Mr. Axel Gruen- Principal
Prior to becoming a teacher, I worked in my family’s retail furniture business for 18 years, holding virtually every position available. My wife works for Thrivent Financial Greater Hoagland Group. Our family has called Beaverton home for the last 23 years. We have two wonderful children, Allison, 21 and Jared 20. Our prior church home was Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Beaverton where we have been actively involved since we became members in 1997. We are a family of "marching band geeks" as both of our kids marched in the Aloha High School marching band. Our son graduated from the University of Oregon and now lives back up int Portland. Our daughter follow in my footsteps at Concordia University-Portland and graduated with an early childhood education degree. It is a God-driven decision on her part and I am pleased that she is following her heart as well as what God would want her to do. She works at an early childhood center in Ft Wayne. I received my Bachelor's degree in business in 1999 and my Master's degree in teaching in 2004 both from Concordia University in Portland. I earned my administrative certificate during the summer of 2008. When I'm not teaching I enjoy reading a good book, playing basketball, and spending time with my family.
Miss Abigail Priest- Preschool 3's
My name is Abby Priest and I cannot wait to get to know both you and your child! I am excited for my first year of teaching at St. John-Emmanuel and teaching your child about how much Jesus loves them, as well as help them build their social skills and academic foundation for their future.
I would like to share a little bit about myself with you. I was confirmed and attend Emmanuel Lutheran Church (Soest). I attended St. John- Emmanuel from Pre-K through 8th grade and am a 2014 Heritage High School graduate. I moved on to Ivy Tech Community College shortly after and started their Early Childhood Education program. In December of 2016 I graduated and earn my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I am continuing my education at IPFW in order to gain my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I started working at Emmanuel Childcare Ministries in August of 2013 and have recently left to focus on my own education and to teach. I have volunteered for Soest VBS for four years.
The most important thing you should know about me is that I love children! I love seeing them accomplish goals and meet milestones. I also believe it is essential to build positive relationships with not only the children, but the parents as well. You are my best resource and you know your child the best! I appreciate your input and opinion and am here whenever you need me. I am looking forward to getting to know your children and am confident that this is going to be a great year!
Mrs. Katherine Harris- Kindergarten
I have been teaching kindergarten at SJE since 2009. Before then, I attended Concordia Wisconsin. I graduated there with a degree in Early Childhood education. In my spare time I love to spend time with my husband and son, Wyatt. I also enjoy going to Illinois to visit my parents and go to Chicago Cubs games.
My mission: help students grow spiritually, emotionally, and intelligently in a loving, caring environment.
Mrs. Mary Hines- 1st Grade
Hi! I'm Mary Hines, first grade teacher. This is my 13th year here and I absolutely love it. I have found the parents and congregational members very supportive. Before SJE I taught at several schools: a 2 parish school in the thumb area of Michigan, Zion Lutheran and Trinity Lutheran, both in Fort Wayne. I am a graduate of Concordia University Chicago. I still have roots in Michigan. Several members of my family still live there. When I'm not teaching, I am either working on choral, guitar or keyboard music for church, gardening, or reading, especially biographies. I am beginning to take cello lessons, so I have a sense of what is like to learn something difficult. I have a secret love of composing for organ and some vocal arrangements. I am a dog lover, currently enjoying the company of dog number five, Ricky. But the best times I have are when I spend time with my husband, Stan. We enjoy day trips, exploring parts of the Midwest we have not yet seen. We share a common love of dogs, enticing bluebirds to nest in our yard, and gardening.
Mrs. Kim Priest- 2nd Grade
I see the ministry of St. John - Emmanuel Lutheran School as loving teachers who desire to instill the love of Christ to children as they learn and grow. I feel that, as a 2nd grade teacher, my personal ministry is to give my students a well rounded education, a love and knowledge of Christ our Savior, and to help them find a sense of life skills and confidence that they will need as they prepare to move on to more advanced grades. I have been teaching since 2005, 3 years as the SJE Resource teacher, with this as my 8th year teaching 2nd grade. I have a wonderful and supportive husband, Dave, and 3 daughters – Jordan (in Indianapolis); Chloe (married and expecting her first child soon); and Abby (our SJE Pre3 teacher.) I have degrees in Interpersonal Communication, Elementary Education, and my Colloquy from Concordia University, River Forest in Chicago. I enjoy baking, collecting recipes, crafts and candles, and reading books by Wanda E. Brunstetter about the Amish community, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays.
Mrs. Sharon White- 3rd Grade
It is my mission to bestow a love for learning upon my students while providing a Christ-centered education and to teach with a passion so that my students develop a desire to become lifelong learners. I have loved working with children for as long as I can remember and decided to channel that love into teaching. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree and Master of Science Degree from Indiana University. I have 20 years of teaching experience in the classroom ranging from 2nd grade- 5th grade. This is my 16th year teaching at SJE and my 14th year teaching 3rd grade. I have lived in the Ft. Wayne area all of my life. During the summer months, I enjoy outdoor activities with my family and friends.
Miss Catelyn Mefferd-4th Grade
Mission: God creates each child with a purpose. I believe that it is my job to help each individual child discover and develop their unique skills and talents so God can work through them. I believe each child is capable of achieving more than they think is possible by being pushed and encouraged along the way. I believe the partnership between SJE and our families is the thing that makes SJE special. Christian values instilled at home can be nourished while at school.
Favorite Bible Verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Favorite Song: “Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United- Every time I hear this song it reminds me that I have to let God lead me over unknown waters even though it may not be easy.
Favorite Book: I don’t think I can choose just one favorite book. However, one of my favorite authors is Jodi Picoult.
- I have three siblings- an older sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother.
- I am born and raised in Ohio.
- This is my first year of teaching, and I am really enjoying it thus far.
