Faith in Education

Trinity Oaks Christian Academy offers students a faith-based
education with lots of one-on-one attention


story by Melanie Kalmar | Photo by Linda M. Barrett

Rather than simply tell parents why they should enroll their children at Trinity Oaks Christian Academy, the Head of School, Paul Wrobbel, Ed. D., likes to show them with a tour. When they pass by the classrooms, he knows they will immediately notice the difference between Trinity Oaks and its public school counterparts: there are fewer students per class—class size averages between 16 to 18 children—and the day begins with prayer and devotions.

Trinity Oaks is a private, non-denominational, faith-centered school founded in 1989 by a group of Christian parents, that serves families with children from preschool through high school at its campus in Cary. Trinity Oaks recently earned dual accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools International and AdvancED, a regional accrediting agency for North Central America. “It’s comparable to a ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal of approval,” Wrobbel said. “Peers from other institutions review your self-study, visit your school, and if you pass say, ‘You met the accreditation standards and are providing a high-quality education.”

Individual attention

Wrobbel stands by the door each morning, greeting all students by name, because the small setting affords him the opportunity to get to know them personally. Trinity Oaks boasts one teacher and one class per grade level. “The smaller class size gives them a lot of time to interact with the teacher,” Wrobbel said. “They’re not just one kid in a sea of kids.” In preschool, class size is limited to 10 students. In pre-kindergarten, it is capped at 20, but the teacher is also assisted by a full-time aide. Elementary and secondary classrooms average 15 students per classroom.

A highly-educated staff

About half of the teachers at Trinity Oaks hold master’s degrees, they have an average of six years at Trinity Oaks, and 17 years of overall teaching experience. “You want a balance of younger teachers who bring energy and enthusiasm with teachers who have a little more experience,” Wrobbel said. “We have that.”

The small setting allows staff to determine how each child learns best and to teach each one of them accordingly. Educators try to spot learning differences immediately and put interventions in place as early as preschool and kindergarten through a pull-out program by the National Institute for Learning Development. “We try to help students overcome and work through those difficulties so learning becomes easier for them,” Wrobbel said. “Too often you don’t discover learning differences until later and then it’s harder to fix, because they’ve developed some really bad habits.” While Trinity Oaks strives to help students overcome learning difficulties, it does not have a staff of specialists, like Occupational and Physical Therapists, who become necessary in accommodating children with more distinct disabilities.

Self-contained classrooms

In elementary school, the learning takes place in self-contained classrooms—the same teacher working with the same group of grade level students from first through fifth grade. The children have other teachers for specials like gym, art and music. “The teachers really get to know the students well,” Wrobbel said. “The fewer transitions a child has during the day gives them more time for learning. They’re not having to figure out a number of different adults. The teacher knows them and they know the teacher. You can quickly get into content and really concentrate on learning. It’s a very enriching experience.” Socially, the advantages are priceless. Students build lasting friendships with each other and significant bonds with their teachers, who watch them grow from early childhood to adolescence.

“Students come back and visit often,” Wrobbel said. “Last night, we had a concert presented by our third through fifth grade students. Probably half a dozen of our alumni, attending various public high schools, came because they just wanted to see each other.”

Leadership opportunities

In junior high, grades six through eight at Trinity Oaks, classrooms make the switch from self-contained to departmental, with students changing classrooms and teachers for each subject. “The content is more specific, more in-depth,” Wrobbel said. “It’s hard to be a generalist at this level. Math and Science become more difficult. You need a specialist, someone who understands the topic in more detail.” The children develop leadership skills by branching out and assisting teachers in the classroom by reading to younger students or helping them with chores like photocopying and cleaning up. All grades are involved in giving back to the community, by volunteering their time visiting residents at the local assisted living center. They play games with them, do crafts together, and invite them back to the school for special performances. During the holidays, each class chooses a different charity to support that is meaningful to them. In the past, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed My Starving Children, and Chicago Juvenile Detention Center have benefited from the generosity of Trinity Oak’s students.

