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Academy administrator mixes high-tech with worship

As a young boy growing up in a small town in Indiana, Mike Whitaker loved horses and dreamed of someday becoming an engineer because he liked to “tinker with things.” But as he grew older, he also became spiritual, after years of attending church services. “I wouldn’t want to say it felt like a calling, but there it was,” he says. Whitaker moved 11 times in 8 years before he came to Pulaski County. He does not want to imply, however, that the restlessness in his heart is what compelled him to pick up stakes and move so many times.
When he finally settled, he taught at Pulaski County High School for 7 years followed by a 15-year stint at the New River Community College. After that he retired and raised Arabian horses with his wife Gayle at their farm in Chicwood estates on Thornspring Rd.
In the interim, his great interest in technology drove him to take computer science in college while also getting a degree in ministry.
Whitaker has recently come out of retirement to be the new administrator of Covenant Christian Academy in Max Meadow. In Sept. of this year he was honored at an orientation dinner where he was introduced to the staff and the families of the students enrolled at the academy. Some of the parents in attendance must have been quite impressed with Whitaker’s credentials— enough for them to enroll six new students on the spot.
What’s amazing is, after a lifetime of gaining his knowledge mostly in public schools, Whitaker is overseeing a learning institution offering a strictly non-denominational Classical Christian Education. The academy has enrollment from pre-K to grade 12.
In one of its brochures, Covenant Christian Academy touts the effectiveness of its teaching method called Trivium, a dominant learning process in the Middle Ages. Whitaker explains, “The child goes through three phases of learning: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. In grades K-6, students are excellent at memorizing (Grammar). In grades 7-8, students become more argument-oriented.
They are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking, and in Grades 9-12, students become independent thinkers and communicators and are particularly concerned with their appearance to others. To this end, we teach them rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating, and writing.”
The computer lab at Covenant Christian Academy houses 13 state-of-the-art laptops where students can tap into Rosetta Stone, a software program designed to teach foreign languages. CCA’s curriculum focuses mainly on the Latin language, at least for now.
Why Latin? It is so arcane a language, in this high tech information age, Whitaker is asked. “Latin is necessary to the fundamental understanding of the English language and of western civilization,” is his reply. He explains that over 50 percent of the English vocabulary has Latin roots. “Learning Latin not only gives the student a better understanding of the English language but also the foundation for learning other languages,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker also extols the high qualifications of the teachers at the Academy. Jennifer Akers, for instance, who teaches Grades 1-2 at CCA going on 2 years, has a master’s degree in Science, a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Radford University, magna cum laude, and has had 2 years experience with the Radford City school system.
Janet Kester has a B.S. in Psychology with a Counseling minor, Liberty University; was a National Debate Tournament contestant; had a teaching credential at Cal State Fullerton; was Head Debate coach, Liberty University; Master Degree in Curriculum & Instruction, University of Virginia; and Director of Education, Sylvan Learning Center of Lynchburg. She currently teaches Grades 3-5.
David Kester has a B.A. in Christian Thought, Liberty University;has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric, University of Virginia; and a Doctorate in Philosophy of Education, University of Virginia; was a National Debate Tournament contestant; was Assistant Coach for the Liberty University Debate Team; a Scoutmaster of Troop 151 in Snowville, Va. He resently teaches grades 6-8 at CCA.
“I’ve got the best private teachers in the world,” Whitaker declares. He says that the 12-1 student-teacher ratio at the Academy allows every student to get more individualized attention, thereby cutting down on learning hurdles as teachers engage them at “appropriate level.”
Covenant Christian students consistently score between 23% to 49% higher than their counterparts in public schools. CCA graduates generally score very high (in the 90th percentile) on college entrance exams. “When they leave our Academy, the students are ready for life,” Whitaker says.
Annual rates can range from $3,060 for pre-K to $4,500 for Grades 9-12, with tuition assistance for families in need. To defray part of the tuition, families on this reduced-tuition program are asked to perform duties as substitute teachers, do office work, cleaning and trash removal. There is no kitchen at the Academy, so students bring their own lunches from home.
The Academy operates strictly on tuitions and donations. “We take no money from the government, because we don’t want to get owned,” Whitaker insists. To reduce expenses, the board is securing commitments from parents and volunteers for mowing and cleaning services.
When school ends at 3:30 p.m. Whitaker personally escorts the students to the parents’ waiting vehicles, to make sure they’re safe, and to wave them goodbye. “I’m here for the long haul,” Whitaker said.

