The Grasz foursome is OLu, through and through.
Vice Principal Mike Grasz believes in keeping his three girls close to him.
Whether they want him that close all the time is another story.
"There are also a lot of conversations in our house that start with, 'Please Dad, don’t ____ at school," said Tanya Grasz.
Grasz, in his 14th year at Orange Lutheran, is also in his 8th year serving alongside his wife, Tanya, who serves as science department chair. The couple’s oldest daughter, Analyn, graduated from OLu last year and is a freshman at Seattle Pacific University. Their youngest daughter, Elisa, is a freshman at OLu.
Like many, the Grasz family has made Orange Lutheran into a second home of sorts. Both Mike and Tanya have invested themselves into the OLu mission and watched the returns manifest within their daughters and beyond.
We sat down with Mike - a diehard Chicago Cubs fan, still relishing in his team’s recent World Series win - and Tanya - a collateral Cubs fan - to talk about their spiritual connection to the school, the challenges of parenting Analyn and Elisa on and off campus, and why they’ve chosen Orange Lutheran to be their second home for years to come.
Q: What is it about OLu that seems to work for the entire Grasz family? Why is it a fit for both of your daughters, who each have different personalities and interests? Why is it a fit for the two of you?
Tanya: Lutheran education is in our blood. Both Mike and I are products of a Lutheran elementary and college education. We valued it in our own lives and wanted the same for our kids. Oddly, Mike and I actually did not go to Lutheran middle school or high school. Mike’s parents are both Lutheran educators as well.
Mike: The faith, the values, the care, and the opportunities for students ensure the harmony between OLu and my family. From the moment I met Tanya, we have shared the belief that the role of an educator is to weave together strong relationships, a caring community, and subject matter excellence with the thread of the love of Christ. Orange Lutheran affords us the freedom and platform to live out those values. The school community is a marvelous dichotomy - there are so many parts that work together to make it one great place. The breadth of opportunities allows for my two daughters to both find their own unique place within the campus community. And even within those communities, there are various pockets that allow everyone to belong. Both Analyn and Elisa are part of the Missions Program, but do so in very different ways.
Q: How did Analyn deal with having both of her parents at home and at school? As parents, how did you both manage the same circumstances and how will that help with Elisa?
Tanya: Going to school with their parents is really all my kids have ever known, especially Analyn. I worked at the church associated with the girls’ Lutheran elementary school until Analyn was in sixth grade and Elisa was in second grade. Elisa has had less time in school with me, but now she has us both to go to high school with! We did have conversations frequently with Analyn about kids maybe not wanting to be friends with her because of who her parents were. Kids perhaps being intimidated by her parents (especially boys). I admired the young men who asked her to dances in high school…they had guts (and good taste). Analyn has been blocked from people’s social media, I think for fear that she would share their inappropriate posts with her parents, but at the end of the day we had conversations about the people that she would want to be friends with (and if they did not like us, then they perhaps were not worth getting to know at that level.)
Elisa, having watched her sister successfully navigate her four years of high school, has seen the pros and cons (yes there are pros) of having her parents at school.
Mike: Analyn had the misfortune of being the guinea pig! None of us knew what it might be like. Analyn grew to embrace having us both on campus. One week her senior year, she asked if the whole family could record the announcements together! She also got us involved in a few pep rallies that year. Along the way, I learned that high school girls like their fathers, but don't want them around all the time. I have learned to give both girls the space they need.
Q: Mike, as the vice principal, how do you manage the responsibility of your position with your fun, sometimes silly personality?
Mike: My most important role in school discipline is establishing a culture of care and trust outside the discipline process. I really enjoy high school students, so demonstrating care, concern, and a bit of dorkiness at break or lunch makes everything better when tougher conversations have to happen.
Q: Tanya, how does your personality come out in the midst of dealing with the kids and serving as science department chair?
Tanya: I do have a sense of humor and enjoy others’…but you probably would not know this about me until you got to know me or had me as a teacher. Analyn diagnosed my situation and told me that around campus I always walk with a purpose and typically with an intense look on my face. I don’t mean to be so intense, it’s just my face. Students are often intimidated by me until they get to know me. I am serious about my job and my responsibilities, and being organized and straight-forward are two important aspects of my job as a department chair. Sometimes I have to say things that people do not want to hear.
Students often perceive me as mean. I am not mean, I have high expectations that I demand students meet, but that does not make me mean. It makes me someone who holds you accountable and some people do not like that. But once you get to know me, you will realize, I am not always so serious. I can be funny.
Q: If you had to guess what people would answer, who is funnier between the two of you?
Mike: Did you even need to ask?
Q: Mike is a hardcore Cubs fan. Has the excitement from the World Series win died down in the Grasz household? Will it ever end?
Tanya: Well, considering Cubs shirts are what I got him for Christmas, I would say that, no, the excitement has not worn off yet. Have you heard Mike’s ring tone? Not sure the win will ever get old…at least not for the next 108 years. We’ll relish in this one since who know when the next one will come ;P
Mike: It had been 108 years before this one, so I figure it's time to celebrate for at least 108 more years - although the excitement might not be equally distributed within the entire Grasz household.
Q: What is the one thing you each enjoy most about Orange Lutheran? Pick one thing.
Tanya: Colleagues. I love the people I am blessed to work with.
Mike: My entire family gets to come to a place where "cherished Truth is taught as strength from day to day." It really is a "refuge to all along the way," where we are united in being "devoted to the love of Christ, supreme in all our lives!"
The best part - it's not an empty alma mater, it's what really happens every day!