Academically successful, well-rounded students

Students participating in Trinity Oaks’ co-curricular programs have qualified to compete in the Illinois Junior Academy of Science State Science Fairs and regional and national Spelling Bees, but that’s not all. Trinity Oaks has earned academic bragging rights. Students from second through eighth grade score in the top 10 percent on nationally normed standardized tests. Its first high school class—Trinity Oaks started serving high school students in 2012—averaged a score of 28 on the ACT exam. Its college prep curriculum covers all the bases: studying for the college entrance exams, preparing for interviews with college representatives, selecting a school, and writing a resume. Trinity Oaks also hosts career days in which various professionals are invited to come speak about their careers. All students take field trips to experience learning outside of the classroom, and are provided opportunities to compete against other schools in various competitions.

Trinity Oaks offers similar sports, arts, STEM, band, and orchestra programming as public schools with an added bonus: it has optional classes during the summer to keep kids busy while they explore in depth, for an entire week, the arts, sports, or subjects like Lego Robotics and Forensic Science. “Parents were asking for activities in the summer,” Wrobbel said. “About two weeks after school is out, kids are bored. We offer different classes from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for several weeks during the summer by grade level.” Aptly called “Destination Exploration,” the program is also open to students outside of the school. A similar one-week program is offered to high school students in wintertime, giving them an opportunity to explore a topic in depth that is not covered in the curriculum.

A community of families with close ties

The school’s families take advantage of the myriad of ways they can be involved in their children’s education. “We require all our students to memorize Bible verses every week,” Wrobbel said. “Parents can be the ones listening to the students recite those verses.” Parents can also come in and help teachers by making photocopies and putting up bulletin boards or they can assist in the lunchroom. When a family suffers an illness or other hardship, the parents are always there, organizing the delivery of meals and, of course, prayers. Throughout the school year, the PTA hosts family friendly activities—a welcome picnic, game nights, chili dinners with line dancing—that help families become better acquainted and connected.

Barrington resident Laura Morrissey has been teaching third grade at Trinity Oaks for the past eight years. The school also holds a special place in the heart of her daughter Mary. Mary, a freshman at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland, attended Trinity for junior high. “I began teaching here at the same time,” Morrissey said. “We really wanted her to be grounded in her faith and here, it’s a biblically integrated curriculum. We emphasize character development and high moral standards. I really feel like it gave her a strong foundation academically, spiritually and relationally,” she said. “She made really good friends whom she enjoyed. She fit right in when she came here. Her teachers and the principal knew her and she felt like they were really invested in her. I believe it just strengthened her faith and character, and gave her the foundation to make wise choices in high school and beyond.”

As a teacher, Morrissey enjoys the smaller class size. She says it gives her the opportunity to nurture each child and recognize and foster each child’s individual talents. She likes to integrate subjects like art and literature, and make learning fun with hands-on activities. She also loves watching the close friendships develop amongst students and seeing the joy in their faces. One afternoon, when a sick student left school early, another student in the class turned to Morrissey and said, “I just prayed for her.” “They care about each other,” she said. “They have conflicts, too, but they’re really such a loving, sweet group of kids.”

Trinity Oaks’ Director of Admissions, Carrie Raeside, was initially looking to enroll her son in high school at Trinity Oaks for the 2015-2016 school year. But after she attended an Open House, she liked everything about it and registered all five of her children, which she previously home schooled. Her children are in first, fourth, seventh, eighth, and tenth grade at Trinity Oaks. She sees them every day at school, since she became Admissions Director in June. “They have grown academically from the moment they walked in the door,” she said. “They are just so absorbed with their friends and loving the community here. I feel like we’ve been here for 10 years.” Promoting the school to prospective students comes easily to her. “I love sharing my passion for the school with families who visit here,” she said. “Most families who come here are looking for Christian morals and a safe and nurturing environment, a school that partners with their family’s values. Once they see it, most are sold.”

Trinity Oaks Christian Academy is located at 233 Trinity Oaks Way in Cary. For more information, call 847-462-5971 or visit

Melanie Kalmar is a freelance writer specializing in business and human interest features. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family.