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Spotlight on Science

July 17, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal
                 2017 Regional Science Fair

Our science department recently celebrated some huge successes as some of our students excelled with their science fair projects. IRCS sent four students to the Pinellas Regional Science Fair. Kaitlyn Yu and Joshua Guzman placed second in their divisions. Tiffany Byun was awarded first in the Chemistry division. Hannah Anderson placed first in the Physics class and was named Senior Division “Best of Fair” winner. By virtue of the quality of their projects, Hannah and Tiffany qualified to go to the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair in Lakeland. Hannah’s “Best of Fair” award also qualified her to attend the I-SWEEEP International Competition held in Houston, Texas.

At the state competition, Tiffany received the Honorable Mention award. She was also recognized at the American Chemical Society Tampa Section Awards Dinner held recently at USF.

Hannah received the Award of Recognition at the State Fair. She also won the Bay Area Manufacturer’s Association (BAMA) Award, The Mayor’s Showcase Runner Up Science and Technology Award and was accepted to attend a 10 day Duke University Math Summer Workshop. At I-SWEEEP, Hannah was awarded the Bronze Medal (third place) in the Energy Category of this prestigious international competition.

An area that IRCS is putting an increased emphasis on is in the sciences. This past year the elementary began a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program as an afterschool enrichment opportunity. Two of their big projects involved building and launching rockets as well as how to land precious cargo safely. They were able to gain an incredible amount of knowledge and had fun doing it.

In the MS/HS we will be changing Science Department Head Tracy Springman’s schedule so that she will be able to devote half of her day to being a STEM coordinator for our school. We have had extensive help and counsel from Dr. Mark Oleksak, a current parent who is the Director of Scientific Research at Faraday Labs and STEM Research Consultant. We appreciate his wisdom and guidance immensely. The class schedule change will allow Tracy to help other teachers with the implementation of STEM related projects and curriculum into their current classes. This past fall Mrs. Springman was selected as one of 26 teachers nationally to attend a computer based research science training in Grand Rapids, Michigan where all the expenses were paid by the host. She has just received notification that she has been selected as one of six teachers nationally to be brought back for an increased level of training. To be eligible for this, teachers had to submit a portfolio of how they had implemented the previous training into their current classroom settings.

To help free up Tracy’s schedule we have hired an additional science teacher. Wesley Thompson will be teaching all of our Biology classes as well as adding another Advanced Placement (AP) offering to our schedule by teaching AP Environmental Science. This brings our AP offerings to 3 in the Sciences and 7 overall. The art room is currently being transformed into a 3rd science lab. The wrestling room (in the back hallway by the band room) will be the new Art room. We think students will enjoy these newly refurbished rooms.

A final item of interest is that we will be sending 13 teachers to a special STEM conference in Orlando later this month. Our goal is to stay current and excel in the area of Science.

2017 Science Fair


Summertime and the Reading’s Easy: 4 Fun Ideas For Your Students

July 06, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Now that we’re well into summer, your children have probably settled into a whole new routine. Whether they are vegging out on the couch or more active than ever, a break from school is undoubtedly a welcome change of pace.

With summer vacation well underway, it’s a great time to assess progress on your family’s summer reading goals. Many parents don’t find that their students are hitting the books quite as often as they’d like. This can lead to summer learning loss, making it more difficult for students to catch up when they return to school. Numerous studies indicate that kids who don’t read over the summer months experience academic regression.

“But how do I get my kids interested in reading over other activities?”

We hear you. Some children are simply not inclined to pick up a book when they have free time. Consider these tips for making reading seem fun and easy.

Set a Movie Date

Some of the most amazing stories are made into movies. And if your child is more interested in the big screen than small print, encouraging them to read a book before planning a family movie night to watch the story in action can be a big motivator. There are titles turned into films each year and something for every grade level. A few of our favorites are The Chronicles of Narnia series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, and the Harry Potter series.

Start a Book Club

Most kids really look forward to having their friends over throughout the summer. Making reading a social event can be an effective way to keep your students interested. Allow your child to invite a small group of friends into your home for some quiet reading time followed by group discussion. Parents can be involved by reading along and probing the group with meaningful questions about the content.

Visit Bookstores & Libraries

Some students don’t care for reading simply because they haven’t found a genre that piques their interest. Making many different types of books accessible is key. Take your kids to the library or bookstores as often as possible and allow them to pick out their own weekly readings. If you can’t make it there as often as you’d like, consider e-book gift cards as rewards for good behavior or helping with chores.

