Local principal recognized with award

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 7, 2017

 Trinity Lutheran School Principal Julian Petzold, holding his Michigan District Principal of the Year Award, stands with Trinity senior pastor Ken Wise May 17. Petzold was anonymously nominated by staff and parents, and Wise surprised him with the award.

Trinity Lutheran School Principal Julian Petzold, holding his Michigan District Principal of the Year Award, stands with Trinity senior pastor Ken Wise May 17. Petzold was anonymously nominated by staff and parents, and Wise surprised him with the award.

Photo provided by Trinity Lutheran School

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The morning of May 17 was a different kind of special for Trinity Lutheran School Principal Julian Petzold.

A kindergartener was scheduled to be baptized in front of his friends and classmates that day. Petzold and others, including his family, were there to witness it.

But at the end of the baptism, when Petzold was ready to give his usual announcements, Trinity senior pastor Ken Wise walked up to Petzold and gave him his Michigan District Principal of the Year Award. A statue was awarded, as well as a check for $500 to direct toward any area of the ministry at the school.

The award involves an anonymous nomination form, which Wise read from that morning.

“It’s such a blessing to work for and with Julian,” one staff member wrote. “He is truly a man of God and easily shares his faith with everyone in all he says and does. He gives his undivided attention to whoever needs it, no matter how busy he is. He is wise beyond his years.”

One parent wrote, “He has a vision for 21st century Christian education and how to make faith relevant to our students and their families.” Another parent said the school environment was a perfect fit for her kindergarten daughter.

The accolade caught the principal by complete surprise.

“I had no idea because we had a baptism, and my wife and daughter and in-laws were there,” Petzold said.

Petzold possesses an early childhood education degree from Concordia University in Chicago, and a master’s degree in educational leadership. He’s also currently enrolled in a doctoral degree program at Concordia.

As the 2006 recipient of the Lutheran Education Association Outstanding Early Childhood Center Director Award, Petzold has been in many places and has seen a lot of faces.

His education history involves teaching second grade, kindergarten and preschool, and he was the early childhood director at Living Word Lutheran School, which he started.

Once the preschool grew to capacity around 2007, he left to become principal and early childhood director at Trinity Lutheran School in St. Joseph, Michigan. In 2010, he left to become the principal at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, located on Harper Avenue in Clinton Township.

Trinity Lutheran is a K-8 Christian school with about 230 students. There’s one classroom per grade level, with approximately 25 students per class. A strong school climate is the result of a strong faculty and parent base, Petzold said.

In its last accreditation cycle, the school was recommended for national exemplary status. 

“We have moved away from just knowledge of biblical content, but application in the middle school years. … We look to facilitate conversation, exploration and discovery and, in the end, a faith that is owned based upon biblical truths, instead of told upon based biblical truths,” Petzold said.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade are presented with heavy biblical content, while students in grades six, seven and eight learn the application side of things. This includes “faith stepping stones,” which begin with baptism and lead to confirmation.

The change in structure began in 2012, Petzold said, when the school more closely examined how the Bible impacts current society — as well as how the meaning of the Bible has changed.

This includes the writing of “mentor letters,” in which students write letters to their five favorite spiritual mentors; kids being taught about finances, and how they are a matter of faith; sixth-graders taking a field trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky; and seventh-graders visiting two Christian churches and then two mosques or temples, as a means of learning about different faiths and why spiritual differences exist.

The next step is to reinvest in technology and provide students with the tools of the 21st century that are needed to succeed.

“We’re pretty progressive tech-wise,” he said. “We make sure there isn’t anything lacking on the instructional side. … We’ve got everything we need.”

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