Understanding Racism Workshop October 19–20

At times each of us need to make time to learn about diversity and recommit ourselves to love those around us better. We invite you to join the LSA Staff and others for a 2-day Understanding Racism workshop presented by CORR (Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation).  

The workshop will be from 8:00am–6:00 pm Thursday, Oct. 19 and Friday, Oct. 20 at LSA. Breakfast and lunch is provided.

Full cost is $200. Scholarships are available. Please email Lauren Jensen to RSVP or to ask about scholarships.

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Introducing New Staff and Board Members

Dear family and friends,

Since school ended nearly two weeks ago it has been a very productive time at Living Stones Academy,  In the past few weeks we have hired three staff members and added two new board members to our community.  These people are yet one more example of how God continues to provide for Living Stones in remarkable ways.

Mrs. Carlie Shults—Kindergarten

Mrs. Shults joins LSA after teaching this past year at Kingdom Christian Academy in Lesotho, Africa.  Before moving to Lesotho with her husband Andy she taught 3rd grade in Cedar Springs for six years; and before that she taught 1st grade in Canton, MI at a charter school.  Carlie has her undergraduate degree in Language Arts and Elementary Education, and her master’s degree from Michigan State in Teaching and Curriculum.  Carlie impressed our discernment team with her written answers, with her wide-ranging experience, through her interview, and through her recommendation letters and references.  Those who know Carlie well describe her as a master teacher.  Carlie stood out in a crowded field of more than 40 applicants.

Mrs. Janet Potter—Educational Support Parapro

Mrs. Potter joins Living Stones after serving in Grand Rapids Public Schools for the past 23 years.  Janet will join our educational support team and will work three days each week. She brings a deep love for children to her work, particularly children who face significant challenges.  Before coming to LSA Janet worked with students who have moderate to severe disabilities at Ken-O-Sha. We are deeply grateful that Janet will be joining our team this fall.

Ms. Kandace Williams—Educational Support Parapro

Ms. Williams will also join the educational support team at LSA.  She will provide both behavioral/emotional support and academic support for students with identified needs.  Those who know her well describe her as humble, resilient, and kind.  She is also known for her composure, even in the midst of stressful situations.  Kandace recently completed her undergraduate degree at GVSU.  Her research focused on how poverty impacts the educational outcomes of children. This fall she will begin her Master of Social Work at GVSU.

Sara Sherry Knoester—Board Member

Sara Knoester’s roots have been implanted in Grand Rapids for most of her life. An alumni of Grand Rapids Catholic Central, she graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Minor in Creative Marketing. She is currently the President/Owner of Mixed Staffing and Recruiting, which she opened in downtown Grand Rapids in 2012. Her organization focuses on professional, diversity, and inclusive staffing throughout West Michigan. The firm also works with military veterans and returning citizens (ex-offenders) to help them find employment. She has recently been honored with a Local First LocalMotion Award, as well as nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, the Business Journal Top Woman Owned Business and Top 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan.

Sara has 5 years of experience in leadership and is a human resource expert. Sara also serves as the Varsity Volleyball Coach at Ottawa Hills High School, she is a committee member to D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s and Hope Network. Sara is married to Jeremy, and they are expecting their first child later this year!

Brian Krosschell—Board Member

Brian brings over 15 years of finance and leadership experience to Living Stones Academy.  He is a CPA and currently works as a Finance Director for fairlife, leading the commercial finance function for fairlife operations.  Prior to fairlife, Brian spent 4 years at GE Aviation as a Controller.  Prior to GE, Brian spent 10 years in Chicago, working as a CPA for Deloitte (6 years), and a real estate investment trust (4 years).

The son of a retired Christian school educator, and product of a Christian education, Brian understands the tremendous value of what Living Stone’s has to offer.

Brian is married to Tara, and they have 4 young children together: James (8), Sam (6), Alexa (4), and Miles (1).

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Invitation: PK-6th grade Family Preview Days

We invite you to meet our teachers and staff, see our classrooms and learn about our unique mission. Living Stones Academy provides a high-quality, unwaveringly Christ-centered education to all.

