CULTURE AT PETRA
Building character and teaching excellence is an everyday experience at Petra Academy. The daily adventure students, faculty, and parents know is centered around character, wisdom, and community. Many people use these words as highlights in their ideological focuses, but rather than just lip service, it is a line in the sand where Petra chooses to make an impact. Students are taught how to think, not just what to think. Partnering with students and parents means that we will accept you, walk with you, love you, listen to you, honor and respect you and help you be accountable to grow in your depth and understanding of Christ. Faculty and administration show you the delight and joy in learning, treat you as an individual made in God’s image, encourage you to discern your calling, teach you the truth, challenge you to move toward excellence, and show you the good life in Christ.
As we understand the world around us with the paideia of Christ woven through everything made in Him and through Him, we know the paradigm of truth, beauty, and goodness resonates throughout our community; in the conversations, in the care, and in the formation of character in each individual that leads toward excellence. There is a holistic approach to what we teach and how we reach students. Theatre, athletics, art, computer science, language, common arts disciplines, and service, as well as the classical Christian trivium, all work together to shape a love of learning and a value of character, wisdom, and community in students’ time at Petra Academy. The culture at Petra is a rich experience of pursuing things that will make a difference in this world, forming meaningful assessments about how things should be, and growing the innovation it takes to find paths to bring valuable things to the forefront of our lives.
CULTIVATING WORTHY EXPERIENCE
The pursuit of academic excellence has come as a natural fit to Petra since its inception. Our teachers are highly-qualified and motivated. Families are supportive and appreciative of the quality of education offered at Petra. The classical pedagogy and use of great texts and serious subject matter of our curriculum further necessitate the enthusiastic entry of our students into the “great conversation” of ideas of our civilization past and present. Small teacher-student ratios and well-ordered classrooms that provide an atmosphere conducive to diligence add to the formula for success in this area. Finally, and most significantly, the desire to do all we do “heartily as to the Lord” calls for mirthful diligence from us all.
Contrary to our culture’s present dualistic assumptions, at Petra, we believe that all things are under the purview of Jesus Christ. All things were created and are preserved by him. Men and women were created in his image which bestows on them both an inherent dignity and an awesome responsibility, what C.S. Lewis called “the weight of glory.” Furthermore, the redeeming work of his death and resurrection reaffirms his original purpose for creation and his sovereign place over it, including a clear purpose and direction to all of history.
When it comes to education — or anything else, this faith has consequences. For one thing, it compels us to see the academic disciplines as parts of an integral whole rather than piecemeal divisions of essentially unrelated knowledge. It also gives primacy to the inspired Word of God as the final authority of all wisdom and consummately relevant in the pursuit of all knowledge and direction in how we live our lives. Finally, it compels us to “glean our Saviour,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, in every field of learning: to see “Christ-figures” in literature, the movement of God in history, the beauty and order of God in the maths, sciences, and arts: in a word, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…”
THE HOUSE SYSTEM
We use the house system with our secondary students to contribute to the overall culture and experience of Petra Academy. House systems within schools have a rich history originating with English boarding schools, where students lived in houses with one another sharing studies, meals, and competing against other houses for a prestigious award. Petra’s house system has expanded over the years from one house to six, with the underlying purpose of creating a similar atmosphere of camaraderie and competition. In doing so, students learn to live out Petra’s mission statement: “The mission of Petra Academy is to partner with parents to cultivate faithful Christian students who delight in truth, beauty, and goodness in their worship, work, and service.”
Elias Denison serves as Petra’s Housemaster, exercising oversight of all the houses, house activities, and house competitions. Each house has two prefects who oversee house meetings, assist the Housemaster, and help to organize the students throughout the school year. The prefects meet with the Housemaster every other week for leadership training, scripture meditations, prayer, and to discuss upcoming events. The houses meet on a weekly basis to engage in activities, competitions, and discussions. Throughout the course of the school year the students engage in competition that earn points for Petra’s House Cup. The four primary competitions are athletic, artistic, academic, and dramatic.
Even though our elementary students do not participate in the house system, they are set up with a foundation for what will come through a variety of events, where the older students are given opportunities to serve the younger and exemplify the values instilled in them through their experience at Petra. This can be particularly put on display through athletic competition, artistic creation, dramas and plays performed before the whole school, and in practical community around a table while at one of our feasts throughout the year.
At Petra Academy, we set forth to produce our athletics program and our student athletes in the same way we approach our academic and arts programs – with excellence. While those who are victorious are often of high esteem, like our state champion soccer team with a two season unbeaten streak, we also keep in mind the higher goals that our integrity resonates with. Success in the classroom, fair play and sportsmanship, and the tenacity of hard work on the field and off the field are base values for Petra athletes.
We offer a number of sports including girls volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, and ultimate frisbee as competitive disciplines. We seek to make sure that the Petra athletics program is designed to help fulfill the school’s mission with excellence and grow our students physical engagement through sport and healthy living.
EVENTS AT PETRA
We use a variety of events at Petra Academy to integrate learning, social health, and camaraderie among students. We use events like Recitation, The Shakespeare Festival, and the History Fair to expand the students experience and grow their knowledge of real world impacts. We host events like feasts, formals, and the Senior Dinner and Robing Ceremony to build social connectivity within the community of Petra, formally acknowledging the influences and important traditions that bind us as human beings and believers in Christ. We also use touchpoint events like Field Day, the Big Day, and the Gathering to facilitate community across our student body and with our faculty. For our parents, it is essential for them to gain an in-depth understanding for all that classical Christian education has to offer, so we have speaker events, presentations, and open houses to integrate parents into the community and grow the partnerships with students, faculty, and administration.