Let Them Shine

The Lower School at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne offers a unique curriculum and community that incentivizes students to love learning.
Oct 7, 2021
Jennifer Blomquist
Tim Brumbeloe

Our mission is to maximize the potential of all children in our building and I think we do a really good job of providing a safe, close-knit and loving community where every child is loved and celebrated,” says Mike Landgraf, Lower School Director at Canterbury School. 

Located off Covington Road on Fort Wayne’s near southwest side, the Lower School at Canterbury School houses grades kindergarten through fourth and is part of the independent school’s sprawling campus for students age two in the early childhood program through high school.

“We keep the class sizes small, with an average of 16 students,” says Landgraf. “That allows the teachers to really know their kids well. And because we’re an independent school, we’re exempt from federal, state and church or diocese guidelines and oversight. Our teachers are really given a lot of freedom to create curriculums that are responsive to the students and their class. We don’t administer state standardized testing, so we don’t have to spend time doing the proverbial ‘teaching to the test.’ Teachers have that autonomy and that professionalism that they collaborate and they’re able to pivot if they need to and come up with ways to engage students in maximizing their potential.”

Landgraf speaks very highly of the teaching staff at the Lower School.

“The commitment from our teachers is phenomenal and their unity is amazing. We’re all on the same page philosophically. It’s child-centered and we’re doing what we can to keep the kids engaged.”

Stacia Czartoski is a second grade teacher at the Lower School and still remembers how impressed she was by the Canterbury community when she first started working there 20 years ago.

“While getting a tour of the building I was taken aback by the warmth of genuine greetings and smiles,” she says. “I felt the ‘Canterbury family love’ immediately from teachers, staff, principals, custodians, parents and especially the children. This is where I wanted to spend the rest of my professional teaching career.”

Czartoski’s daughter, Alyssa, and son, Nicholas, both attended Canterbury and graduated from the high school in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

“They couldn’t have asked for a better education. Teachers and coaches in all divisions have gone out of their way to ensure my children had the best academic, fine arts and athletic experience. They encouraged and challenged them not only in learning academic material, but also made them better team players and well-rounded people. At Canterbury, we brainstorm, collaborate and focus on things that are working and what we can do better for our students. This caring and nurturing environment stems from my hard-working colleagues who care deeply and want our students to succeed.”

“Every teacher and employee at Canterbury looks out for and cares for your child like their own,” says Annie Henry, whose daughter, Arden, is in third grade and whose son, Finn, is in fifth grade. “To me and my family, what makes Canterbury stand out above all else is the care shown to the students and the community that surrounds each student and family. Every child and family becomes part of a support system that is like no other.”

Landgraf recognizes that the success of teachers and their students includes close connections and communications with the families.

“It’s a partnership with the parents,” he says. “We work closely with our families to instill in the kids the importance of being respectful, kind, caring and engaged citizens. It’s about building that strong foundation to make the kids role models as they get older.”

Landgraf says he is a firm believer in the school’s motto: Integrity in all things.

“We spend a lot of time teaching the kids to do the right thing even when no one is looking. We have something called ‘Chapel Program’ three times a week where everyone in the Lower School gathers together and we use the opportunity to teach kids to understand and appreciate the viewpoints of all different races and religions. We have a lot of diversity in terms of faith here, so I think that’s a really important piece that we’re able to expose and discuss what pushes us together and what pushes us apart. Living up to our motto about integrity means giving the kids some freedom and responsibility so they learn how to navigate and manage through some of the things they’ll face in society as they get older.”

In Landgraf’s opinion, the four most vital things for a child to succeed are hope, care, engagement and joy.

“We focus on those four elements a lot,” he says. “All of these factors are predicated on authentic relationships built on trust and care. I want children to come to school excited to learn and to leave with a smile in anticipation of the next day. We also want them to know we care about them and want to help them succeed. And it’s also important for us to let them know that it’s okay to fail and that they can learn from their failures. School should be a place where students create a lifelong love of learning which is made possible through a positive and supportive culture.”

Landgraf points out that financial aid and scholarships are available to families.

“We realize this is a financial commitment, so we have a lot of people to help with finances and make it a viable option.”

With a lengthy list of class choices including foreign language, drama, strings, and religion, Landgraf says Canterbury’s Lower School allows students to dabble in and be exposed to different skill sets.

“It gives them opportunities to shine and show their strengths and talents, which I think is fantastic. One of our taglines is, ‘Artist. Athlete. Scholar.’ That’s a good way to summarize what we’re trying to accomplish. We focus on academics, but the arts as well. And we have a no-cut policy for sports in our middle school and high school, so if the kids want to play, they can play. We see the beauty that every child brings here, and we want them to see the beauty of belonging to this community.” 

Canterbury School

Address: 5601 Covington Road Fort Wayne, Indiana 46804

Phone: (260) 432-7776

Website: canterburyschool.org

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