Two ways to experience Living Stones Academy

Option 1

January 25, 2017
8:15–10:00 am

Observe classrooms in action
Experience an all-school worship
Hear about our mission and vision from Head of School, Rev. Aaron Winkle

Option 2

January 26, 2017
6:30–7:30 pm

Meet our diverse and experienced teaching staff
Visit the classrooms
Hear about our mission and vision from Head of School, Rev. Aaron Winkle

Accepting applications for levels:

AM & PM Preschool sections available to 3, 4, and 5 year olds
Full day kindergarten
Openings PK – 6th grade

Living Stones Academy…

  • is a neighborhood-based school with intentionally small class sizes
  • provides high-quality education, Christ-centered education
  • seeks to break down economic, racial and cultural barriers. Everyone is welcome here.

Come learn how a Christ-centered education can be financially feasible for your family.

For more information, call 616.803.9654 or email gro.rgsenotsgnivilnull@ofni

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An Interview with Aaron Winkle, new Head of School for LSA

winkles-medThe Living Stones Academy Board of Directors is excited to announce that Rev. Aaron Winkle has accepted our offer to be our new Head of School.

We recently spent some one-on-one time with Aaron, hearing more of his story in taking this new role, finding out more about his background, and getting his perspective on the future of LSA.

So — why LSA, and why education?

Why LSA? Living Stones Academy has a compelling mission and a bright future. I am so grateful that I will have the privilege of partnering with so many committed and talented teachers, staff members, parents, volunteers, and friends as we respond to God’s call and the needs of our community.

Why education? For the past fifteen years I have felt a strong call to invest in the lives of young people through my roles in Christian higher education. As a chaplain, coach, and administrator, I have been able to walk alongside students who are making decisions that set the trajectory of their lives. This calling also comes out of my belief that God’s redemption plan for this world requires people whose hearts and minds have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The needs of the world are great — and as a community of faith we need to fulfill our calling to train and shape those God has entrusted to our care. Moving into this position at Living Stones is an extension of the calling I first felt fifteen years ago.  

What’s your background with LSA?

We were involved in LSA from the very beginning, even before it was official. While our kids were young, we were seeking out a school that offered a distinctly Christian education that was welcoming to all people, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or educational background. We wanted something different. We hosted one of the informational meetings at our house to allow interested families to interface with the board before it opened.

We ended up being the first family to enroll at LSA because we felt called to be a part of it. Those early days felt like we were the people of Israel waiting for the Red Sea to part; we knew were called to go, but at the same time it was obvious that we couldn’t move forward unless God himself provided…and He did!

What was the process of interviewing like from your perspective?

As of last year, I had been considering other vocational explorations. As some may know, last year my family and I moved to Klaipeda, Lithuania so that I could serve as the interim Vice President of Student Life at LCC International University. That was a pivotal year for us in many ways.

Through this and a number of other life events, and being prompted by the Spirit and a few members from the community to consider applying, we decided to apply to Living Stones in January. We wanted to be faithful through the process.

From what I know, the entire search for a HoS was a rigorous process with multiple candidates involved. The candidates were interviewed by many from the school including the search committee, board, and staff. We talked about my strengths and what I could provide for the school at this time.

How did your time in Lithuania impact your decision?

At LCC International University, my role was Vice President of student life. There were various countries, languages, religions represented under one roof. In our year there, we were reminded as a family what it’s like to be an outsider, developing an appreciation for all the different cultures represented.

We started to learn the difference between what it means to be multi-cultural vs. being inter-cultural. Being inter-cultural means having true respect for people from other cultural backgrounds, learning from one another in a mutually beneficial relationship. For instance, I had to consider interesting questions like, how do you shape a worship service for a community made up evenly of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant believers?

In Lithuania, there are no other options for Christian education. Because of this, we came out of the experience at LCC wondering where God might be calling us next. Our year away exposed us to so many of the world’s great needs. At the same time, we came home fully aware that there are great needs right here in our community, including access to high-quality education. The experience at LCC, combined with things I’ve read, like The Road to Character by David Brooks, has gotten me to look for places that seek to be “missional.”

LSA is a missional school — fully committed to raising followers of Jesus Christ and equally committed to making that kind of education accessible to all parents, families and kids that want it. This means making decisions that are aligned with those priorities. I want to make that more of a reality.

What’s your style as a leader? And what type of leader do you think our school needs now?

