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Interview with Subdeacon Alexei Shevyakov

Subdeacon Alexei Shevyakov has served as Church School Director at St. Vincent of Lerins Orthodox Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for five years. The Church School program is divided into two groups: Levels I and II of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for Pre-K through 3rd Grade, and traditional classes with OCEC curriculum and Faithtree materials for students in 4th Grade and older. 

How many students attend your church school? How is your church school organized for Sunday classes (by age, by grade level, etc.) and how many teachers are assigned per class?

In addition to our Atrium (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), we have two Church School groups. The Younger Group is Grades 4-6 with 8 students this year. The Older Group has 11 students in Grades 7-10. We have two teachers assigned to each class; they choose their program and teach it in an alternating fashion.

Our Church School runs on Saturdays prior to Vespers, for 1 hour, every week throughout September-May (minus big Church feasts and long weekends.)

Please describe the Nativity program at St. Vincent of Lerins Church School.

We usually have plays prepared and practiced by students and teachers/other interested adults. For older students, for many years, we used to have a play dedicated to St. Nicholas (December 6) rather than at Christmas. Then after the play, our priest would give out gifts as "from St. Nicholas," and have pictures taken with every child separately. At Christmas, with younger kids, our parishioners usually prepare a Christmas Pageant; it's held at an older folks' long-term care facility.

Are there any ethnic components to your church school/Christian education ministry?

In addition to a wide mix of nations that already existed in the parish, including English, French, German/Mennonite, Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Iranian, Egyptian and other backgrounds, in the recent years, we have had a number of Orthodox immigrants from Africa who joined our parish.

What advice do you have for parishes wishing to establish/grow their church school? 

There needs to be a serious attitude to Church school among parents and teachers, then kids will see it. One should choose a sound curriculum and make lessons interesting, engaging, personal, informative. Our teachers follow books/course notes, but also use video and graphical aids, and engage students in different ways. There are homework assignments.

In order to raise awareness of our "serious intentions" in newcomer families, we have established a registration procedure, in the beginning of every school year, outlining the necessity of regular attendance, parent cooperation and support in homework and other activities

Are there ways in which you encourage consistent attendance? Perhaps through incentives, communication with parents, etc.?

See above…. Plus, regular emails.

Please describe almsgiving/outreach programs at St. Vincent of Lerins Church School.

These are done through the Youth Group which is separate from Church School and is run by different people.

What type(s) of training and resources specifically for church school director personal/professional development can you recommend?

The best way to find something is ask people (often in other parishes) who many know. I believe church school directors should be well-educated people, not only in Christian faith, but literature overall. This will always help find or prepare right materials. The same pertains to choosing candidates for teachers – people who are both deeply knowledgeable, well-read, and deeply faithful – good role models of Christians for the students!​