Saint Peter's School Welcomes Familiar Face as New Principal
By Erin Pant
Ms. Lauren DeZinno has been appointed principal of Saint Peter’s School in Olney. DeZinno is a familiar face to the Saint Peter’s community, she served as acting vice principal for the 2022-2023 school year and previously taught middle school Spanish.
“It has long been my dream to serve as the institutional and spiritual leader of a community such as Saint Peter's School,” said DeZinno.
Ms. DeZinno joined Saint Peter’s faculty in 2018 and in addition to teaching has been involved in many school programs and extra-curricular activities, including the drama program.
“Saint Peter’s is a very special place,” said DeZinno. “The Saint Peter's School community is truly committed to educating the whole child. The parents, families, faculty, and staff members are united in our mission to nurture the minds and hearts of our students.”
DeZinno, a graduate of the Archdiocese of Washington school system, is looking forward to “everything” during her first year as principal.
“My experiences attending the Archdiocese of Washington's exemplary Catholic schools helped shape who I am. I hope our students will have similarly wonderful, faith-filled experiences during their time at Saint Peter's School,” said DeZinno.
DeZinno earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Delaware and received her Master of Arts degree from Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she majored in Leadership in Teaching.
“When I earned my master's degree in leadership in teaching in 2019, I began to think about pursuing a career in administration. After much thought and even more prayer, I decided to pursue it more seriously and applied for the principal position when the opportunity arose,” said DeZinno.
DeZinno recently took part in the Leadership Academy sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools Office. Prior to Saint Peter’s, DeZinno held teaching positions at The Academy of the Holy Cross and St. Jude’s Regional Catholic School.
Fun and Friendships Blossom During New Pre-K Summer Program
The youngest students at Saint Peter’s had an opportunity to participate in a new program established by our longtime PreK team of teachers. Ms. Trotta and Mrs. Smith, who both teach the PreK-3 students, and Ms. Tina Cubbage, who teaches PreK-4, hosted four weeks of Summer Blossom Camp for students entering PreK-4 or Kindergarten. Activities for the students included art projects, science experiments, music, dance, and outdoor fun.
Incoming students mingled with returning students so that when the first day of school comes later this month, it will seem like everyone is greeting old friends, instead of walking into a new environment.
From Rockets to Robots, Curiosity Shines at Science Fair
By Erin Pant
Eighty-six student scientists spent their spring designing, conducting, and analyzing experiments. Led by parent volunteer Mrs. McAndrew-Benavides, a new science fair model was introduced at Saint Peter’s this year.
In March, students had the opportunity to sign-up for the voluntary activity and choose their project topics. Students could work individually or with a partner. Work took place outside of normal school hours. Weekly instructions, reminders, and resources were sent to assist students throughout their projects.
“It was a great learning experience where everything wasn’t directed by certain guidelines or instructions, you were free to experiment and figure things out on your own and make your own deductions,” said eighth grader Marin Cobo who investigated Cone Analysis for Rocket Height Optimization.
Students representing every grade from pre-kindergarten through eighth, presented their findings at the Science Fair on Friday, April 21. For students in PreK-5, the Science Fair was a non-competitive opportunity. For students in grades 6-8, “Best in Category” awards, such as Best Research Project, Best Experiment, Best Demonstration, and Crowd Pleaser, were presented. Judges included science professionals, local high school teachers, and community members.
“Our students showed off how curious, creative, and courageous they are. I loved hearing them talk about their investigations!” said middle-school science teacher Mrs. Caldeira.
Fourth Grader Charlotte Scango’s project explored whether fruit could produce power to light a light bulb. “No matter how old you are you can find a project that works for you,” Scango said, “It was fun walking around learning about things, especially from the little kids.”
Project topics represented a diverse array of scientific fields including aerospace, biology, biomedical, chemistry, computer science, engineering, food science, geology, kinesiology, power, and life science.
“Special thanks to all of the volunteers from the parish, local schools, and community who helped make this event happen,” said Mrs. McAndrew-Benavides. “I hope it’s the beginning of a new annual tradition.”
A Production Frozen in Time Finally has the Spotlight
By Tina Banks
As the auditorium fell to darkness, Natalie Avalos-Restrepo as Young Anna and Evelyn Pak as Young Elsa, lit up the stage in the Saint Peter’s School production of Frozen Jr. The talented student cast of 45 performers and 38 stage-crew members, led by Director Phyllis Bottegal, Music Director Peter Nguyen, and Producer Caley Gallagher, dazzled sold-out audiences as they transported them to the fictional land of Arendelle.
It was clear from the opening curtain the cast was bringing the production to life for not only this year’s hardworking actors and actresses, but those who laid the foundation for this amazing performance—the Frozen JR. 2020 cast. As the pandemic shut down the world, it impacted the 2020 production, forcing the cast to pass their magical powers onto another class. The 2023 performers let everything go as they dedicated their show to those performances forever frozen in time.