I have strengths in team building, nurturing spiritual growth, communication, networking and fundraising. In all of my work, I try to fully lean into my strengths and surround myself with people who can fill the gaps in my abilities.

The school needs a different type of leader today than it did when the school first started. I feel like my skills and background are well suited for the phase of life that the school is in now.

I would like to really focus on deepening the mission of LSA. I see this in a few areas off the bat:

  • SpirituallyI believe our job is to create prime citizens in the kingdom of God (taken from Neil Plantinga’s work).
  • In hiringI want to find and hire teachers who are passionate about their relationship with Jesus Christ and sharing it with children.
  • In our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and accessibility, I desire to deepen our commitment to it.

Why is it important for Living Stones to deepen our commitment to diversity and inclusion?

There are a number of reasons we need to deepen our commitment to diversity and inclusion. First, it is biblical; for example, the book of Revelation describes a scene in the new heaven and new earth when people of all nations, tribes, and tongues will gather around the throne to worship. Following Jesus means our primary identity is now found in him, not in our socio-economic status, our race, or our political party affiliation.

Second, our world has a great need for people who can build bridges instead of walls. By intentionally cultivating a diverse community where all people are known, valued, and respected we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, be a part of answering the prayer, “thy kingdom, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion must be woven into all we do — hiring practices, enrollment policies, professional development, etc. These are lofty goals worthy of our best efforts.

How do you see your community relationships working in your new role?

Over the past fifteen years, I have developed an extensive network of contacts in West Michigan, including many people who serve in administrative positions in Christian, public, and charter schools. In my new role as head of Living Stones, I’ve already begun building on those relationships. For example, this weekend I will be attending a conference with more than a dozen administrators of urban Christian schools around the country. This will allow me to rub shoulders with leaders from schools like ours who are doing great things in their communities.

I have worked in Christian education for the last 15 years. Even though the age of the students is a lot different at the college level, there are a lot of fundamental principles in higher ed that are relevant to training up children in elementary education. It begins with seeing each student as an image-bearer of God — full of potential. As educators, our role is to shape the environment and curriculum that will fully engage the hearts, minds, and imaginations of curious students.   

What is your long term vision for the school?

There’s so much good happening at Living Stones. I want to build on the strengths and legacy of LSA. But I’m also excited for what lies ahead. Living Stones is growing up. We’re past the start-up stage and are starting to head into a new phase of life. This means new opportunities to have more impact in the lives of our students, families, and community.

I’m also excited to take the newly completed and approved strategic plan into the future. LSA has a mission and vision with a lot of people invested in it. It begins with listening to the staff and parents. Where do they sense God is at work and where does the Spirit want us to go?

I’m eager to nurture the evolving group of families to carry the mission forward. As I mentioned earlier, LSA has a compelling mission and a bright future. And I’m grateful I get to be a part of shaping it!


Interview by Paul Hart, April 11, 2016

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Preschool and Kindergarten Open House January 28

We invite you to the Living Stones Academy open house for preschool and kindergarten on Thursday, January 28, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. We will provide information, introduce teachers, give tours of the classrooms, and answer questions. We will also be providing application forms for the 2016-2017 school year. Parents, children, siblings, and friends are all welcome.

Preschool at Living Stones Academy  is open to 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Our kindergarten program is all day, every day. If you have any questions, please see our FAQ page or contact the office.

Here is a little of what our preschoolers and kindergarteners experience at Living Stones:

  • A Christian learning experience that is full of energy and passion, curiosity and risk taking – all with our Creator God at the center.
  • A school that celebrates the rich diversity that we find in God’s world, welcoming students of all races and cultures.
  • An experienced teaching staff that shows God’s love to the students (even when it’s hard) and works to make sure each student is reaching their potential.
  • A community of parents deeply invested in our mission and values.

If you are interested in our school but unable to attend the open house, please contact us to set up a tour.


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Circle Up! 2015


Circle Up! is our fall service project and fundraiser — all in one. Our students went out into the neighborhood to rake leaves for neighbors who might have struggled to do it on their own. Before they left, they got a pep talk from Living Stones mom Sarah VerMerris. Our school’s theme this year is GROW, and she told them to G – go! RO- reach out! W – with love!