Create a Culture Shift

Consider whether you are fostering a culture of reading in your home. Leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to influence your children. Set reading goals for yourself and share them — “I am going to finish this book on vacation,” or “I plan to read five novels this summer.” Likewise, help your students set measurable goals and celebrate their milestones along the way.

Looking For a Private School to Partner With Your Family?

Indian Rocks Christian School, located in Pinellas County, FL, is a family-centered Christian school that provides quality academics, engaging activities, and exceptional support. We partner with families to help students reach their full potential. It would be our pleasure to send you some information about our K-12 programs.


Catching Up With the 3 Valedictorians Honored at IRCS

June 26, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Earning the title of valedictorian is an honor to be celebrated. This title is traditionally reserved for the one student with the highest academic achievements in the class.

After four years of diligent study, three students were selected to represent Indian Rocks Christian School (IRCS)  with this title: Shannon Jones, Kristi Byun, and Josh Guzman. This was a new record for our school.

Each valedictorian offered an inspiring speech at the 2017 graduation ceremony, and now, they’re preparing for the next step in their academic journey. Before they move on to college, we caught up with them to reflect on their time at IRCS and look ahead to the future

According to Shannon, the three valedictorians share a very important trait: the ability to multitask.

“I am a very active person,” she says. “Being involved with other things was the only way I was able to maintain my sanity.”

Her agenda was a constant companion throughout her high school career.

“Without writing my insane schedule down, there is no way I could have made it.”

Kristi added that she believes balancing social and academic aspects of  life is key, and says staying organized and setting priorities made all the difference.

For Josh, it was athletics that really helped him find that balance between academics and personal passions.

“Oddly enough for me, the key to staying focused on academics was to also have other things to focus on,” he says. “For me, that was sports.”

All three of the students remained involved in extracurricular activities while taking on a daunting course loads of advanced classes.

Shannon participated on the Regiment Colorguard each fall, worked on the Talon Yearbook throughout the year, served on the National Honor Society Executive Board, competed in national horse shows, and found time to exercise daily.

Kristi was involved with athletics, the arts, and volunteer activities, participating on several sports teams, serving on the Suncoast Hospice’s teen volunteer program, taking part in yearbook, and a school play. She says the most memorable experiences were the mission trips she was able to take while at IRCS.

Throughout middle and high school, Josh was on the cross country team, the soccer team, and the track team at IRCS. He said that sports were huge stress relievers.

“The philosophy in athletics is very similar to academics: If you put good, hard work in, you’re very likely going to get good results back,” he says.

The three graduates agreed that their teachers helped propel their success.

“My teachers not only cared about my academic success, but also about every other aspect of my life,” Shannon said. “Something that meant a lot to me was the fact that many teachers were at almost every sporting event, fine arts production and award ceremony when their presence may not be required.”

Josh commented on the way his teachers prepared him for college, and life thereafter.

He explains, “Rather than having a focus solely on learning the content of the class, what was the most important to them was the different ways we learned and absorbed the content.”

Josh will be continuing his education at the University of Florida, but has not yet declared a major. He will be accompanied there by Shannon, his fellow graduate, and co-valedictorian, who plans to study International Relations and the Arabic language. Kristi is headed north, to Boston College, and will be majoring in Economics.

While the three graduates have very different career goals, they have one thing in common: a commitment to excellence and a willingness to take on new challenges with confidence.

As Shannon explained in her speech at graduation, “We are not called to live in fear of failure, nor are we called to stop persevering when we find ourselves alone amongst insurmountable challenges.”

She explained the importance of remembering that the future is handcrafted by God himself.

This truth will undoubtedly carry the three valedictorians - and all our graduates -  through the rigors of college and beyond.

Learn More About IRCS

Are you looking for a private school with a commitment to academic excellence and a firm foundation of biblical truth? Indian Rocks Christian Academy is a college-prep school in Largo, FL. We have a track record of producing graduates with the knowledge, character, and faith required to change the world. To learn more, request information today.


