way, on a completely separate and unrelated note, if there is anyone out there that is looking for colorful XL Hawaiian tropical shirts, I have five of them for you that I don't think I am going to need anymore.

Grateful for the opportunity to serve this school and your family,
Geoff Brown
Northwest Christian School
(623)225-5573 (cell)
Crusaders Charge into Summer Reading 2019 Campaign Includes New Book Authored by NCS Bible Teacher
This summer, your family can walk with four amazing Crusader families whose stories include both hardship and hope 

With just a month left in the 2018/2019 school year, attention is already turning to summer.  One of the rich Northwest Christian traditions that is associated with summer is "Crusaders Charge into Summer Reading", an opportunity for students, faculty, and parents to turn their attention to a unified reading that stirs hearts in preparation for what God desires to do within the school in the coming year.  As part of this tradition, each Monday, videos arrive in email inboxes that walk the community through the reading.

This summer, the reading plan will center around a pair of potent pieces of prose.  The first reading is what many scholars consider to be the oldest text in scripture:  the book of Job.  Within the book of Job, we will meet a Godly man who, in spite of his righteousness and earnest pursuit of Godliness, endured unimaginable loss.  The second reading comes from Northwest Christian's very own junior Bible teacher, Matthew J. Diaz.  In his recently published "The Last Day of Regret", Diaz tells the story of the loss of his sister, Hannah.  As he sets the loss within the context of their strained relationship, he transparently allows the reader to process loss, grief, hope, and healing with him.  Within both of these stories, the Crusader family will encounter a God that redeems every hardship, no matter how overwhelming it may seem, for His glory and His inspired purposes.

The videos that will arrive each Monday in the inboxes of the Crusader community will introduce four Northwest Christian families that will illuminate the readings.  In addition to Diaz, we will meet Steve and Jacque Wagner who lost their daughter, Katie, to cancer during her senior year.  The impact of Katie's story extended far beyond the school as her testimony and unshaken love for Christ resonated across the state and the nation.  We'll have the chance to meet alumni Jake Fenton who lost his best friend, fellow Crusader alumni and Phoenix Fire Fighter Brad Harper in a tragic accident.  Finally, we will also meet Damon and Elise Evans whose children are current Crusaders.  In 2017, Damon contracted Valley Fever, an infection which settled in his brain and very nearly took his life.

In terms of the scripture reading, the summer will feature a "twist" on a Northwest Christian favorite:  the Red Letter Reading Challenge.  This summer's reading program will walk participants through highlights of the book of Job.  In addition, the Bible reading plan will introduce us to other Biblical heroes who encountered hardship and overcame it as well as drop us into key passages of hope and encouragement within the New Testament.

One aspect of the summer tradition is particularly powerful in preparation for the new school year:  each year, student leaders use the summer reading to prayerfully choose the spiritual emphasis theme for the approaching school year.  Just as student leaders used last summer's readings within the book of Psalms to choose Psalm 62:6 for our verse for the current year and "Unshaken" as the school's annual spiritual emphasis theme, they will do the same for the coming year.

To get a preview of the summer reading and meet the families that will walk us through it, please click on the video below.  If you are interested in securing a copy of "The Last Day of Regret", you can pick it up in the school office or order it HERE via

Summer 2019 Crusaders Charge Intro Video

Spotlight on Students

As he does each spring with the seventh grade, Bible teacher Tyler Collins gave each of his students $10 cash.  He then charged students to devise a plan, using the cash as seed money, that employed their gifts and talents to see that investment grow.  The proceeds were then offered to Feed My Starving Children, the seventh grade Missions Learning partner.  On Tuesday, April 30th, funds were collected and students went down to FMSC to pack the meals for needy children around the world that were purchased with these proceeds (pictured right).  This year's effort by seventh graders generated an increase of $7,230!  How did the students do this?  One aspiring musician used a computer to record songs and then burn the songs to CD that were offered to friends.  One student sold raffle tickets to ride the Northwest Christian Fire Science program's fire truck to Barro's Pizza for lunch.  Others baked, some did crafts--but all students saw a tremendous return on their time, energy, and resources and used that to bless others!
Transitions within Northwest Christian Fine Arts Department Announced for Fall 2019
The school's music programs remain in strong hands with two NCS veterans and an established newcomer to the Crusader family

The conclusion of the 2018/2019 school year also realizes the conclusion of a brilliant chapter within the Northwest Christian story as high school choir director Kate Estes steps away from a role she has enjoyed for fifteen years.  Estes also led the high school's student council, a role that saw her lead the annual charge in a thriving partnership with schools, like J.B. Sutton Elementary, in the Isaac School District.  As Kate steps away to play a support role within her family, two Crusader vets are stepping in.  Melissa McGuire, who has served as the middle school choir director since 2016, is moving into the role of high school choir director.  At the same time, Jessica Gake will assume the reins of the middle school choir, a role that she held until 2016.