- I graduated from Huntington University in 2016 with a degree in Elementary Education.
- I am a huge football fan. I love the Ohio State Buckeyes and Minnesota Vikings.
- In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, exercising, and being in the outdoors.
- I love to bake. Trying out new recipes that I’ve found on Pinterest is one my favorite things to do.
Mrs. Dana Muehl-5th Grade
As a fourth grade student, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. My desire to teach led me to get my bachelor’s degree at Concordia College, now known as Concordia University-Chicago. It was during my time at Concordia that I was led to teach in Lutheran Schools. It was also where I met my husband, Mark, who was also going into Lutheran education.
Over the past 32 years, Mark and I have taught together in Elgin, Illinois, Seymour, Indiana and in 2001 we moved to Fort Wayne where we continued to serve in various settings. Mark is now the Executive Director of The Lutheran Schools Partnership.
My teaching experiences have varied over my teaching ministry. I have taught almost every grade from preschool through high school, in self-contained classrooms as well as departmentalized settings. In 2011 I began teaching in Special Education and decided to get a Master’s Degree to further my knowledge in education. In 2013 I graduated from Indiana University with a Master’s Degree in Special Education and added 5 years in the special education to my experience. While each grade had its blessings and challenges, one thing remained constant- being able to share the Gospel message of Jesus with each student and family I served. There is no better job!
Mark and I have 3 children, Ashley (Alex) who teaches in Houston, Zach (Laikyn) who is a financial analyst in Fort Wayne, and Tyler who works construction in Fort Wayne.
Mrs. Heidi Dancy-6th Grade
My life rule comes from Colossians 3:17
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
My theme verse for the classroom is “Be kind to one another, and compassionate towards one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.“ Ephesians 4:32
I began teaching at St.John-Emmanuel in 2007-2008. Sixth graders are at an interesting, fun, zany age. They are middle schoolers in the middle of change changing emotions, changing mentally, changing physically, and changing socially.
I have taught every grade from Pre-K to 8th. I am a Chicago native, met my future husband at Concordia University. After marriage, I moved to Fort Wayne, where my husband Paul, attended Concordia Theological Seminary. Vicarage was in Independence, Mo. His first call was to Pontiac, IL, where I stayed home for 10 years with my growing family. We moved to Park Forest, IL, (south side of Chicago), Armada, MI, and now I am back in Fort Wayne. Ironically, my husband served as field worker under Pastor Bierlein at Emmanuel Soest.
I attended Concordia University, Chicago and in 2005, received my Masters Degree from Saginaw Valley State University in Literacy and Writing. I have the best children in the world.
My goal is to lead children to recognize that their life is a life of faithfulness and praise to the end of their days, whether they are in school or working in the fields, taking Jesus with them wherever they go.
Miss Stephanie Rennacker-7th Grade
Hobbies: Reading, playing piano, choir, handbells, 4-wheeling with my family, and hanging out with friends.
I have been a member of Suburban Bethlehem Lutheran Church my whole life. I went to school there from Nursery all the way through 8th grade. I attended Carroll High School and participated in Show Choir, Speech team, Drama team, and Photography. I went on to Indiana University to get a Bachelors in Secondary Education - Social Studies. I always knew I wanted to work with kids in some capacity, but I truly discovered my love for teaching and having faith-based education from my many summers spent at Camp Lutherhaven. In total, I have spent almost 15 summers going to Camp, 3 of which were as a Junior Servant worker, and 3 as a staff member (counselor and assistant cook). Camp Lutherhaven is easily one of my favorite places to be. I truly connected with my faith there, and met some amazing people on the way. I have one older sister, Stacie, and a younger brother, Andrew. I am the beloved middle child. My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 1:16, which also happens to be my confirmation verse: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, and then to the Gentile." I will be taking on that challenge this summer on my church's trip to Haiti. There, we will be spreading God's word through our words and actions at an orphanage. I could not be more excited to see what God has in store for me in Haiti and throughout the rest of my time here at St. John-Emmanuel.
Mr. David Stellwagen-8th Grade
Ministry Vision: I have always looked as my ministry as threefold: 1.) To weave and integrate the Good News of Salvation through Christ alone into as many different facets of my teaching as humanly possible while showing the students how amazing God's Word truly is. 2.) To make learning as intriguing and interesting as possible in order to promote lifelong learning. And 3.) To teach the students life skills as well as the basic education skills.
Favorite Bible verse: John 19:35 The spear plunging into the side of Jesus is the final act of His atoning Sacrifice. The fact that blood and water came out is simply no accident, for they provide the Life-giving Blood and Water found in the sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism
Favorite Book: This is almost impossible to choose from... but if I had to be marooned on a desert island and take only one book with me (besides the Bible, of course), I would almost certainly take The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The man simply understood humankind in ways few people ever have and had the vocabulary of a genius.
Favorite Song: This category is impossible to choose. My 'heart' would almost certainly choose, "The Little Drummer Boy" (pa-rumpa-pum-pum) because all three of our girls sang that song when they were very little and made tears come to my eyes each time. My 'cultural' side would probably choose Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". And my 'fun' side would pick just about anything that gets me 'moving' (that list would be about 100 songs long).
Who is David Stellwagen?
• I grew up in Sheboygan, WI where my father was a Lutheran pastor.
• I went to college at Concordia in River Forest, IL.
• My first teaching job was in a suburb of Detroit, MI.
• My second teaching position was in Racine, WI.
• I have been married 29 years to my beautiful wife, Debby.
• We have three girls whom I adore: Abigail (21), Kayla (19) and Alaina (17).
• If we could do anything or go anywhere we would either head to a National Park in the West somewhere or go to the Alps in Europe.
• I enjoy being with my 'ladies', reading, traveling, playing chess, eating pizza & doughnuts, sleeping, and exercising.