Elementary Education

In the elementary grades students develop reading, writing and mathematical skills. These enable children to more effectively investigate, describe, measure and communicate findings about the world in which they live.

Students progress from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Young mathematicians consider various algorithms for computation on their way to becoming expert problem solvers. Junior scientists learn to apply the scientific method as they investigate the wonders of God’s creation. In social studies, students explore their families, neighborhoods, communities and states. The result is a well-rounded individual with a basic grasp of history and an appreciation of other cultures.

Regardless of the curricular area, the elementary student is provided with daily opportunities to learn by doing. A variety of hands-on experiences help students to make the leap from concrete lessons to more symbol cans abstract concepts. In the process, St. James students grow as independent learners and effective team players. 

Elementary Photos

Pictures with academic explanations are updated daily.

Curricular Areas

English Language Arts

At the elementary level, English Language Arts is the integration of reading and grammar. In reading, students progress from learning to read to reading to learn. They develop decoding skills, then expand their knowledge of comprehension, fluency and vocabulary. Through our Reader’s Workshop format, students learn individually, in small groups and as a whole class. Students experience a variety of genres and develop a love for reading.

In grammar, students cultivate skills for effective communication – handwriting (print and cursive), spelling, punctuation, capitalization and creativity. They learn to write a variety of informative, narrative and opinion pieces through Writer’s Workshop and the writing process.


The science curriculum is designed around the belief that God created the universe. Through inquiry, technology, process application and practice, students will discover the natural laws by which God preserves His creations. Students use the scientific method to investigate and acquire new knowledge about the world around them, and they perform experiments, learn to make predictions and observations, and draw conclusions. At the elementary level the topics covered included astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry and physics.

Bible Study

In grades one through four, Bible study is tailored to the developmental process of the child. The student learns to understand the Bible events through the lens of God’s wisdom, our life in community, awareness of self as the image of God, and our responsibility to serve others. Chapel is a Pastor led weekly service in the sanctuary with the elementary and middle school. Parents are welcome to attend.


Students learn a variety of strategies to develop strong problem-solving skills. They participate in hands-on activities that introduce and support the ability to solve real world problems and gain exposure to a variety of traditional and non-traditional algorithms. Using Everyday Mathematics’ spiraled curriculum, students develop the ability to recall knowledge from long-term memory by repeated exposure to each mathematical concept and skills.

Social Studies

In social studies, students learn about both current and historical events. They learn to be responsible, effective citizens and appreciate the impact of culture, geography, history and government on the family, the neighborhood, the community, and the state/region.

Physical Education & Health

Students are provided with daily opportunities for exercise and team building. They are engaged in activities to develop fitness, basic athletic skills and sportsmanship. On a weekly basis, they are also introduced to basic concepts necessary for a healthy life-style including nutrition, hygiene, safety and healthy relationships and decision-making.


At the elementary level, students are introduced to the elements of art and a variety of artistic techniques as practiced by the masters of art history. Students are then given the opportunity to both emulate these techniques and to develop their own unique talents. As a result, students acquire basic skills in both creating and critiquing art.


Students develop basic musical skills in rhythm, song and the playing of recorders. In the process, they are introduced to music theory and history. As a result, students are prepared to better participate in weekly chapel worship, to function as a children’s choir, and to appreciate and analyze a variety of types of music as a “consumer of the arts.”


The elementary French instruction gives students an opportunity to hear yet another language to continue to build their ear for language and their production. Research has shown that these experiences benefit children linguistically, cognitively and socially. We also believe that the best learning is one that is fun and engaging for the students. As such, our French classes use songs and games to teach and reinforce the language being studied. In late Elementary programs, students will begin exposure to reading and writing via simple workbook exercises and games. Teachers will provide writing models and grammar notes to take learning to the next level with students who have mastered basic material.

Program Highlights

Wax Museum

The living wax museum is a biography research report and event put on by third and fourth grade students. It is a collection of visual displays where students, dressed as famous individuals, stand at attention while visitors tour the exhibits. Visitors enjoy looking at the famous people, and pushing the button on the backdrop, to hear the child tell them a little bit about his/her life and why he/she is important. During the research process, students are instructed on how to take notes, organize information, as well as how to use different media sources to find information.

Coffeehouse Poetry

After the second grade students study poetry for several months in reading workshop and write poetry in writing workshop, we celebrate their finished pieces by having Coffeehouse Poetry Day. Parents are invited to the Community Center, which has been transformed into a coffeehouse.  The poets introduce several different styles of poetry, followed by readings of their own original work. After, the students teach their guest(s) how to write a poem, then family members are invited to share their work in an “open mic” session.   This is a special day for parents to share with their second grader and celebrate his/her accomplishments.  

Museum of Science and Industry

Students in first and second grade apply what they have learned about animal life cycles as they experience chickens hatching from eggs. They also build on their knowledge of rocks and minerals as they experience a coal mine. Students learn about how a farm works, discover mathematical patterns in the natural world, test scientific principles in The Idea Factory, and watch an assembly line put a toy together. These valuable experiences help students understand concepts they wouldn’t otherwise get to investigate in their everyday lives.

Pumpkin Patch Outdoor Education

First and second grade students experience working on a farm, apply their knowledge of the plant growth process, interact with animals from all over the world, and learn how pumpkins and fall crops grow.

Elementary Teachers

Lora Webster
First Grade Teacher

Lora Webster teaches first grade at St. James. Mrs. Webster comes to St. James with experience in both early childhood and first grade. Previously, she taught first grade and preschool at St. Matthew Lutheran School in Hawthorn Woods, as well as served as their Early Childhood Director. Mrs. Webster earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Concordia University, River Forest. She is a rostered and called teacher in the LCMS.

Email lwebster@stjames-lutheran.org

Maria Smith
Second Grade Teacher

Email msmith@stjames-lutheran.org

Stephanie Bending
Third Grade Teacher

Stephanie Bending teaches third grade at St. James. Previously, Mrs. Bending taught first grade at St. James and served the Downer’s Grove school district as an instructional assistant in the primary grades. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University.

Email sbending@stjames-lutheran.org

Kaitlyn Pegman
Fourth Grade Teacher

Kaitlyn Pegman teaches fourth grade at St. James. Mrs. Pegman is experienced in differentiating instruction and integrating technology into student learning. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University.

Email kpegman@stjames-lutheran.org

Matthew Runge
Physical Education and Health

Matt Runge teaches Physical Education and Health and serves as our Athletic Director. Whether in the classroom, gym or playing field, Mr. Runge’s focus is on the total wellness of the child including nutrition, exercise and human relationships. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Saint Ambrose University.

Email mrunge@stjames-lutheran.org

Karen Gast
Music Teacher

Karen Gast teaches music in early childhood through fourth grade and directs the middle school Honor’s Choir.  She focuses on the Orff method for music education that engages the whole child in learning music as it incorporates the natural rhythm of speech and language and builds in the movement that young children love.   Now retired from the classroom where she enjoyed integrating music within all subject areas, Mrs. Gast focuses on her love of music education.  She worked toward her Orff certification at DePaul University and continues her involvement in the GCAOSA, the greater Chicago Orff Association.

Email kgast@stjames-lutheran.org

Katie Wenzel
School Counselor

Ms. Wenzel is the school counselor.

Email kwenzel@stjames-lutheran.org


Have questions or want to learn more about St. James?

We look forward to meeting you and showing you all that St. James has to offer your family.

Funding a quality education requires more than just tuition; it requires the support and generosity of the whole community.

St. James Lutheran School

2101 N Fremont St Chicago, IL 60614   |   Phone : 773-525-4990     Fax : 773-326-3645

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