“It was amazing to finally see the play,” said Crystie Byrdy, mother of Michael and Matthew Byrdy, 2020 and 2023 cast members, respectively. “I remember how hard Michael worked and his excitement to be in the 2020 production. I never got to see Michael as Hans, but seeing Matthew, Michael’s younger brother, in the same costume Michael would have worn was just so special. I cried during the tribute as the production for both of them finally had the spotlight.”
In Frozen, Take 2, the Drama Club’s 23rd year of performances, the cast was worth melting over. As the young princesses transformed into their older versions, Nora Babu as Anna and Demi Storms as Elsa, they filled the theater with amazing vocals, making the audience forget they were watching a middle-school performance. Supporting cast members—Georgio Alarcon Sardelis as Kristoff, George Glekas as Olaf, Nick Barczy as Weslton and Matthew Byrdy as Hans—performed scenes with confidence, making the audience feel every emotion and filling the auditorium with laughter and even some tears.
“It is great to see the children start off not knowing what is ahead, and then they evolve into
characters,” said Director Phyllis Bottegal. “It’s wonderful to see them step on the stage and see their own hard work and confidence that they develop. It’s important for us to teach them how to work with one another, meet new friends, and become a family.”
Congratulations to the Frozen Jr. family who are forever bonded through hard work and adversity!
Timeless traditions return
By Tina Banks
Saint Peter’s School hosted two notable events in February - the Sweetheart Luncheon and the Mardi Gras Celebration.
“The luncheons are wonderful occasions to celebrate our Saint Peter’s community,” said Principal, Nelson Abreu. “These events provide an opportunity to educate the whole child by going beyond the classroom to provide enhancements of both spiritual and emotional growth.”
Pre-K students invited a special guest to the heart-filled Sweetheart luncheon to celebrate the feast day of Saint Valentine, a Saint Peter’s tradition dating back more than a decade.
As the guests waited with anticipation for the luncheon to begin, each student decorated their place setting with special artwork. In honor of Valentine’s Day, students dressed out of uniform in colors of the season – red and pink – adding to the festive occasion. The special guests enjoyed the lunch hour chatting with their ‘valentine,’ taking pictures, and most of all making memories that will last a lifetime.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with our children and get a glimpse into the amazing relationships the students have with each other and with their teachers,” said Pre-K 4 parent Melissa Smith. “We’ve been away from each other for so long. I truly hope we have more of these cherished opportunities to come together and spend time with our children, teachers, and parent community.”
The littlest students were not to be outdone by their older school peers who enjoyed a Mardi Gras party and luncheon to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the start of Lent. Room parents from grades fifth through eighth transformed the Parish Hall into an indoor Mardi Gras festival complete with feather boas, beads, masks, and mini hats. Students played Lenten trivia while they enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of baked ziti and socialized with friends. Of course traditional king cakes were part of the celebration!
"I really enjoyed the party and had a great time hanging out with my friends," said seventh grader Paige Hutchcroft.
"It was great to see another pre-COVID tradition return to Saint Peter's,” said middle school department chair Ms. Gallagher.
More events are scheduled in the coming months to deepen the bonds of the Saint Peter’s community and provide opportunities to create partnerships, friendships, and cherished memories.
Saint Peter’s Celebrates Black History Month
By Erin Pant
Throughout the month of February, students at Saint Peter’s School took part in special projects and activities recognizing the achievements of Black Americans.
Third graders wrote biographies of Black Americans who have contributed to the history of our country, while fourth and fifth graders researched and completed “Histagrams,” Instagram-like profiles of notable Black Americans.
Eighth graders took on a special leadership role in this year’s Black History Month activities. Twenty-four students formed a special committee, led by middle-school English Teacher Ms. Gallagher, to plan, organize, and lead school-wide programming.
“I joined the Black History Month committee to be a member of a committee that would do good at my school. I felt that it was vital to participate in something like this as black man,” said eighth-grader Nate Jeudy.
The committee members presented special programming at least once per week during school-wide assemblies. To kick off Black History Month, students demonstrated the powerful impact of words by performing notable speeches made by Black Americans throughout history.
“I presented the magnificent words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech. I presented this to all my fellow Saint Peter's students. I chose this topic because I felt the words really reflected how to make our nation a better place for everyone,” said eighth-grader Chidiebube Dumebi-Kachikwu
Other presentations included information on the Harlem Renaissance and Jazz.
“Jazz was one of the creative influences that grew during the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz became a prominent part of the Great Migration, a time when African Americans spread north to take advantage of new job opportunities. I learned this through my research on the 1920s in Social Studies,” said eight-grader Olivia Cooley.