It is clear that McGuire is well suited to see the momentum established by Estes continue--her middle school choirs have enjoyed significant notoriety.  Most recently, in the Forum Music Festival which took place in Anaheim during early April, her middle school choirs won top spots in the competition.  For example, to compete at this level, the advanced choir had to qualify by previously winning the judges' gold-level distinction.  This spring 2019 honor represents the third year in a row the advanced choir won the competition against middle school choirs from California, Arizona, and throughout the west coast.  McGuire's other choirs also earned high marks within the fest.  During the same trip, she arranged for the groups to enjoy time with professors and choirs from California Baptist University.

Within the school's band program, transition is also in play as the retiring Scott Williams hands over the conductor's baton to Debbie Hutson.  Hutson began teaching music over 30 years ago after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Music Education from Arizona State University, where she also later received her Master of Fine Arts in Instrumental Music.  Currently, she is the Band Director at Terramar Elementary School in the Deer Valley Unified School District (DVUSD) in Phoenix where she has been teaching since 2012.

In her capacity as a music educator, she has filled many leadership roles outside the classroom. She was the Alhambra Elementary School District Band Coordinator from 1992-1998, has been a Special Area Team Lead at Terramar since 2014, was a clinician for DVUSD's 6th Grade Honor Band, has served as the DVUSD Band Team lead for the past two years, and was a staff member for the AZ Ambassadors of Music to Europe in 1997, 1999, 2015, and 2017. She also often serves as an adjudicator for the Arizona Music Educators Association (AMEA) Solo/Ensemble Festival, Arizona All State Flute Section, ABODA Area Jr. High Concert Band Festival, and the Phoenix Youth Symphony Guild as well as a flute clinician for the Phoenix Symphony Guild Symphonic Winds.
For seven consecutive years her Terramar bands have received a Superior with Distinction at the DVUSD and ABODA concert festivals. This high standard of performance results in her program consistently placing a high number of students in the Junior High All State Bands each year.

In 2017, Debbie was honored to receive the DVUSD Teacher of the Year award. She also received the OM Hartsell Excellence in Music Education Award in 2016, and the Alhambra ESD Excellence in Education Award in 1994. Her bands and small ensembles have been asked to perform at numerous district events throughout her career, including the AZ Superintendents' Association Bi Annual Conference, and her jazz bands regularly perform at local civic events.

Debbie is also a professional flutist and also enjoys playing pennywhistle and other woodwind instruments. She was a flutist for the Tempe Symphony for 10 years, has been Principal Flute for the Scottsdale Philharmonic Symphony since 2013, performs professionally in local musicals, plays pennywhistle occasionally with Trotter's Wake Irish Band, has taught flute privately throughout her professional career, and taken Musical Missions trips to the Philippines, Rio de Janeiro, New Mexico, and Scotland. Though it might seem that music dominates her life, she actively enjoys baking, hiking, and traveling.
During her last year of undergrad studies, Debbie met Kris Hutson while playing in the Lyric Opera Theatre Orchestra and they got married in 1984. Kris spent most of his professional career teaching High School Band, but recently made the switch to Administration and currently works as the Assistant Principal of Attendance and Discipline at Moon Valley High School. He plays the trombone and the two of them often play their instruments together in orchestras around the Valley and abroad. They have two children- Tiffany works as a Producer for SoulPancake in Los Angeles, CA, and Stephen works for Simplero, a marketing software company. Stephen's beautiful wife, Christina, works as a Health Coach.

Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

Spotlight on Students
On Tuesday, April 30th, senior Emily Greenberg signed with Arizona Christian University where she will join three other Crusaders from previous years on the university's accomplished cross country team.  Emily was joined by her parents, coaches, the NCS alumni running XC at ACU, the ACU coach, and numerous classmates for the ceremony.  Afterwards, students circled up around the center of the Don Sanderson Gymnasium floor and prayed for Emily as she finishes out her senior year, her final season of high school track and field, and prepares for the next steps in her academic, athletic, and spiritual journey.

Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes
High School ACT Scores Continue Upward Climb
Teacher training with Princeton Review, a focus on standards alignment across the grade levels, and hard work from students continue to yield strong outcomes

With ACT test results just now being distributed to high school juniors preparing for their senior year and planning for their next steps, the Northwest Christian community was given some very exciting news.  The school's ACT composite score, the average score of every junior student that took the ACT, continues its upward climb.  This year's composite score represents nine-tenths of a point increase over the prior year.  That is nearly one point increase on a 36 point scale for every student.  The year prior to that also realized a half-point increase per student.  The exciting aspect of this continued climb is that starting in 2017, the school began administering the ACT to every junior.  Prior to 2017, the school's composite score only represented those students who chose to take the ACT.  The percentage of participating students ranged from 60% to 80% depending on the year.  These latest composites represent some of the strongest in two decades and the results hold for every student.

Such gains do not come easily.  They represent hard work from students and teachers alike.  On the teacher side, work begins in the summer to make certain that each lesson plan's objectives are aligned with standards.  In the secondary, teachers have also enjoyed two years of training through Princeton Review which allowed them to understand how best to engage meaningful test preparation strategies within every content area.  "What I appreciate most about these efforts," says superintendent Geoff Brown, "is that Biblical integration and Christian worldview are the primary thrust of our academic endeavors.  We're equipping our students spiritually while building an academic platform that will allow them to compete for top positions in career and college.  The end result?  Our students and their Biblical worldview become the difference-makers in the culture in the years to come."

The persistent pace of increase also stems from the fact that the strategy in play is not just unfolding within the secondary program.  Elementary teachers are also working very hard to align their efforts so that the students who are working hard have a very real prospect of experiencing the satisfaction that comes from success and hard work.  Three times each year, using the ACT Aspire, teachers are administrating smaller benchmark tests which gauge a student's readiness.  The third such test was just administered in April and when the school compares the April 2018 benchmark against the recent April 2019 benchmark, there was cause for celebration for reason of the increased rates of student success.  For example, in third through fifth grade, there was an average of a 24% increase in student success over the prior year.
NCS Elementary Welcomes Caldecott Honor-Winning Author and Illustrator Molly Idle
Idle was both author and illustrator for "Flora and the Flamingo" which won the Caldecott Honor in 2014

On Friday, May 17th, Northwest Christian is pleased to welcome Caldecott winning author and illustrator Molly Idle as she visits the school and spends time with elementary-aged students.  Idle, who lives in Arizona, has seen the adventures of her literary hero Flora grow to span a series of five best-selling children's books.  Amidst a myriad of other titles, she has also earned acclaim for her "Rex" series of books about a friendly dinosaur who drops into a series of unlikely situations with humorous results ("Tea Rex", "Sea Rex", and "Camp Rex").  Considered one of the most prestigous awards an author of children's books can achieve, since 1937 the American Library Association, has annually awarded the Caldecott to the "most distinguished American picture book for children".

Idle's visit is part of a year-long series of author visits, puppet shows, and plays that Crusader librarian Becky Roman has provided for students.  This includes an upcoming drama from ChildsPlay, sponsored by the school's library, "The Girl Who Swallowed a Cactus", on Monday, May 13th.  "I sincerely appreciate the tireless approach that Becky takes towards championing reading with our students," enthuses elementary principal Dawna Underwood.  "Whether it's a visit from a famous author or a weeklong series of amazing festivities within the epic week of Read Across NCS, she is working hard to establish a real appetite for reading with our students."
Spotlight on Students

On Wednesday, May 1st, a spokesperson (pictured left with NCS school nurse Michelle Johnson) from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society congratulated students during the elementary chapel.  As part of the Pennies for Pasta fundraiser, the students worked together to raise over $9,000 to help fight leukemia and lymphoma.  The students were thrilled to learn that Northwest Christian was the second highest fundraising school in Arizona for the cause during the 2019 fundraising campaign.
Recent AZ Department of Revenue Report Shows that NCS Families are Finding Ways to Keep Christian Ed Affordable
Arizona legislators have fostered a strong environment for parent choice in education and students are the winners 

What Is A Tax Credit?
What Is A Tax Credit?
Some call it "school choice" while others have taken to calling it "parent choice" but, whatever you call it, one thing is clear:  Arizona's educational marketplace fosters choices for parents.  And, because parents are most in tune with the needs of their children, whether parents choose public, private, charter, or home schools, students are the winners in a free market.

