Cheryl Drozd, a preschool teacher at St. Bonaventure School in Columbus, created a Bible study curriculum for children in preschool through sixth grade. It’s called “In School With Jesus.” COURTESY PHOTO

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Teacher shares her love of Scripture with Bible study curriculum

Logan Ralston has shelves and shelves of colorful children’s books to choose from for a bedtime story.

Yet time and again, he selects one: a children’s Bible.

Since his preschool days at St. Bonaventure School in Columbus, the 7-year-old has been fascinated with Scripture.

His parents, Joe and Sarah Wacha, have been amazed at the questions he asks and the level of conversation that the now first-grader participates in.

“He’s giving me all these details,” Sarah Wacha said, “and it challenges my own Bible knowledge, which is good, which is what we need as Catholics.”

Wacha credits Logan’s preschool teacher, Cheryl Drozd, for piquing his interest in Scripture, an interest that hasn’t waned nearly two years later.

Drozd (which rhymes with “rose,” as she tells her preschool students) has learned from her own life how reading the Bible and praying with it can help a person through any situation.

She begins her preschool classes by reading and discussing Scripture with the children. Drozd formalized her methods from those experiences and developed a Bible study curriculum for every grade from preschool through sixth grade. It’s called “In School With Jesus.”

Two years ago the material was used in a pilot program at St. Bonaventure, in which teachers, parents and students gave feedback to Drozd. Several archdiocesan priests went through the curriculum and gave their approval and support before it was published last year and put to use in other schools.

This year teachers in 31 schools in Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri are using the curriculum to make Bible reading a regular start to their students’ day.

At each grade level, students focus on one book of the Bible, breaking it into a story or a few verses each week to read, re-read, ponder and journal about, with the younger students drawing pictures instead of writing.

The portions of the Bible that are studied answer to the religion standards set forth for archdiocesan schools, said Vickie Kauffold, superintendent of Catholic schools. Drozd pitched her curriculum to other archdiocesan educators during a Zoom meeting during the pandemic.

Drozd spent a lot of time in prayer throughout the process of developing the curriculum and getting it self-published. And it shows, said Cheryl Zoucha, principal at St. Bonaventure.

“I recognized right from the get-go that the Holy Spirit was working in her, and sometimes we have to just get out of the way,” Zoucha said.

Drozd “kept coming back to the importance of Scripture and that kids should have a good grasp of it,” the principal said. “She wanted them to learn and take it home and share what they learned.”

Drozd and her husband, Joe, are members of St. Isidore Parish in Columbus and parents to young adult children: Natalie, 22; Cameron, 20; and Ben, 17.

CONNECTING WITH GOD

The teacher said she personally experienced the importance of connecting with God through Scripture when she was undergoing trials in her life, including taking college courses while raising her children and working full time as a childcare provider.

“I chose to turn to God and ask for help,” Drozd said. “I learned how the Bible teaches us everything we need to know. It teaches us how to give everything to God and how to turn to him for everything. So that was what I started doing with my life.”

That relationship with the Lord is something she wanted others to have as well.

“I wanted to be able to help others to know how to trust God and love God through things that are hard in life. When you experience it yourself, you want to help others to go through that same experience the way you did. … So that’s what I’m doing right now, just sharing the love that I received from Jesus. I want everybody to have that in their heart.”

STARTING THE DAY

Drozd’s curriculum lessons are meant to start off the day for students. They’re brief, taking anywhere from five to 15 minutes to complete.

“I really like to start the day with the word of God,” St. Bonaventure teacher Jill Erickson said. “I just think it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

“I like how the program covers a different section of the Bible in each grade level,” said Erickson, who’s taught third- and fourth-graders at St. Bonaventure. “It goes deeper. We do Lectio Divina (meditative, prayerful reading) with it. It just really gets the kids thinking about how the Bible applies to their lives.”

“It brings about good conversation,” she said, “and it helps them understand the importance of our faith.”

“It helped my family,” enhancing their prayer together, said Erickson, a wife and mother of four children ages 4 to 11.

STRONG AND EXCITING

The curriculum series begins with the Book of Genesis in preschool and continues with 1 Samuel in kindergarten, Esther in first grade, and in each successive grade by Jeremiah, Jonah, the Gospel of Mark, and St. Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Hebrews. 

When Logan comes home from school, he talks about what he learned, his mother said, and relates the Bible stories “to social situations that he finds himself in. And for a 5-, 6-, 7-year-old to be able to do that, I feel like it’s a testament to the strength of the curriculum.”

“And the excitement,” Wacha said. “She (Drozd) has put into their hearts this love of reading the Bible.”

“She has introduced it, so then we (the parents) can take the ball and roll with it.”

HELPING PARENTS

Last Easter, Logan took on a deeper interest in the passion and resurrection of Christ, noticing the details in the Stations of the Cross at church, Wacha said.

“As a parent, it’s pretty incredible because then it allows us to have those real conversations about who Christ is and what his experiences were – and in a way that is meaningful to a kindergartener.”

Those conversations have been a huge benefit for her and her husband, Wacha said, “because as a parent it can be overwhelming. How do you even start these conversations? How do you even tackle the Bible with a 5- or 6-year-old?”

“When Logan starts to ask the questions it forces us, in a good way, to go back and re-familiarize ourselves with the story and find a child-appropriate way to explain,” the mother said.

“It helps us to think it through as it pertains in our own lives. It’s a good reflection for us. The questions are always so innocent, but sometimes they land heavy. Like the story of the crucifixion, with Logan just asking matter-of-fact questions. Yeah, those things really did happen. Jesus really did that for us. It’s a nice opportunity for us as adults to reflect.”

WHAT WE NEED

Zoucha said she encourages schools that are interested in incorporating more Scripture into their teaching to take a look at “In School With Jesus.” Information can be found at inschoolwithJesus.com.

As a parent, Wacha strongly recommends the curriculum.

“I feel like we’re setting a foundation for them to be lifelong Bible readers, and I feel like that’s something we need,” she said.

“When you think about sending your kids to a Catholic school, that’s the thing you hope that they’re getting.”