The Black History Month committee also organized a tag day with the money being donated to a Black run charity. To conclude the month, the committee led the school in a prayer service during which the school choir performed “Hymn to Freedom,” an anthem written in 1962 by jazz musician Oscar Peterson during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
“My favorite part of working on the committee was being able to form ideas with friends for something that really matters,” said eight grader Alexandra Kissal.
“I am so proud of the work of our eighth graders. They came up with so many wonderful ideas that enriched our school-wide Black History Month celebrations,” said Ms. Gallagher.
On January 6, Father Nicholas and Father Peter along with students representing the Magi, visited each classroom to offer a blessing in celebration of the Epiphany. Students wrote down the gifts they will be working to give Jesus this year and placed them in a basket.
A JOYFUL CHRISTMAS SEASON AT SAINT PETER'S
By Jane Bornhorst
Saint Peter’s School celebrated the Christmas season with several events that spread seasonal cheer throughout its community.
In mid-December, a cookie exchange and staff breakfast were provided for school faculty and staff by parent volunteers.
That same evening, the Saint Peter’s Christmas show took place at the Performing Arts Center at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. The event began with the school choir singing several Christmas songs, followed by this year’s show, “A Christmas Yarn.” In a nod to the classic tale, “A Christmas Carol”, the musical follows workers at Unique Gifts from Luxurious Yarns (U.G.L.Y.), the world’s leading supplier of ugly Christmas sweaters. Through the course of the story, the workers overcome obstacles and discover the true meaning of Christmas. Music teacher Mr. Peter Nguyen directed the show, the lead performers and stage crew in the production were the school’s 6th graders, while students in grades K through 5 performed musical numbers throughout.
The following week, Saint Peter’s held a family-favorite event, the school’s Christmas Tree Lighting, complete with hot cocoa, cookies, festive music, and a craft for the kids.
Later, guests headed out to enjoy the school’s third annual Christmas Lights Tour, in which 41 families signed up to decorate their houses with lights and more to be included in the event. Maps of multiple tour routes were provided to families so they could drive by with their children to enjoy the twinkling displays.
“It has become one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions, says Susan Whelan, mother of Delaney, a fifth grader. “It’s our third year participating as one of the homes on the tour. We always have so much fun decorating our home, but we get even more excited about driving around to see everyone’s fun and festive displays! We grab our mugs of hot chocolate, put the windows down, blast and sing Christmas tunes while we drive the routes that are so well organized by the volunteers,” she says. “It’s a wonderful experience all around and one that I hope continues for many families for years to come.”
Celebrating 65 Years on the 65th Day of School
By Robin Vanderpool
During the 2022-2023 school year, Saint Peter’s School is celebrating its 65th anniversary with a host of activities, including commemoration of the 65th day of school on December 12, 2022. The 65th day celebrations paired fun and creativity with prayers of remembrance.
In the spirit of “Saint Peter’s Through the Decades”, students and teachers enjoyed a costume-themed tag day by wearing costumes representing each of the six decades since the school opened (1950s to 2000s). Anson (4th grade) and Ela-Lucia (6th grade) Shish enjoyed the day in their colorful and vibrant 1970s apparel. Two of the 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Morgan Moshovitis (1970s) and Mrs. Eunice Pak (1980s), also joined in the costume fun. In addition to the tag day, students enjoyed cupcakes and classroom scavenger hunts. When asked about the spirit of the day, Ela-Lucia recalled: “It was cool to think about all the students at Saint Peter’s over the past 65 years and dressing up in a decade outfit was a fun way to celebrate the anniversary!”
Classrooms also prayed a decade of the rosary, one representing each of the 65 years of the school’s history. In reflecting on the celebratory festivities, Principal Nelson Abreu summed up the day by saying “It was a great honor to be a part of celebrating the 65th anniversary of Saint Peter's School. There was joy in our classrooms as we honored our amazing school community. Throughout the day we prayed a decade of the rosary for each of the 65 graduating classes. The most rewarding part was praying the final decade of the rosary for our current 8th graders, the 65th graduating class of Saint Peter's together as a community.”
More 65th anniversary activities are planned for the remainder of the school year, culminating in the graduation ceremony for the 65th class of Saint Peter’s School in June 2023.
By Jane Bornhorst
On Tuesday and Friday mornings, students at Saint Peter’s School in Olney put on a live broadcast news show for the entire school community. A different group of students participates each week.
"They quickly learn that speaking clearly and slowly, which is hard to do in front of a camera, as well as delivering with energy and smiles and timing their joke delivery is not as easy as they thought," says Mr. Stephen Szot, technology teacher and staff facilitator for the show. "They learn that preparation helps by practicing the show script the night prior to airing."
Students learn to be part of a team, work with others, and develop communication skills. They also gain a sense of pride from appearing on the show. Some grades have specific roles on the program. Eighth grade anchors and third grade weather reporters learn to read from and control a teleprompter. Fifth graders learn to operate a complicated sound board, and a digital video camera.
