Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– R. Frost
By Ellen Tilleros, Lower School Director
My journey at Augustine began in 2005 when I attended the closing recitation of my oldest grandson, Sam, who had just completed the first grade. I was newly widowed and retired from JMCSS. As Dr. Bradley Green introduced himself to me, I asked if I could volunteer to read in my grandson’s class or help in any way. He looked at me intently and replied, “Do you have a minute?” The rest, as they say, is history.
My first year at Augustine, I taught middle school language arts part time. The only textbooks we had back then were math books and readers. Now, textbooks and workbooks tumble from desks; still, most of what we learn together at Augustine School is through the spoken word. The next year, I was asked to teach full time; something I had never considered, but I prayerfully decided to leave retirement and enter the world of fourth grade students.
A Magical Place
Shaping the affections of students, with an education that is Biblically-based, Gospel-centered, and Classically-informed has always been the intent at Augustine. The teacher may plan the course, but God establishes their steps. And so it was in the classroom. The fourth grade at Augustine was a magical place. Snowflakes hung from the ceiling, a castle flanked the wall depicting the White Witch’s castle, and mothballs from the wardrobe permeated the room as we read together C. S. Lewis’s classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We were not reading a story; we were in the story. We entered into Narnia.
The fourth grade at Augustine was a magical place. Snowflakes hung from the ceiling, a castle flanked the wall depicting the White Witch’s castle, and mothballs from the wardrobe permeated the room as we read together C. S. Lewis’s classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We were not reading a story; we were in the story.
As we read the last word of the book, one of my students sighed, “I would despair if I did not know we have many more stories yet to hear!” And we did; we read four of the Chronicles of Narnia books, Snow Treasure, The Railway Children, The Princess and the Goblin, and Robin Hood, just to name a few. Each one pointing to the Classically-Informed arm of the school I mentioned earlier.
We also had a Beta, named Discipulus (“student” in Latin), who we studied, fed, and viewed as a part of our class. Our motto was Adolescete, the Latin word for “to grow up.” Which was based on Ephesians 4:13: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” How easy it was to say “Adolescete” when a student was talking out or acting silly. They knew. I knew. And with that word, the behavior stopped. Teachers speaking the truth in love: just one example of the biblically-based aspect of Augustine School.
I remember reading The Voyage of the Dawn Trader where Eustace, as the dragon, cannot peel off his dragon skin, no matter how hard he tries. I asked the students, “Why?” A hand shot up; a hand of a student who struggled to make good grades, to find his homework–to find his way. Tentatively, I called on him, and he replied, “Because we can’t take our own sin away, only God can.” My heart took wing. In this event, we see Augustine School’s commitment to an education that is gospel-centered.
A Second Retirement… And A Third
In 2011, believing it was time to let a younger teacher step in, I retired again. But, this retirement was also not to be as I was asked to help mentor the Lower School teachers on a part-time basis. I loved that time, working under Dr. Seth Drown, an administrator that I knew, in whatever the situation, I could always trust to take the high road.
Then again in 2018, as I contemplated yet another retirement, I heard almost the same words, “Do you have a minute?” This time, Mr. John Windham and Dr. Bradley Green, who work tirelessly and sacrificially on the Board of Trustees at Augustine, asked if I would consider taking on more of a leadership role as Director of the Lower School. They explained that the school had grown to the point that Dr. Drown was needed fully in the Upper School. With conflicting emotions, I realized that God knew I would someday need my MEd in Administration and Supervision, and that now was that time. And so, I humbly accepted.
With conflicting emotions, I realized that God knew I would someday need my M. Ed in Administration and Supervision, and that now was that time. And so, I humbly accepted.
Almost immediately, we began to have a population explosion in the Lower School: a class per grade, each in double digits, and students enough for two classes in kindergarten (a first for Augustine!). I don’t have enough praise-worthy words for the Lower School teachers. Each one is uniquely suited for the position they hold. When most schools were silent this summer, these teachers worked almost every day, getting classes and curriculum ready for their students.
And so I walk the halls now, watching learning take place and hearing the stories God is writing in the lives of each student here. And I am very grateful that, as my fourth grade student said, “We have many more stories yet to hear.” Please feel free to stop by my office any time. I would love to hear your story.