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Academy administrator mixes high-tech with worship

As a young boy growing up in a small town in Indiana, Mike Whitaker loved horses and dreamed of someday becoming an engineer because he liked to “tinker with things.” But as he grew older, he also became spiritual, after years of attending church services. “I wouldn’t want to say it felt like a calling, but there it was,” he says. Whitaker moved 11 times in 8 years before he came to Pulaski County. He does not want to imply, however, that the restlessness in his heart is what compelled him to pick up stakes and move so many times.
When he finally settled, he taught at Pulaski County High School for 7 years followed by a 15-year stint at the New River Community College. After that he retired and raised Arabian horses with his wife Gayle at their farm in Chicwood estates on Thornspring Rd.
In the interim, his great interest in technology drove him to take computer science in college while also getting a degree in ministry.
Whitaker has recently come out of retirement to be the new administrator of Covenant Christian Academy in Max Meadow. In Sept. of this year he was honored at an orientation dinner where he was introduced to the staff and the families of the students enrolled at the academy. Some of the parents in attendance must have been quite impressed with Whitaker’s credentials— enough for them to enroll six new students on the spot.
What’s amazing is, after a lifetime of gaining his knowledge mostly in public schools, Whitaker is overseeing a learning institution offering a strictly non-denominational Classical Christian Education. The academy has enrollment from pre-K to grade 12.
In one of its brochures, Covenant Christian Academy touts the effectiveness of its teaching method called Trivium, a dominant learning process in the Middle Ages. Whitaker explains, “The child goes through three phases of learning: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. In grades K-6, students are excellent at memorizing (Grammar). In grades 7-8, students become more argument-oriented.
They are ready to be taught logic and critical thinking, and in Grades 9-12, students become independent thinkers and communicators and are particularly concerned with their appearance to others. To this end, we teach them rhetoric, the art of speaking, communicating, and writing.”
The computer lab at Covenant Christian Academy houses 13 state-of-the-art laptops where students can tap into Rosetta Stone, a software program designed to teach foreign languages. CCA’s curriculum focuses mainly on the Latin language, at least for now.
Why Latin? It is so arcane a language, in this high tech information age, Whitaker is asked. “Latin is necessary to the fundamental understanding of the English language and of western civilization,” is his reply. He explains that over 50 percent of the English vocabulary has Latin roots. “Learning Latin not only gives the student a better understanding of the English language but also the foundation for learning other languages,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker also extols the high qualifications of the teachers at the Academy. Jennifer Akers, for instance, who teaches Grades 1-2 at CCA going on 2 years, has a master’s degree in Science, a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, Radford University, magna cum laude, and has had 2 years experience with the Radford City school system.
Janet Kester has a B.S. in Psychology with a Counseling minor, Liberty University; was a National Debate Tournament contestant; had a teaching credential at Cal State Fullerton; was Head Debate coach, Liberty University; Master Degree in Curriculum & Instruction, University of Virginia; and Director of Education, Sylvan Learning Center of Lynchburg. She currently teaches Grades 3-5.
David Kester has a B.A. in Christian Thought, Liberty University;has a Masters Degree in Rhetoric, University of Virginia; and a Doctorate in Philosophy of Education, University of Virginia; was a National Debate Tournament contestant; was Assistant Coach for the Liberty University Debate Team; a Scoutmaster of Troop 151 in Snowville, Va. He resently teaches grades 6-8 at CCA.
“I’ve got the best private teachers in the world,” Whitaker declares. He says that the 12-1 student-teacher ratio at the Academy allows every student to get more individualized attention, thereby cutting down on learning hurdles as teachers engage them at “appropriate level.”
Covenant Christian students consistently score between 23% to 49% higher than their counterparts in public schools. CCA graduates generally score very high (in the 90th percentile) on college entrance exams. “When they leave our Academy, the students are ready for life,” Whitaker says.
Annual rates can range from $3,060 for pre-K to $4,500 for Grades 9-12, with tuition assistance for families in need. To defray part of the tuition, families on this reduced-tuition program are asked to perform duties as substitute teachers, do office work, cleaning and trash removal. There is no kitchen at the Academy, so students bring their own lunches from home.
The Academy operates strictly on tuitions and donations. “We take no money from the government, because we don’t want to get owned,” Whitaker insists. To reduce expenses, the board is securing commitments from parents and volunteers for mowing and cleaning services.
When school ends at 3:30 p.m. Whitaker personally escorts the students to the parents’ waiting vehicles, to make sure they’re safe, and to wave them goodbye. “I’m here for the long haul,” Whitaker said.

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