News and Blog Posts

Archives - July 2018

Maria Archer Named K-8 Principal

July 17, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Maria Bender Archer has been named principal for kindergarten through grade eight at Eastern Mennonite School. She has been elementary (K-5) principal since the school began in 2005.

“Maria has earned the deep respect and trust of her co-workers and parents over the past decade with her integrity and instinct for connecting with students’ individual strengths and capacities,” says Paul Leaman, head of school.

In her expanded role, Archer, a 1981 graduate of the school, will have the opportunity to further engage -- from early learning through eighth grade -- a seamless curriculum focused on learning through experience and developing the skills needed to be successful in school and in the workplace.

Archer is excited to carry on into middle school what has been successful in the school’s  elementary program where students are encouraged to ask questions and to think creatively. During the critical time of middle school, students learn “to listen to others’ perspectives, to articulate their point of view, and to practice what it means to be a member of a community of faith,” says Archer. “I look forward to being a part of a great team of middle school teachers as we continue to build the program together.”

“Maria created a culture that nourishes each students’ as well as faculty members’ individual gifts at the elementary school,” notes Lynette Mast ‘84, peacebuilding teacher who has been involved with the elementary division since its inception.  

Maria Bender Archer, far right, chats with Susan Stoltzfus, second grade 
teacher, and Barbara Miller, kindergarten teacher. Photo by Andrew Gasho.


Prior to her founding role in establishing the elementary division of EMS, Archer taught fifth grade at Hunter McGuire in Verona and middle school at Friends Select School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

A 1986 graduate of Temple University, Archer spent her childhood in Meridian, Miss., where her parents, Titus and Ann Bender, were involved in Civil Rights Era organizing, working alongside movement leaders such as  the Rev. Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding. “I was profoundly shaped by my parents’ work, by the way they welcomed people from many walks of life. They modeled for me the importance of working towards finding ways the marginalized in our society can be heard.” reflects Maria.

As a teen, her parents settled in Harrisonburg and Archer attended Eastern Mennonite High School, graduating in 1981. An accomplished pianist, Archer is married to Joseph Archer, mother to three adult daughters -- two of whom graduated from EMS -- and grandmother of one. She is a member of St. Jacobs Lutheran church and  enjoys baseball, gardening and crocheting in her spare time.

Eastern Mennonite School was established in 1917 and now serves nearly 400 students K-12 EMS offers excellent academics from a foundation of faith and values in a caring community with a global perspective. The campus is located at 801 Parkwood Drive in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Getting Pumped for K-12 PE!

July 16, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Editor’s Note: Kendal Bauman, long-time physical education and health teacher, as well as boys’ varsity soccer coach for 20 years, attended an institute for physical education teachers at James Madison University this summer. With the move of K-5 to main campus, Bauman is giving leadership to the full K-12 PE curriculum. This training pumped him up!

Team Rhubarb won first place in the video contest led by Cindy
Ferek, physical education teacher at Turner Ashby High School.


What do 350 PE teachers have in common when they descend on JMU's campus for the annual Health and Physical Activities Institute? They get to be on teamswith names like Rhubarb, Kumquat, Jalapeno Pepper and Dragon Fruit. They got to play badminton bonanza, wheelchair basketball, attend seminars titled "Dances your students will beg you to do!" and enjoy JMU's UREC facility.

Things I learned at the institute:

  • National Teacher of the Year Presenters consistently said time and again that "This is the BEST conference offered in the United States hands down." The participation rate is fa-nominal.
  • You do not sit on a chair on the side and take notes YOU DO THE ACTIVITIES to learn it better than watching. Even when that meant I had to dance!
  • They have an AWESOME slogan "A body is a terrible thing to waist." 
  • That every child deserves to have the opportunity to MOVE in Physical Education class and it should be FUN for the students.


Things I am excited about this fall:

  • Teaching elementary physical education;
  • Exploring "space" with the kindergarten class as the students learn how their bodies move in space.
  • Partnering with the elementary divison to provide teaching/assisting opportunities to middle and high school students who are interested in teaching careers.

Justin King Named New High School Principal

July 11, 2018
By Andrea Schrock Wenger

Justin King of Harrisonburg has been named high school principal at Eastern Mennonite School. In the role, he will give leadership to grades 9 to 12.

“He’s young and we like that,” said head of school Paul Leaman about the 2012 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) who has taught world history, government and economics most recently at East Rockingham High School in Elkton, Va. “We are thrilled with his energy and enthusiasm. Justin is well loved by students and colleagues in his past work places, is committed to implementing restorative justice in our school culture, and cares about offering excellent academics from a faith perspective.”

King earned a  bachelor of arts from EMU with majors in history and social science and secondary education licensure, and minors in political science and coaching. In addition to East Rockingham, he has also taught at Broadway High School and Turner Ashby High School.

A native of Lancaster, Pa., King was a baseball standout at Warwick High School, before joining EMU’s baseball program. A baseball coach at East Rockingham for the past five years and TA for one year prior, King says that “I have learned that life and baseball are similar, in that they don’t build character, but they reveal it.”

Justin King (left), new high school 
principal, with Paul Leaman, head
of school.

King is excited to work in a setting where he can be “open and honest with students and faculty about my faith experiences,” he says. He has enjoyed mentoring students outside of school settings in the past as they wrestle with big ideas and questions, providing mutual support and encouragement beyond the textbook or baseball field.



Teaching is a job that can be be emotionally and physically draining, King notes. “I will work to keep and attract the best educators in the area by creating a culture where teachers feel validated, supported, and enjoy coming to work.”

King is slated to begin a master’s secondary school administration at James Madison University beginning this fall. “My goal in starting the program is to learn how to best support students and faculty in creating a school culture that is life-giving and positive for all," says King.

King is married to Heidi B. King, a choir and musical theater teacher at Stonewall Jackson High School. Together they give leadership to an active youth group at Zion Mennonite Church where they are members and Justin serves on the congregational leadership team. The Kings have led numerous service-learning trips with their youth group to denominational gatherings and various work sites.

In addition to baseball, King enjoys travel and service experiences. He was born in Jamaica, where his parents served with Mennonite Central Committee, and spent a semester during college in Lesotho and South Africa. The time in Lesotho and South Africa “took me completely out of my comfort zone,” he reflects, and “helped me gain appreciation for other people and cultures.”

Eastern Mennonite School was established in 1917. It offers excellent academics from a foundation of faith and values in a caring community with a global perspective. Located at 801 Parkwood Drive in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the school serves nearly 400 students K-12.

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