Grace Christian Academy welcomes new director
Wenzel brings over 30 years experience in school administration
Lorne Wenzel didn’t begin his career in education, but has since developed a career in religious education based on improving enrollment and developing well-rounded students.
Wenzel, a school administrator with more than 30 years experience, is the new director of Grace Christian Academy in Waldorf.
Wenzel said he began his career in school administration in the early 1980s, when his church elders asked if he would take over the administration of their school.
“I quickly got a burning for what schooling could be and should be, and that motivated me to go get my master’s [degree] and doctorate,” Wenzel said.
Wenzel has since been a school administrator in Florida, Wilmington, N.C., and Vancouver, Canada.
Most recently, he was director of Foundation Academy in Winter Garden, Fla., and learned of the search for a new director at Grace Christian Academy.
“I liked the fact that it was a very diverse community, I liked the fact that staff and faculty seemed very interested in building people, not just teaching material but really getting involved in the lives of students, that it was very nondenominational and wasn’t trying to push a particular sect, and it really felt like a place that was open to new ideas,” Wenzel said.
Wenzel said Grace Christian Academy fit in well with his own personal beliefs.
“I discovered the people here, and the board here, were a good match for my personality, and vision and my strengths, and it’s all proven to be true,” Wenzel said.
As an outsider, Wenzel said he brings a different, more worldly, perspective to the school. Wenzel served on the executive board of the Association of Christian Schools International for eight years.
The ACSI is the largest Protestant educational organization in the world, according to its website, with 24,000 member schools in 100 countries.
“They’ve had a history of hiring from within, and I felt that not only do I have years of experience, but I’ve got a lot of contacts internationally, and I felt that I could bring a lot to the table that had been missing,” Wenzel said.
Grace Church Executive Pastor Dennis Fay said Wenzel stood “head and shoulders” above the other candidates for the position, due to his vast experience in Christian education and his experience in turning around schools with low enrollment.
“When we interviewed Dr. Wenzel, he was calm, cool and collected, and that was what I really liked about him,” Fay said. “He is very calm under pressure and that is an important factor here.”
Grace Christian Academy’s enrollment for the current school year is 311, and Fay said Wenzel has a proven record of boosting school enrollment at the schools where he’s been director.
Fay said he was also impressed with the depth of Wenzel’s faith.
“He is a family man, and a man of deep faith, which as a Christian school is very important,” Fay said.
Wenzel is married and he and his wife have three adult daughters, two in Florida and one in Maryland.
His first semester is primarily about “learning the ropes,” Wenzel said, he expects to announce some new initiatives and programs for the next school year in January.
“We’ll be doing a lot of things to help students understand themselves and what it is to be humans. To build character and healthy identity, self-confidence, recognition of their unique talents and gifts, as well as those of others,” Wenzel said. “Academically, I really want to include programs that involve more collaboration, writing, debate, thinking, and not just students sitting behind a desk absorbing lectures.”
Wenzel said he sees part of his role as bringing together the best and brightest staff.
“I’ve always thought that my role as a director was like an orchestra conductor,” Wenzel said. “I recognize the talents in others and get them to play a tune together.”
Wenzel said that his own experiences have helped shape his philosophy as an administrator.
“I realized how much time I wasted in school just going after grades, not really learning, and I want to make school more of a learning experience, inspiring kids and helping them to be be more passionate about learning, and helping integrate the different subjects, so that they come away not just knowing pieces, but really having a sense of what the whole is,” Wenzel said.
Wenzel said having students work with technology is important in the 21st century, but it’s also important to bring about the overall character development of students.
“In order for 21st century students to thrive in life, they need to possess the qualities of a great soul that go along with the knowledge and skills that schools offer,” Wenzel said. “Success in life will not simply be based on what students graduate with, but on the person they have become at graduation.”
Lewis Twine, chairman of the school’s board, said Wenzel has brought a “big picture” vision to the school.
“He’s really been off to a great start and I can’t say how grateful we are to God for bringing Dr. Wenzel to our school,” Twine said.
Lorne Wenzel is the new director at Grace Christian Academy in Waldorf.