Living Legacies at LCA

Laconia Christian Academy has had some pretty extensive makeovers since its founding in 1974. Its name went from “School” to “Academy”; its curriculum was revamped and improved; its three headmasters each brought strengths to the position and helped the school move forward; it has boasted several amazing, unique, and memorable teachers through the years. 

I have been involved with LCS/LCA for 24+ years – four as a parent of a student (Matt ‘98), twenty as a teacher, and I still drive into that parking lot now as a volunteer. I’ve come across some pretty incredible alumni who are working, raising families, and influencing the culture by living active, Godly lives both locally and in other places. Their stories have blessed and encouraged me so much, and I’d like to bring you some of them in a “Where Are They Now?” blog. During this school year we’ll focus on graduates who are still involved in the LCA community.

The First Lady of LCA is, without a doubt, Glenda Bucken, so naturally the first blog is about her family and specifically her youngest daughter Hannah who currently serves on the LCA Board. Warning: Hannah writes eloquently, and, although this post will be much longer than future ones, I found her exceptional word pictures impossible to condense. Enjoy her insights as you read, and fall in love with the school all over again.

Hannah (Bucken) McClelland (‘97) is a “K-12er”, a rare but growing breed. She has two siblings: Sarah (‘89) who teaches English at Nashua High School, and Matthew (‘92) who is a Consultant Data Steward working with clinical trial related data at El Lily & Co. in Indianapolis. They have given “Grammy” Bucken seven grandchildren. 

Hannah earned her BA from Wheaton College, IL, and a Masters from Harvard Divinity School, MA. I’ll let her take over the story from here. You’ll love it!

We live in Knoxville, TN enjoying beautiful scenery and four seasons, though winter is a brief blink. While our previous chapter of life in India was a rich experience, we really missed four seasons; now we get dustings that work for sledding TN’s steep hills! Kirk and I have been married 16 years and still hold to the mantra (begun when we were dating): “Couples who play/pray together, stay together.” Our boys, Kairos, Jireh and Tobias are each so unique, much like their three shades of hair. Together, we enjoy being active with friends, getting outside in Knoxville’s beautiful parks and the nearby Smokey Mountain National Park. When home we play with our neighbors, ride bikes, read books (The Green Ember series, Tree Castle Island and By The Great Horn Spoon are recent favorites.) and enjoy a good movie now and then. The library is one of our favorite places to visit (though Funspot holds a close 2nd place!) This year we started homeschooling Kairos, and Tobias eagerly joins in. Both Kairos and Tobias relish their time at our local forest school, with its natural beauty and space to explore. Whether they are studying our ecology and native species, enacting mud battles, or whittling quietly, each session is different and shaping them powerfully to wonder at creation and to relate well with others. Jireh is at a small elementary school and enjoys his friend time there. Kirk coaches the boys in soccer and I coach them in basketball—harnessing the attention and energy of elementary boys has been one my biggest coaching challenges! It conjures memories, however, of all the fun and character shaping I had with my own teammates and gracious coaches during my LCA tenure. Very gracious!   

Grammy (Glenda Bucken) time, along with Jack her new puppy, improve our family life. We enjoy their company in the summer during extended visits and when they come to TN. It’s also a gift to see all our family and reconnect with NH friends, who feel like extended family, during summer visits. We’re thankful to stay connected. Recently one of my sons asked if he was related to one of my LCS friends’ children or not. The line is fuzzy!

Like all communities, the Lakes Region faces challenges socially and spiritually, though the area has many positives for families. The Church is not immune to the impact of the community hardships and yet it persists, faithfully sharing the gospel, with and without words. LCA’s ongoing work educating students’ and supporting families provides a powerful ministry partnership with the local churches facing today’s spiritual and community degradation. The challenges on the horizon are not unique to the Lakes Region but subtle and widespread: how to raise children well in a culture with destructive values about basic human identity and the value of life? How to live free from distractions, free from devices that enslave our minds rewiring how we relate, free to pursue authentic relationships? How to grow in appreciation for the beauty of creation and people that surround us rather than choked by the concerns of the world, blinded to God’s grace and gifts? When I visit and reconnect I am reminded that growing up in the LCS (/LCA) community with all its community partners in the local churches, was a blessing that continues to feed my heart—a place of God’s love and the Spirit’s power that shines like a candle, not overcome by darkness but illuminating goodness, beauty and truth. 