The Wows of 2016-17

June 26, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Every school year is full of outstanding and memorable events, this year was no different. Now that the sports, concerts, awards, and graduations are all over it is a little easier to sit back and reflect on the accomplishments of the past school year. Our students have achieved so much more than I could reflect in a single blog. The following is a list of “wow” accomplishments as I see them from a principal’s point of view. I’m sure there are more and I apologize if I have missed your favorite one. If you have a notable “wow” moment you would like to share, please feel free to note it in the comment section at the bottom of the page. And remember, wow spelled backwards is still wow.

The girls cross country team won 2nd place in the Class A District 6 meet this year. 7th grader Erica Roberts had a 3rd place finish there. At the Class A Region 2 meet the girls finished 4th and qualified for the State Meet.

The boys cross country team won the Class A District 6 meet. Cooper LaBrant was the District champion. At the Class A Region 2 level the boys placed 3rd overall with Cooper again crowned first as the Regional Champion. At the State meet the boys finished 12th and Cooper 8th as an individual.

The Regiment marching band garnered first place finishes in Class A for both the Seminole Sound and Eastlake marching competitions.

The Talon yearbook took first place in the ACSI Division III competition. This was their first time to win this judging.

For the past 19 years, the National Honor Society and the Junior National Honor Society have put together “Angel Boxes” for Pinellas County foster children. This year they raised approximately $11,000 and produced 75 boxes for area foster teens. Additionally, they put together 134 Pack-A-Sack stockings for students in 3 local elementary schools and one middle school. As their goals have grown through the years, this makes over $170,000 raised for this project over the past 19 years.

The Fine Arts Department did an incredible job in their performance of “Singin’ In The Rain.” The drama, music and dancing were phenomenal. 

Our brand new rubberized track was finished just in time for the opening of track season. It allowed us to host our first MS track meet in 3 years and our first varsity one in the past 5. We were also able to host the Class A Region 2 meet.

IRCS sent 181 students (69% of the high school student body) and 35 adults on overnight Mini-Mester mission trips to Austria/Slovakia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Lakeland, London, North Carolina, Nicaragua, and Wyoming. We also had local options that worked at Beach Clean-up, Shepherd’s Village, and Street Ministry. Over the past 16 years, IRCS has sent 2426 students and 352 adults (2,778 total) to 26 different countries and 13 states on mission trips. Lives in each of these places were impacted as well as the lives of our students.

The Middle School choir was given Superior ratings at the FVA Solo/Ensemble completion for their Mixed Ensemble, Quartet, Trio and soloist Ashlynn Wells. At the ACSI Choral Festival the MS Choir was rated Superior as was soloist Pricilla Johnson.

At the Florida Vocal Association’s North Florida competition for public and private schools from all over the state the High School Show Choir, soloist Maddie Hubel and one pianist Kaitlyn Yu received superior ratings. Of all the contestants for the competition, seven performances are chosen at the end of the day for a special Honors Concert performance. The Show Choir was chosen to perform at this concert.

Senior James Thorpe won the FHSAA Class A state championship for shot put and placed second in the discus. The boys track team won the Class A District 6 meet, finished second in the Class A Region 2 meet and finished 4th overall for Class A at the State Meet. The girls track team also won the Class A District 6 meet. Subsequently, James was named Tampa Bay Times “Athlete of the Year” for track and Coach Vern Kinsey was named “Coach of the Year”.

The High School Choir competed in the Music USA festival in Orlando. They received a superior rating and 1st place in the High School Concert Choir Category. Maddie Hubel was given a superior rating as a soloist and Bianca Sol Cruz was given a special award as an outstanding soloist in the choir number. MS student Ashlynn Wells also received a Superior for her solo at this competition.

The IRCS class of 2017 featured 60 graduates. Seven of the 60 were accepted to the University of Florida. That is an impressive 12%! For the first time in the history of the school we had a 3 way tie for the Valedictorian honor. Kristi Byun, Joshua Guzman, and Shannon Jones all tied with the exact same grade point average. Lukas Miranda was our Salutatorian.

Sage Belcher, a 2016 graduate, was accepted into the Air Force Academy. He is the first of our graduates to attend one of the service academies.

The varsity baseball team capped a great season by winning the Class 3A District 5 championship and advancing all the way to the Regional finals before bowing out of the playoffs losing to eventual state champion Canterbury of Ft. Myers.

Sixty-two students received the IRCS Scholar Athlete award. This award is given to athletes that play at least two sports while maintaining a 3.9 Grade Point Average.

Sean Culkin, a Class of 2012 grad, signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles (San Diego) Chargers becoming our first football player to make the pros.

