News & Notes
ST. ANN’S MIDDLE SCHOOL – AN EXPERIENTIAL SUCCESS
Musings from the family corner, by Tonya Talbert
Five years ago this month, I was in full-on panic mode. I had received a letter from River Bluff Middle School regarding our upcoming transfer, and I wasn't sure whether St. Ann's would be able to add the new seventh grade class in time for my oldest daughter Josie to attend. I knew that if St. Ann's didn't add seventh and eighth grade that it wouldn't be the end of the world. She would have attended River Bluff and, because of the solid foundation she had received at St. Ann's, she would have been fine. But when it comes to my children, fine just doesn't cut it. I know how hard it is to focus on academics when peer pressure gets in the way – I remember. And I just didn't want that sort of “normal” experience for my own kids. I wanted a choice.
Fast forward to that May after meetings and letters and incredible amounts of time put in by the St. Ann's administration and faculty in an attempt to figure out staffing and space issues, and it all fell into place. Ms. Leonard and the parish's finance council gave us the good news: We could give middle school a try.
Josie and 11 other students were the first to attend our St. Ann's combined seventh and eighth grade class four and a half years ago. Granted, the initial class size was a bit smaller than parents had originally hoped for, but that worked out okay. Today, we are still limited by space. Lit groups are held in the teacher’s lounge; study halls may be found on the stage. But since that first class began, St. Ann’s has added several new faculty, a student council, an official Spanish curriculum, a robotics fair, and many upper-grade extra activities. Each year, middle school students venture to Camp Gray for day-long retreats to help with the combined class adjustment; they make a pilgrimage to either the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe or to the Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary near Milwaukee; they head to Upham Woods for a three-day overnight science camp; and they are invited to participate in an overnight school lock-in. I think it’s safe to say, we’re here to stay.
Although I have always known all three of my kids were receiving a state-of-the-art education at St. Ann's, it really hit home when I looked at this year’s Iowa Assessment scores. As a whole, St. Ann's students scored well above the national norm and placed 1-2 years ahead of grade level. In an attempt to maintain this level of academic intensity, our school and diocese are constantly reevaluating curriculum standards. Already next year we will implement a new religion program for K-8 and a standards-based writing program for grades 3-8.
Our technology education curriculum is the envy of many area schools as our kids are creating lively interactive reports with programs such as Hyperstudio, Google presentations, and Prezi. The younger grades take advantage of our Asus tablets and the mobile laptop labs, while the 7/8 students each receive a Windows Surface 2 tablet for personal use. Our science program has kids doing lab experiments by first grade, and with Saxon Math, they start learning algebraic thought processes around that time, as well. To our faculty, each child is truly a gift from God, and they are nurtured as such. As a teacher and as a parent, I have seen this many times.
While I understand that test scores alone aren’t a measure of future academic success or classroom competence, I do believe they show the positive outcome of our safe and child-centered learning environment. Every year we receive more and more positive feedback from the high school regarding how well our students are progressing both academically and emotionally. The overwhelming majority of our students appear on the honor roll and they are all nice kids. By the time they graduate St. Ann’s, they have little tolerance for “drama” (and I don’t mean the theater) and they choose their friends wisely. Their existing friendships are healthy, formed over the course of many years and guided by outstanding role models.
I believe I speak for the majority when I say that the St. Ann's middle school experience has been all that we had hoped for as parents. By giving our children the gift of smaller class sizes with loving, approachable adults, we ensure they become well-rounded Christian adolescents who are ready and able to make good choices at the high school level. These kids have a strong sense of morality and social responsibility; they are articulate in their beliefs and self-disciplined in their work; and they are confident in their abilities. Honestly, what more could we ask?
ORDER YOUR ST. ANN LOGO WEAR
Some stylish new items featuring the St. Ann’s logo are now available for purchase and/or ordering. While not required, logo wear and/or nice dress items are encouraged for all students for Friday Masses. See several youth and adult options along with the order form here or stop by the school office for forms and to see sample items in a variety of sizes and styles for both boys and girls. If you have questions or would like to place an order, please contact Lynn Wood