Raising our three boys and newly homeschooling two of them has been an exciting twist in our path; by God’s grace, so far, so good. Besides our core curriculum, I host a gym class and nature play group as part of our week. I also teach part-time at Johnson University, where Kirk is a professor. My class focuses on spiritual formation and academic readiness for incoming transfer students. With a lot of transition experience of our own, I enjoy teaching new students at JU who’ve taken an unusual path to start at our university. With our children, our neighborhood friends or my teaching at Johnson I get to witness transformation. I enjoy fostering strong community and friendships, and helping people reach their goals, especially if it centers on good books or being outside. 

Our hobbies and interests include coaching or playing sports; hiking nearby trails; leading a nature play group; swimming (though NH’s crystal clear lakes have spoiled me); yoga; cross-cultural experiences, staying connected to old friends, international cuisine prepared with friends; snuggling around a book with the boys; watching my children learn or master something new; and quiet time to journal and read…recent good reads: The Bronze Bow; The Well Trained Mind; The Last Child in the Woods. 

I attended LCS K-12, volunteered as a coach briefly, and enrolled our oldest two sons for one year of school between moves. Now I stay connected by serving on the Board.

When our two older boys attended LCA for 2nd grade and Pre-K for one year it was a gift for many reasons but three stand out: their friendships—including peers and teachers, and especially their assistant principal (They loved attending “Grammy’s school.”…sorry Mr. Duba!). Further, we were blown away and still brag about the ski program; they now know how to ski as a result of that opportunity! One day per week for six weeks spent on a mountainside with their entire school was amazing, and a rare find in any school’s curriculum. Finally, they were nurtured in their love for God in every aspect of their schooling; the gospel was interwoven with class work that challenged their minds and their time on the playground and in nature was life-giving. 

Kirk and I both coached (basketball, volleyball and soccer) for a moment during different years in the last decade. When I coached briefly, I was impressed by the courage and character of the upper school girls to take on new challenges, grow in skills, and honor God in their relationships and competitive play. Those girls are still special to me today. 

Recollecting my student days, I am easily flooded with memories from my thirteen years at LCS. There is research that says the more senses are involved in our learning experiences, the more content the mind recalls. Perhaps this explains my vivid school memories? Many surface, seeming crystal clear. My senses, my heart and mind too, were apparently engaged. Further a handful of my dearest relationships from my school days live on, shaping me still. 

I like to remember the beginning: sitting in a circle on the floor in kindergarten with my new friends and singing songs with Judy Orr. I can see our clothing and early 80’s haircuts, mine boyish, unflattering. I remember seeing through my little glasses, people who would become lifelong friends, in spite of my lack of style! Seven of us from around that kindergarten circle would graduate together 13 years later. I remember playing in the woods, on the broken limbs of old trees: our winged flying cars and climbing gyms. I remember nature walks, nibbling on minty checkerberries and leaves that Mrs. Roberts pointed out. I remember endless games of capture the flag in the parking lot and woods, of which we never tired. I remember saying sorry for being too competitive or bossy and learning to be kind. I remember creative teachers, who enthusiastically taught us to memorize the books of the Bible and sing them super-fast (!); who dared to organize us as singing mice in musicals, who gave us the means and guidance to build forts, or to enact archeological digs and stage classroom role plays that revealed the oppression caused by dictators or segregation. I remember our excitement at being allowed to be junior librarians and always getting a second chance in math class to correct mistakes and improve, which meant one got a lot of practice or learned to do it right the first time! 

I enjoyed having not only my mom, but several schoolmates’ parents as teachers; normal to us, we pitied the children who didn’t get to come early or stay late and play extra on the playground during teacher meetings. Fixed categories don’t easily separate my friends from my teachers/coaches. To be cliché, I actually did feel more a part of a large family. Retreats and mission trips to Venezuela and NYC further opened up different ways of relating and learning, opening my heart to God’s work in the world and directing my future plans. I still regard highly my teachers who taught me to speak Spanish, use the quadratic formula, unpack the contents of a cell and understand Hawthorne, not only for those classroom lessons but more so because they shared life and their homes and their family life with us. 

My LCS family experience, of course, included “all types”: the relatives that annoy or clash with us, along with the kindred spirits, just like we’re told to expect the messy Body of Christ to be like. It wasn’t only due to naivety that I rejected the notion of LCS as a “bubble”, but because I regularly witnessed a messy, imperfect, growing school family. In addition to my academic menu of Calculus, Bible, literature, biology etc, I was discipled in friendship, grace and forgiveness.

