The mission of The Way of the Shepherd Catholic Montessori School is to cooperate with God’s plan for the salvation of souls by educating children according to the Catholic Faith and the Montessori Philosophy and equipping them to be disciples of Jesus Christ. The Way of the Shepherd seeks to help bring about a new “Springtime of Faith” by bringing the Kingdom of God into the lives of the children and families we serve. Our mission continues to grow as many families and members from the community passionately embrace our vision. We are blessed abundantly through their help and direction.
THE HISTORY OF THE WAY OF THE SHEPHERD
Received God’s call to open a new school— In March of 1994, representatives from The Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake gathered to pray and discern God’s call to open a new school in the Northern suburbs of Minneapolis. The school would have a new focus, which would be fully in line with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and the primary goal would be to bring about the “New Evangelization” initiative as expressed by our then Holy Father, St. John Paul II.
1995 – 1996
The original followers of God’s call to open a new school began to move toward a Montessori education approach, choosing the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for religious formation.
THE NAMING OF THE WAY OF THE SHEPHERD – The school began and exists to fulfill the needs of children at each developmental phase of their spiritual and moral growth. The parable of the Good Shepherd speaks of Jesus as The Shepherd who loves, cares for, and guides the sheep in a deliberate, gentle, and compassionate way. He calls the sheep by name; they hear His voice and follow Him. “The Way” is a purposeful manner of living following Jesus.
The first Board of Directors was formed and resources were gathered to prepare the detailed planning and opening of the soon-to-be school. The first Children’s house was to be founded by Mary Dietz and Fran Erling.
Shortly before classes began for the year, the Children’s House classrooms did not have any chairs for the children. Mrs. Fran Erling went to sleep praying to come across inexpensive children chairs. In the morning she received a call from a friend who had purchased a warehouse that happened to be stocked with small child chairs and offered them to Fran and the school.
The Way of the Shepherd opened in foundress Mary Dietz’s basement classroom and began immediately immersing young children in a learning style that honors the dignity of each child while fostering spiritual growth and a deep love of God.
Two weeks prior to the 1999/2000 school year, Mrs. Fran Erling found herself without an assistant for her Children’s House classroom. One evening she prayed that God would give her a name. She woke up with the name “Jodi” on her mind and in her heart. Shortly thereafter, Jodi Cosgrove was hired and remained at WOS for four years.
The Way of the Shepherd moved into a building in Coon Rapids. Children’s House continued with 36 students, and an elementary program began with 14 students. The decision to enroll elementary children came earlier than expected, yet the community felt called to accommodate the families of preschool children with older siblings. In order to be recognized as a Catholic school, The Way of the Shepherd entered into a relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In 2001, the school was in desperate need of a business manager and was actively interviewing candidates. One of the candidates who interviewed for the position decided that it was not the right fit for her. She mentioned the position to a friend of hers. This friend, Ann Tellander, was interviewed and hired for the position as business manager and served at The Way of the Shepherd until 2016.
The very first Shepherd’s Classic golf tournament was held in the spring. The inaugural Just Desserts fundraiser was held at the Coon Rapids Civic Center.
Outgrowing the space in Coon Rapids, The Way of the Shepherd purchased a building in Blaine and prepared for the transition to the new home. The Way of the Shepherd was granted initial license with the State of Minnesota Division of Licensing for the Children’s House Program.
Renovations to the Blaine building were truly a family affair. Many families, Board members, and staff members worked on building renovations and upgrades, turning the building into a lasting home for The Way of the Shepherd. The building was blessed and scriptures were written on the floor as a prayer and blessing for the school, the children, the families, and the staff.
Staff and students settled into their new home and continued on their academic and spiritual journey with the Good Shepherd always at the core of the school.
One snowy winter day a teacher in need of short-term work went outside. Lying atop the snow she found a black rock with a white cross and prayed to God for guidance regarding her next teaching position. Not knowing who the special rock belonged to, she brought it inside. Once in the house she found her children looking through a phonebook. She picked up the book and immediately saw the listing for The Way of the Shepherd. She called the school, interviewed, and was hired. Mrs. Shannon Alinder has been teaching at WOS ever since.
The Way of the Shepherd was officially recognized as a Catholic School by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Deacon Bill Beck served as the school’s first Canonical Administrator.
The first Way of the Shepherd Graduation was held. Graduates celebrated their accomplishments and continued their educational journey with a strong and faithful foundation.
A visiting priest came and toured The Way of the Shepherd. He was so moved by what he saw and the great work that was being done in the minds and hearts of the children that he felt called to donate his chalice and vestments–items that are still used today.
Fr. David Blume became the Canonical Administrator for The Way of the Shepherd and continues to serve in this capacity today.
In 2010 The Way of the Shepherd was in need of a new school administrator. An old friend of Fran Erling’s happened to be in town for a family reunion and felt called to stop by the school for a visit. Upon learning that this friend would be retiring from a teaching position within the Archdiocese, a member of the Board asked if she would consider applying for the administrator position. After prayerful consideration she did apply. She was hired soon after and began work immediately. Sue Allen remained the administrator at the school until 2013.
Lead Catechist was hired.
While student teaching for an AMI Children’s House certification course, Carolyn Kohlhaas discovered an upper elementary teaching opening at the Way of the Shepherd. Having observed in Fran Erling’s Children’s House classroom back in 2002, she was open to the idea of returning as part of the staff. She was soon hired as the E2 guide and later moved into her current role as Lead Catechist.
The Way of the Shepherd was accredited by the Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association.
The Wisdom Day celebration, a Montessori tradition honoring the first day of school, begins. Wisdom Day includes a celebration of learning and returning to culminating in the eldest and youngest students in the school leading a procession through the doors for the first time of the year.
Children’s House received the National Association for the Education of Young Children Accreditation. The outdoor learning environments were opened, the new logo was created and unveiled, and an after school program was developed.