Fourth grade teacher Kiersten Stimets won first place for Best Elementary School Teacher in Federal Way. Courtesy photo

Fourth grade teacher Kiersten Stimets won first place for Best Elementary School Teacher in Federal Way. Courtesy photo

Pacific Christian Academy wins five Best of Federal Way awards

The Federal Way school focuses on academic, emotional and spiritual health of students.

Pacific Christian Academy in Federal Way is focused on encouraging students to be tomorrow’s leaders.

The academy was founded in 1984 and moved to its current location at 33645 20th Avenue South in 2007. Two years later, Pacific Christian Academy became its own non-profit organization providing Christian education to the families in Federal Way and the nearby communities.

Pacific Christian Academy placed first in five Best of Federal Way categories, including best daycare and educational facility. Three Pacific Christian Academy instructors also took home first place honors in best elementary, middle and high school teacher categories.

The academy provides students with a superior Bible education, and equips them to be socially relevant leaders, serving preschool through high school-aged students.

“I love the idea of encouraging students to be tomorrow’s leaders,” said Debbie Schindler, Head of School. Having spent most of her career in Christian education, Schindler said she looks at mission statements as her job description.

In March 2020, the school was able to shift to remote learning quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic forced educational facilities to restructure their learning.

Within a couple of days, all students were online and their learning continued. The academy values one-to-one interactions, encouraging student interactions and having an academically engaging curriculum. Since September, the academy has been serving 211 students in-person five days a week while about 20 students are participating in either the academy’s homeschooling program or distance learning.

“We are more than happy that we’re in person this year,” Schindler said, adding that even though in-person learning requires more work to ensure the safety of students of staff, it’s become a normal routine. “It’s a little bit more of a layer that we have to work with this year.”

The 30-member staff skillfully adapted to remote learning, but being in-person allows for thriving connections to flourish and spark more “ah-ha” learning moments.

“I believe our teachers are here because they love kids,” Schindler said. “They’re very dedicated … they just really care about their jobs.”

Pacific Christian Academy includes an aspect of faith-based development with a focus on social, emotional and spiritual health that the teachers are committed to, said Schindler, who has been with the school for six years. With daily Bible studies and Chapel each week, “we want students to have a faith that is their own, and I think our teachers enjoy being engaged with students in that way.”

The students also thrive in critical thinking, she said.

“Especially our older students, [they] thrive in being able to ask questions about our world, what is happening, how can they be a part of their community, what issues they perhaps can make a difference in,” she said.

Pre-pandemic, the school staff, families and students enjoyed gatherings such as the back-to-school barbecue, annual Christmas programs, spring concert, athletic events and more.

“All of those things just make a school,” she said. “That’s what people say about our school — it’s like their second family. And I really see that, too.”

Families of the students support the academy, which shows in this year’s Best of Federal Way results and also in a local fundraiser. The academy is collecting diapers for the annual March of Diapers drive supporting local families and hosted by the Federal Way-based Do the Right Thing nonprofit.

The goal was to collect 6,500 diapers by end of March, and by March 4, the academy had already collected 4,800 diapers for the drive.

As for this year’s sweep of awards, “I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to all of those who voted for Pacific Christian Academy,” she said. “We do, we really do, have excellent teachers so in one way, I’m not surprised.”

However, after such a tough year, “I’m just thankful that those teachers are being recognized in a way that will bless them and encourage them.”

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Debbie Schindler of Pacific Christian Academy. Courtesy photo

Debbie Schindler of Pacific Christian Academy. Courtesy photo

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