One of the ways this strong climate has been fostered is through the implementation of state tuition tax credit scholarships.  Arizona's Personal Tax Credits for School Tuition Organizations program, started in 1997, was the very first in the country.  After numerous legal challenges, on April 4, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its ACSTO v. Winn decision, held that donations to scholarship organizations are voluntary, that no taxpayer is ever compelled to donate to such a program in violation of conscience, and therefore opponents of the program have no standing to allege that it causes damage, a critical component within a legal suit.

The Arizona Department of Revenue just released its annual report on STO's for 2017.  It points out that there are 357 private schools in the state that participate in the four types of STO scholarships.  In keeping with the spirit of the program--robust school choice for all Arizona students--Northwest Christian parents have been able to participate in the program in a significant way.  Of the 357 participating schools, there are two schools in the state that receive funds from twenty different STO's:  Xavier College Prep and Northwest Christian School.  Northwest Christian is the third highest school in the state when ranked by individual scholarships and the top school in the state as far as "switcher" scholarships (757 switcher scholarship awards).  In sum, in the latest year reported by Arizona (2017), Northwest Christian families were able to help keep Christian education affordable through awards totaling $5,698,177.  Since the inception of the program in 1997, Crusader families have seen a scholarship total of $28,852,862.00.

Each year, Northwest Christian Admissions Director Michelle Reddy holds "How to Afford a Christian Education" workshops which help parents understand the basics of this important program--as well as other affordability options.  Though the fall 2019 schedule for these workshops will not be announced until July, interested families can schedule individual consultations with Michelle by email,
In April, Northwest Christian Students went to Mexico in Record Numbers as Part of Two Missions Trips
Busiest time of the year?  Says who?  Over eighty students participated in international missions efforts in April 

"There are many different spiritual formation strategies that we engage on behalf of our students," explains Northwest Christian spiritual formation coordinator Chris "Mr. G" Gardiner, "and we have seen over time that these trips are among the most influential in seeing our students lives, hearts, and perspectives transformed."

Even after a busy February in which over thirty Crusaders traveled the well-worn path between the campus of Northwest Christian School and the Kids Kingdom orphanage in Imuris, Sonora, the appetite for missions within the high school remained high.  Traditionally considered to be an overwhelmingly busy month, April 2019 saw a record of sorts set for the school as over eighty students went to Mexico on the same weekend as part of two different trips.  Sixty-one high school students journeyed to Kids Kingdom while nearly twenty ascended the Rocky Point area to build a home for a needy family with 1Mission.

Why are these numbers running at record levels?  Mr. G explains:  "We have been doing these trips for eleven years and we begin inviting students to participate, with their families, starting in second grade as part of the Christmas day trip.  This year's seniors have literally grown up going to Mexico, growing up alongside the orphans that they are serving there.  Our students don't see the kids in Imuris and Rocky Point as the 'least of these'--they see them as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ."

The April trips were led by multiple staff and parents.  The 1Mission trip was led by senior Bible teacher Brandon Southall but effectively organized by student leaders.  Crusaders annually participate in three different 1Mission house-building trips:  one in the fall, one in the spring, and one at the Christmas break which primarily features NCS alumni.  

Gardiner has led the Kids Kingdom trip well over a hundred times.  Over that time, NCS has been able to contribute significantly and materially to the Kids Kingdom ministry, even helping to provide the resources that allowed for the construction of a Kids Kingdom sanctuary in neighboring Benjamin Hill, Sonora.   Perhaps the most beautiful expression of partnership, however, has materialized in just this last year as the Gardiner family has started moving through the international adoption process for one of Kids Kingdom's youngest, a little girl whose birth cerfiicate now reads "Elena Bethany Gardiner".  You can learn more about that moving story by clicking HERE.  Or, if you feel prompted to help the Gardiner family as they pursue this effort, click HERE.

Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

May 3, 2019
Vol. 9, Issue 7 
Job 19:25

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth."
Parent University--save the date!
Partnership with Ottawa University
means huge college savings!
Saturn Pools  is a generous sponsor
of NCS Athletics
Bumble Bee Plumbing  is a generous sponsor
of NCS Missions Learning

Generous Supporters of Northwest Christian


Northwest Christian's Prayer Group for Men 
Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

Grand Canyon University

Box Tops for Education
NCS Purple Pages
Moms in Prayer
Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

State Tuition Tax Credit Opportunity
Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes

Generous Sponsors of Northwest Christian Athletes


a NCS Mssions Learning partner

Free NCS Bumper Sticker!

Show your school spirit!
Please present this coupon in the school office to receive a complimentary NCS bumper sticker. 
Limit one per family.
Offer Expires: Offer available while current supplies last.