In a way, I continue to search for something similar for my children: a small school that invites parents to be involved in their children’s education, sports, extra-curriculars and where teachers and friendships are an extension of the parents’ formation. It’s easy to take for granted the imperfect, but continuous way Christ was the central focus of our school days; but now as a parent facing many educational choices and one chance to raise these boys on a good path, I think: Wow! Christian education accomplishes so much, is such holistic stewardship of young hearts and minds, and LCA cultivates young people well, even as they continue to make progress in new areas. I’m thankful my parents took the leap with us and that my mom plunged in professionally at the heart of our journey.  

As I grew up, sports moved to the center of my world, without requiring me to sacrifice opportunities like the school play. I relished playing grumpy Aunt March in Little Women, taking for granted the unique opportunity for an athlete to also hop into a play. The small environment gave us many places to belong and thrive. 

Our coaches, mostly I’m recalling Laurie and John Haines and Charity Lezama, gave way too much time to cultivate our skills, the program and most importantly our identity in Jesus, adopting us and our adolescent concerns for the season we played for them. Both the volleyball and basketball teams started small and gradually built something good. Our sports program felt like David in a Goliath world, and the team experience shaped me by teaching me to aim high, play together for God’s glory and accept the yearly challenge of recruiting friends, exchange students, (anyone!) to join the teams so we had enough players (…no matter if you didn’t know the rules of the game!). Eventually, we even found ourselves competitive in “Class S”, and were happy to face our opponents, enduring long bus rides through snow crusted roads to distant schools, a teammate at times directing our bus driver to our destination. My dad, my most loyal fan (Mom was the book keeper and had to cheer silently, with eyebrow action), loved to holler for us at each game, mingling with parents and ever reminding me to “crash the boards”…a message I now pass onto my boys. It wasn’t until I became a coach, that I realized how much our coaches and parents gave year after year to make our experiences and success possible. I am still awestruck when I pause to remember. When I was a kid, I may have believed we were really cool and adults couldn’t resist us, failing to recognize the sacrifice with which coaches and teachers approached their work at LCS (/LCA). It’s hard to briefly recount the many ways I experienced challenge, growth and belonging at LCS.

I had so much wonderful support at LCS, and I’d like to name a few  that come to my mind and influence me as I consider how to teach or coach those under my influence: Carlene Roberts, Roger Schneeweiss, Keith and Jan Ferguson, Cathy & David Borchers, Kathy Mott, Karl Graustein, Bill Broughton, Laurie & John Haines, Charity Lezama: each offered me the profound gift of creativity and excellence in their subject or sport and the ongoing gift of friendship beyond the classroom. I recall thought provoking conversations as well as playing games around their kitchen tables, eating and laughing and praying together. 

Most of all, over the long haul, Glenda Bucken has influenced me more than any other teacher: with her deep commitment and loyalty to the LCS (/LCA) community, her ever sharp, curious and innovative mind, her gentle, peace-making relationship style that sees the best in others and her constant but understated guidance at all of life’s turns! I know many share my opinion…I really can’t express my gratitude clearly or deeply enough. She has been my best teacher and friend. 

The growth in recent years under Rick Duba’s faithful and excellent leadership is amazing! Mr. Duba and his seasoned and growing staff dedicate themselves to educate and disciple children to love God and serve his kingdom. The quality of the spiritual climate and academic curriculum is continually improving, even as they resist the “patterns of this world,” such as mindless tech consumption trends. This year I am thrilled about the addition of Timbernook. Most of all I appreciate LCA’s enduring tradition, begun in Al Graustein’s call Thanksgiving day in 1974: to open a school in the Lakes Region built on and for the gospel, committed to God’s redemptive work throughout history. LCA is a place to belong, to discover a passion for learning, and to be challenged and to grow in relationship with God, His people and with His beautiful creation.

Wow! The refreshing part to me is that many of Hannah’s memories are still being experienced today, only with a new generation of teachers and students! The school may have undergone changes, but its heart and purpose remain strong. Thank you, Hannah, for sharing such a beautiful testimony. 

Look for another blog before Christmas. Meanwhile, if you are an alum, especially one who still contributes in some way to LCA, and you want to share your story with our community, my email is bjlewis6363@gmail.com. I love hearing from former students!

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