And wow, they did it! Our students, staff, and volunteers (20 volunteers came to help) raked about 20 yards in the Fulton Heights neighborhood. The neighbors all kept saying the same thing: “You made my day.”IMG_8925

The students worked hard in their multi-grade teams with staff and volunteers, and filled two trailers and two pick-up trucks full of leaves. After raking, we gathered on the school lawn for celebratory donuts and cider provided by our friends and neighbors at Mayfair Christian Reformed Church. It was a great day of community building and service.

Parent Joel Swierenga photographed the event, and the rest of his photos are available here.

At Living Stones, we think serving and living in community should be the norm, and Circle Up! is just one way we live that mission out. To learn more about Living Stones, contact our office or sign up to take a tour.

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It’s time for Circle Up!

Circle Up

We are looking forward to our annual Circle Up! fundraiser on November 5. Circle Up! is a unique blend of fundraiser and service project — all in one. We identify neighbors near the school  who need help raking their lawns, and then we spend several hours helping with their fall yard clean up.  The students seek sponsors for their raking efforts, which goes toward our school’s operating budget.

Our fundraising goal for Circle Up! is $20,000. If each Living Stones family raises $375, we will meet our goal! You can give in the following ways:

  • Sponsor Circle Up! for a student you know; students will be asking for checks and online donations.
  • Mail a check to 1415 Lyon Street NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Donate online at www.livingstonesgr.org/support/giving/

The contributions go to our school’s operating budget which helps us fulfill our mission. We believe everybody should have access to a quality Christian education, and Circle Up! helps make that happen.

For more information or to volunteer, please contact the office.

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Mix It Up Day at Living Stones


October 27 was Mix It Up Day at Living Stones. Mix It Up is a nation-wide event that “encourages students to identify, question and cross social boundaries.”

Currently, thousands of schools take part every year to help kids break out of their comfort zones, meet new people, and reinforce simple, positive interaction between children and their peers.

At LSA, students are put in cross-grade teams to eat lunch, play games, and participate in projects. This year, they collaboratively made cards that will be distributed to our Fulton Heights neighbors during Circle Up!



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Introducing Our Interim Head of School

22009199475_2346d691e8The 2015-2016 school year has brought new students and staff to our school, including interim head of school, Lloyd Dozeman. Lloyd is an experienced educator and loving grandfather to three LSA students. The past few months, he’s been working hard getting to know the students and staff, settling into his role, and developing our theme “GROWing Together… in Community” with the students and staff.

“It is a great staff that is also determined to integrate their faith walk into the day-to-day responsibilities,” Lloyd says.

“I feel so strongly that there is genuine concern for the welfare of each other.  LSA  definitely has a a rich learning environment, one that allows students to grow in each individual classroom as well as with students from other grade levels.  It is a Christ-centered school in every sense of the word!”

He graduated from Holland Christian High School and Calvin College. He has his M.Ed. in administration/supervision from Florida Atlantic University. Prior to working with the Living Stones community, Lloyd served schools in Lansing, IL; Lake Worth, FL; Everett, WA; and Holland, MI (Holland Christian Schools). He and his wife Jan recently spent five years in China teaching at the university level and mentoring teaching teams throughout China. Jan is a very active volunteer in the LSA library.

Lloyd and Jan are blessed with three children and spouses. Jen and Nathan Willink live in Grand Rapids, with their children and LSA students Josiah, Corena, and Everett. Joel and Allie Dozeman live in Portland, OR, where Joel works for a lumber company (as well as building his first “tiny house”), and Allie is in her 3rd and final year of medical residency in Podiatry. Bethany and Tony Bakker live in Holland where Tony does online work in the music industry, and Bethany serves Holland Heights CRC as Ministries Director as well as Director of Music and Worship.

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LSA video will be airing on GRTV

Joel Swierenga, an LSA parent, submitted the video he produced about LSA for the 2013 Stones of Hope dinner to the local public access station. It will be shown on GRTV in an effort to broadcast our school to a wider audience. Below are the times that it will air, or click on the link to watch online.


Fri     10/02/15   10:30 PM
Sat    10/03/15     9:30 AM
Mon  10/05/15     8:00 PM
Wed  10/07/15     6:00 PM
Thu   10/08/15     8:00 PM
Sat    10/10/15   11:45 PM
Sun   10/11/15     6:45 PM
Tue   10/13/15     7:00 PM

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