South Baldwin Christian Academy Grows

By Jessica Vaughn /
Posted 10/26/17

GULF SHORES – Since 2008, South Baldwin Christian Academy has been offering a private, Christian-based education to students within the county, and today they are pleased to find their family ever …

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South Baldwin Christian Academy Grows


GULF SHORES – Since 2008, South Baldwin Christian Academy has been offering a private, Christian-based education to students within the county, and today they are pleased to find their family ever growing.

SBCA began out of a church in Gulf Shores, when three women, Dawn Cranston, Karen Long, and Teri Spence, came together to bring a dream to life.

“Several of us taught at an area Christian school that closed,” said Karen Long, director of operations and finance. “There was just a need for this … and we just decided to step out and do it. I drug Dawn and Teri into it, and I don’t know, it was needed and we just did it … It’s just priceless for parents to entrust their children to us and to build relationships with them. It’s long term. Kids that came from the beginning and are now adults, I’m still in their lives. It’s an honor.”

The school originally operated out of a church in Orange Beach, with limited space and equipment, bringing to life an adventure for those involved.

“Ten years ago, we had just middle school and we were in a youth building,” said Teri Spence, high school English and literature teacher. “We were working in tiny areas, or big storage closest, and I remember the kids put together their own chairs the first year, and now we’ve grown to this.”

The building the school now owns was previously a home, and extra buildings have been constructed on the property as the academy continues to grow. SBCA moved in during 2013, and since purchasing the building, SBCA has built two additional classroom buildings that house eight more classes, and a gymnatorium is under construction.

“A lot has been happening in a short amount of time, it’s exciting,” said Dawn Cranston, head of school.

The original home contains a functioning kitchen where school snacks are stored and lunch can be prepared, and the eating areas for the students consist of a fully enclosed glass patio or outdoor picnic tables under shady trees, giving the entire place a homey feel. A gazebo is also on the property for students, and the patio, picnic tables, and gazebo are all used for study time as well. Also located inside are offices, a multipurpose room used for events, and a duel art and music room where students can show off their creative sides.

“The house adds to what we’re trying to create, and that’s establishing a family atmosphere,” said Jessie Williams, director of marketing and communications. “Where students have a home to learn and grown and earn an education.”

The school offers pre-k through 12 all in one location, allowing students to form close bonds with fellow classmates as well as teachers. Currently there are nearly 180 students in attendance. SBCA is accredited, and offers smaller sized classrooms so that teachers can get to know each student individually.

“You have a close environment, I knew everybody’s names the first day,” said Bryan Rhoden, high school math and science teacher. “I was able to just relate to people, and it’s good to have real conversations with students; whether it’s something positive or whether it’s something that needs to be corrected, you can actually sit down and talk, they’re not a number. You can show them compassion and say, ‘I’m here for you,’ and that’s what it’s about for me.”

The teachers are given the freedom to teach as they are led, such as Lisa Hand, first grade teacher, who teaches her class as they sit on bouncy balls instead of chairs to promote stability and focus in her young students.

“Teachers get to teach the way that God has designed them to teach,” Williams said. “Nobody’s put in a box, the teachers are allowed to use their creativity and be free.”

Another method the teachers use to help prepare students for the future are lessons which utilize technology. Interactive activities get the class involved, and are fun and exciting ways for the students to learn not only the lesson at hand, but also how to handle technology. Students are provided with laptops at the middle school and high school levels.

“It’s very important that technology is provided for an interactive experience in the classroom, that brings the classroom more into the 21st century,” Williams said. “It helps prepare students for the challenges of modern technology post-graduation.”

Students are given the chance to pursue the arts as well, and once the gymnatorium is completed, the school will be offering many more sports-related activities. The students already have a cross country team, and by 2018 they’re looking to add even more school teams. The gymnatorium is so named because it will serve purposes of both athletics and fine arts, and will include a performing arts stage along with an official basketball court upon which SBCA is looking to host games and competitions. The facility will be open to other private Christian schools and home school groups in the area, and it will be available for community use for an established fee. Until that time, the school has a full-size playground that offers the kids a great place for P.E. or playtime on sunny days.

“We want to make it more possible for kids in our community who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to devote their God-given athletic and fine arts calling,” Williams said. “Some kids are called to be scientists and mathematicians, some kids are called to be athletes, and some kids are called to be musicians. We want to make sure that we do everything that we can to give our students and this community every chance to be able to develop those gifts.”

The project broke ground in May, and SBCA hopes to have it complete by early spring of 2018.

The teachers in the school have found their way there through God, and they are thankful each day that they are able to become part of their students’ lives and teach to them God’s Word. The teachers believe in helping the students learn in every aspect of life, not just spreading the teachings of God or academics, but also promoting athletics, fine arts, and teaching kids the dangers of bullying, from how to treat bullies, how not to be a bully, and why they don’t want to be one and how it impacts someone’s soul.

The teachers accompany students to food pantries around the community, where the students are given the chance to volunteer for organizations and learn the value of giving to the community and spreading God’s love.

Along with helping in the community, students of any age are given the chance to help at their own school, as chapel assistant or just helping the teacher gather the snacks. All the teachers at SBCA become more than just teachers to their students, and are looking to create a bond that will last a lifetime.

“The Lord blessed me with two visions,” said Jenny Erikson, fifth and sixth grade math and science teacher. “One was to be a mom, and one was to be a teacher, and to devote my life to that calling. I was blessed with my child at 40-years-old … I’ve been a teacher for ages, but because I’m a mom at heart, these are all my babies. That’s why I do what I do, because of the Lord blessing me with not only my baby, but to be a part of these children’s lives too.”

It’s a bond that is not just meaningful to the teachers, but that the students feel as well. Students at SBCA find themselves with a larger family than they previously had, as their school involves the students’ entire families in activities, such as family ministries.

When asked what students loved most about their school there were many answers given, from the playground to snack to the afterschool care. Two things all the students could agree on were: they were all excited about their school, and they all loved the teachers.

“I think it’s cool since there’s so many smaller classes,” said high school student Shelby Spence. “They advertise it on their website, but it is for real. There’s a lot of one-on-one, even putting all the academics aside, you can have an actual relationship with the teachers … It’s like one big family.”

SBCA has a high priority on classroom experience as well as student experience, along with campus and family ministry, all part of the school’s EXCEL Imagine, Tomorrow campaign, which helps raise funds for the three priority areas.

“The teachers are like our parents,” said high school student Kristin Caleb. “That means a lot, for me, going from public school to home school to private school. These teachers I can depend on to give me a good education and still be concerned with what goes on in my life. They really care, and I really appreciate the teachers we have here.”

To learn more about South Baldwin Christian Academy, visit them on their website at, where you can learn about the programs they offer, their values, and schedule a tour of the campus.

“It’s a really laidback, Jesus-loving environment,” Williams said. “Everything we do here is a calling, you have to be called to teach at a private Christian school.”