Jennie Bensen, a 1997 Mountainside Christian Academy graduate and former teacher at the school, is now its principal.
The new principal at Mountainside Christian Academy in Schroon Lake is no stranger.
Jennie Bensen, a 1997 Mountainside graduate and former teacher at the school, is now the principal. She replaces Connie Phillips, who retired last spring.
“They had a need and I thought it would be a good move,” said Bensen, who was contacted by Pastor David Peterson of Mountainside Bible Chapel when Phillips decided to step down. “It’s great to be home.”
Mountainside Christian Academy, a school with 61 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade is a ministry of Mountain Bible Chapel.
“I’m at an age where most of my friends are married and having children,” Bensen said. “It’s really nice to have people, old friends, coming to pick up their children from the same school we attended. It’s great to be back.”
Bensen grew up in School Lake, attending Mountainside as a youth. Her parents and sister still live in the community.
After graduating from Mountainside, Bensen attended Word of Life Bible Institute before going on to Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, Pa. There she earned a degree in English education.
She taught English in China for a year before coming back to Mountainside to teach English and math at her alma mater for five years. She them moved to Chicago, where she worked as an editor four years and at a non-profit organization another year before Mountainside called.
Now Bensen is leading a staff of eight teachers.
“I have a great team here,” the principal said. “We work together as a unit with the single goal of doing our best for our students.
“I’m very thankful to be here,” she said. “Mountainside has been a very good school through the years and today it’s still a great school.”
Mountainside opened in 1977.
“I think we have a very strong academic program, our curriculum and teachers are well-prepared and we have a disciplined academic environment,” Bensen said. “All our teachers love the lord and integrate Biblical truth into the classroom. Our students are welcoming. We have a good community here.”
The school has as a strong commitment to Christianity.
“We integrate God’s word into each academic subject and teach our classes from a Biblical worldview,” Bensen said. “This, together with influential teachers who are building into the students’ lives spiritually, make the school culture one that is unique and distinctly Christian.”
Each year Mountainside selects a theme. This academic year it’s HANDS — help a neighbor do something.
“We’re forming ideas how to serve and be a help in the community, in each family and in our church,” Bensen said. “We hope students learn to look for opportunities to help others and help whenever possible.”
Enrollment at Mountainside has grown the past two academic years, reaching 61 students.
“We’re pleased to have 61 students, although out goal is 75,” Bensen said. “Enrollment is our biggest challenge.”
With enrollment dropping at all schools — public and private — in the region, how can Mountainside attract new students?
“Well, there’s a lot of prayer; we pray a lot,” Bensen said. “We’re also trying to tap into some of the circles in the community more prone to Christian education.
“We’re also trying to open our school to home-school students,” she said. “We have home-school students taking classes and participating in special events, like sports, at Mountainside. We have some home-school students on our soccer teams and will have some on our basketball teams.”
Mountainside Christian Academy has been successful in fund raising, Bensen said, and is fiscally sound. In fact, this year the school added a new teaching position, she pointed out.
While Bensen is the school administrator, she’s also a teacher. She teaches three classes a day — English, math and vocabulary, spelling and speech.
“I stay busy,” she said. “It’s a full day.”