It started with a preschool...
Shady Oak Christian School was a vision of Joyce Trigger’s for several years prior to its inception. Early in 1987, Joyce and her friend, Joy Talbert, explored west Houston and Richmond for a place to make real Joyce’s dream of a developmentally appropriate school for young children. Joy had some friends who owned an 50 year old house in “old Richmond” near the courthouse. It was being used as a teacher supply store and resale shop. In June, Don and Sonja Havens agreed to rent the back part of the building to Joyce. The magnificent oak tree, located on the adjacent lot owned by First Baptist Church, provided shade and the name of the school. The school started with a summer program and 30 children. Becky Dinges, a preschool mom and friend, built much of the furniture and welded the monkey bars. Other moms helped paint the inside of what is now our Readiness rooms, the kitchen and office area and the Pre-K science and art room. Within a few months, Shady Oak grew to fill the entire building. Late in 1992, it was clear that the school was here to stay and the Triggers bought the property. A cast iron tub was removed from the main building and another toilet was installed. A few months later the first Cottage was built by John Howard. It housed kindergarten and Joyce’s office. In January 1993, the pine tree on the “Enchanted Garden” playground, encircled by the bench, was planted as a seedling by one of our dads, Raleigh Murbach.
In 1997 it was clear that the school needed more space for teacher planning and storage. Ken McNeil headed up the remodeling of the old original garage for that use. It is called “The Garden House”. At that time, there was a wonderful garden between the Cottage and the old garage. A dear caretaker, Abe Hardin, helped Shady Oak in so many ways from, literally, moving a sidewalk to creating a compost pile and keeping our garden tilled to maintaining our grounds and repairing playground parts. The school is forever grateful to Abe who died in 2001.
In 2001, the Cottage was expanded and a staff bathroom and more storage were added under the direction of Ken McNeil. Shortly after that, part of “The Garden House” was upgraded again.
In May 2003, an “Adventure Playscape” playground project was begun under the direction of Rusty Keeler from Ithaca, NY. He visited for 3 days, played on the existing playground, met with a small group of eager parents, and drew up an exciting plan for three or four play areas to be created with natural materials. Following a major work day that spring to create “The Jungle”, other areas continued to be developed. Once again, Ken McNeil engineered the initial work day and built several structures on our playground. Many visitors have come to the natural habitat playground from around the Houston area. Our playground is featured in Rusty’s beautiful book, entitled Natural Playscapes, published in 2008. Shortly after the book was published, the Shady Oak parents gave every staff member a treasured copy of it signed by Rusty.
Expanding to the current Primary School...
Beginning In the fall of 2006, Shady Oak expanded again with the renting of a classroom from First Baptist Church in the gym building for primary grades. Throughout the history of the school, we have been blessed by First Baptist Church, with the sharing of Sanctuary space for chapel and parent programs and the gym for PE classes. Although there is no formal connection, under the leadership of pastor, John Lockhart, there has been collaboration for many activities between the church and the school.
The interest in our kindergarten, first and second grade continued to grow and we realized we were very cramped in the Cottage space. It was clear that we wanted to put all of our primary classes in one building. Through God’s great plan in the spring of 2007, we were led to the space at 600 Main Street which was the former USDA office building of Fort Bend County. Being visionaries and optimists, possibilities for our private elementary school in Richmond could be seen beyond the dark paneled walls and stained ceilings. The owners, Becky and Robert Hass, did major air conditioning and other facility upgrades. Excited teachers and school family members joined in to pull up carpets, scrape up tile, and paint lots of walls. A new friend and neighbor, Bob Rich, almost took up residence that summer in the newly named Shady Oak Primary Building, as he set up his woodshop and built all of our bookcases. A former dad came in and did some necessary construction in the cubby room. Ken McNeil added many bulletin boards and white boards to the walls to make it just right for classes. In September 2007 the ribbon-cutting of this great private elementary school in Richmond was held and school began!
And so, the next chapter of Shady Oak Primary School began to be written in October, 2013, when Joyce announced that Debbie Elder, former Shady Oak preschool teacher, would become new owner and director of the Primary School beginning August 2014.
Shady Oak Christian School for Preschool, Bridge, and Kindergarten classes remains under the leadership of Joyce Trigger. Debbie’s plans for Shady Oak Primary School include building classes through 5th grade. This primary education opportunity in Richmond is a great new addition for Fort Bend County!
The relationship and collaboration between the two schools is strong and guarantees that children can have a continuous education at Shady Oak from age 3 through 5th grade!
What a gift!
Owner / Head of School
I have been involved in early childhood development and education for many years. From raising teenage foster girls to traveling the country to train early childcare professionals, education is my passion. When I moved to Richmond with my husband and our two daughters, I quickly enrolled my youngest, Melissa, in the Shady Oak Pre-K program. At the time, 2nd – 5th grade was not offered, so my oldest daughter attended a neighborhood elementary school. Melissa was finishing up first grade and was so disappointed that she couldn’t stay at Shady Oak. At that moment, I promised her I would fix this and I did…just a few years after Melissa graduated from college.
While Melissa was enrolled, I began teaching at Shady Oak. The welcoming staff and flexible structure allowed me to implement a variety of programs that are still used there today, including compliment circles, voting stones, and much more.
Assistant Head of School
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1st & 2nd Grade Lead Teacher
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1st & 2nd Grade Teacher
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3rd–5th Grade Teacher
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3rd-5th Science Teacher
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TAB Art Instructor
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Extended Day Coordinator
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