Signs of Kindergarten Readiness — Is Your Child Prepared?

June 16, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Sending your child to kindergarten is a big step. Most parents have mixed feelings around this time: excitement, anxiety, and perhaps even concern over whether their child is ready. This is completely normal. It doesn’t mean you’re questioning the aptitude of your student; it just means you want to set them up for success — to make sure they’re adequately prepared for the journey ahead.

As you help your child prepare for kindergarten, focus on the following areas. These are the key milestones a student needs to meet to thrive in their first year of formal schooling.

Social Skills

Social and emotional maturity can be more predictive of success in kindergarten than academic skills. Some of this comes naturally with age, but you can focus on social skill-building at home, too. Help your child learn to:

Listen attentively to adults and other children

Share toys and take turns as needed

Express their feelings or frustrations with words

Communicate respectfully with authority figures and peers

Have confidence and value self (identity in Christ)

Academic Skills

Many parents wonder, “Does my child need to be reading before kindergarten?” Having some basic knowledge of letters and sounds is great, but reading is not required. Kindergarten covers so many core subject areas. Focus on the following to prepare:

Identifying letters, singing the alphabet

Speaking clearly enough for others to understand

Counting to 10 and recognizing numerals

Naming basic shapes

Comprehending a story, retelling it or drawing a picture to illustrate

Physical Skills

Fine and gross motor skills help children develop independence and complete kindergarten tasks.  These skills can be fostered through a variety of activities, mostly importantly through an active lifestyle and physical play.

Properly holding pencils, markers, and scissors

Unzipping, buttoning, and other tasks needed to use the bathroom independently

Opening food containers

Balancing steady while sitting on the floor or standing in a line

Climbing stairs confidently (with alternating feet)

Explore the Kindergarten Program at IRCS

If you are looking for a high-quality, private kindergarten program, schedule a tour at Indian Rocks Christian School. We partner with parents to help their students thrive academically while providing a Christ-centered community in which they can grow.

The Academic All-State Team

June 13, 2017
By Perry R. Banse, Assistant Superintendent, Middle/High School Principal

Each year, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) selects an Academic All-State Team. The FHSAA Ronald N. Davis Academic All-State Team recognition program honors 24 graduating seniors from around the state who excel in both athletics and academics. Twelve young women and twelve young men are selected from throughout the state.

Any FHSAA member senior high school may nominate one male and one female graduating senior. A nominee must have a cumulative unweighted grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, and must have earned a varsity letter in at least two different FHSAA-recognized sports during each of his or her junior and senior years.

For the third time in school history, an Indian Rocks Christian School student was named to the team. Kristi Byun, one of our 2017 Valedictorians, was selected to be on the Academic All-State Team. She joins our previous selections of Ryan Kaufman in 2011 and Christopher Parish in 2014.

This past Monday evening, the FHSAA hosted a banquet to honor each of the 12 males and females selected for this prestigious award. I had the opportunity to attend the banquet with my wife and the Byun family. It was quite an impressive affair. The event was held at the ballroom of a local Gainesville hotel. It was nicely decorated and had a repeating Power Point of the team members showing five photos of each. We were served to a very nice meal. (The steak was twice as big as the chicken so if you ever have this opportunity, pick steak.) Each student athlete was honored individually. Master of Ceremonies Elgin Rucker, a local sports personality, read short bios on each student as FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing presented them with a commemorative medal and pin. They also received a check for $1,600. One deviation to the previous year’s events was that Kristi was one of four students selected to read the essay they wrote as part of the scholarship process. She did it well, showing no nervousness and when she ended it drew the biggest ovation of the night from the crowd.

As I listened to the accolades of each of the student athletes represented, I realized that Kristi was in some pretty “rare air”. Each one was an exceptional student in addition to their athletic accomplishments. They had all logged countless service learning hours. There were 7 Valedictorians and 2 Salutatorians. There was a Wendy’s High School Heisman National award winner – the first ever from Florida. Of the 24 students, 10 will be attending Florida, 3 Boston College, 2 Yale, and 2 the Naval Academy and the others assorted universities. One of the best parts was that Kristi was right there in the mix with all of them. Her accomplishments and plans were just as notable. She plans to attend Boston College where she will major in Economics.

Indian Rocks Christian School is proud of you Kristi and of your accomplishments. Thank you for your hard work. May God continue to bless you as you go on from here.



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