“Framing the optimum shot during a show with backdrop TVs and projectors with any number of students is critical to producing a professional morning show,” Szot says. Students also learn how to make “hand-offs” from anchor to guest speakers, weather presenters, and others.
Eighth grader Alexandra Kissal has had the opportunity to work as an anchor for the show. One of her favorite aspects is leading the school in the Morning Prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance. “Working on the Morning Show has provided me important lessons including hard work and accountability,” said Alexandra. “There is a lot that goes into the Morning Show production, and it is truly a team effort.”
The show would not be possible without the help of faculty and staff, including Mr. Peter Nguyen, music teacher. Also, school faculty and staff provide weekly content including special events and class projects to showcase.
"Our show brings the school together twice a week and keeps everyone informed of important events like tag days, school plays, bake sales, mass, and other student-centric events," says Mr. Szot.
The morning show is also streamed on YouTube, allowing parents, grandparents, and friends to watch the show live or on demand.
"Everyone comes together to make the show a success demonstrating the pride in our wonderful school and sharing our Catholic faith with family and friends," Mr. Szot says.
The Saint Peter’s school morning show can be enjoyed by visiting bit.ly/SPOmorningshow
By Alissa Czyz
On All Saints Day, Saint Peter’s fourth graders assumed the role of their favorite saint and relayed their life stories to an audience of fellow students, parents, and faculty.
Each year, fourth grade students choose a saint to research as part of a Religion class assignment. They gather information about the saint’s life, including at least seven interesting facts about the saint, a memorable story, and why they admire the saint.
Each student creates a poster with their saint’s story, including pictures. They dress up like their saint and prepare a short oral presentation to share with the audience during an exhibit called the “Hall of Saints.”
Saint Peter’s principal, Nelson Abreu, kicked off the event on November 1, encouraging the audience to meet each saint. “The saint will come alive and let you know about his or her life and story,” said Mr. Abreu.
The saint project is an annual tradition at Saint Peter’s. “It’s not only about learning to do research,” said Mrs. Eunice Pak, fourth grade teacher. “It also allows the students to connect to a saint. It’s an exhibit, but it also brings the community together.”
“I enjoyed learning about my saint, Saint Paul,” said fourth grader Alexander Czyz. “He started off in life as Saul. He was not a very good person then. But he ended up spreading the word of God to many people.”
“The Hall of Saints is a beautiful event,” said Mrs. Pak. “It reminds us we are all being called to be saints ourselves.”
A New Gathering Place
Saint Peter’s faculty and students have a new place to gather outdoors thanks to a donation of five repurposed benches. The Giron family obtained the benches from a local hotel that was looking to discard them. They were worn down, with peeling paint, but the family saw the potential and spent several months restoring and refinishing them before donating them to the school. Made of sustainable teak wood planks on metal frames, each bench is now customized with the Saint Peter’s logo, installed by the Girons. With the help of several parents during the School Clean-Up Day, the benches were installed in a semi-circle outside of the breezeway, creating a new space where classes can gather for reading, music, snack time, and more. Future plans for the space, being developed by the school's Green Team, include planting a ground cover with stepping stones and some larger landscaping in lieu of the wood chips; installing rain barrels for irrigation of the space; and installing some form of sun/rain protection.
“We hope the benches can become an outdoor gathering place for the school and parish community. Spending time outside has so many positive benefits for physical and mental well-being; and if you get kids outside at a young age, they learn to appreciate the outdoors and are more inclined to take care of it,” said Margaret Giron.
Having students spend more time outdoors is just one of the initiatives of Saint Peter’s Green Team, a group of parents and faculty that leads the school’s sustainability efforts. Last year, the group organized the Student Sustainability Club, where middle-school students learned about energy and water conservation and participated in projects including a school grounds clean-up and installing energy-saving informational signs in the classrooms. The team is working on several more green initiatives this year, with the goal of becoming a certified Maryland Green School.
Saint Peter’s Expands, Completes Classroom Renovations
Saint Peter’s School is celebrating its 65th anniversary with the final phase of expansion to a two-track school in grades Preschool-4 through Grade 8. The school has also added a dedicated Preschool program for three year olds.
To accommodate the increased enrollment, several spaces in the school had to be repurposed or renovated to create new classrooms including a second first grade and a second fifth grade classroom. The necessary construction was accomplished in record time without changing the actual footprint of the building. Two extra-large classrooms were remodeled, teachers gave up one of their work rooms, and the School of Religion ministry shared some of their space. All of the construction was completed during the summer, and classroom furniture and materials were moved in just days before the students arrived – whew! The spaces are cozy and colorful! What a blessing for the Saint Peter’s School to be able to celebrate 65 years of a thriving, loving community!
Saint peter's celebrates 65 years
By Erin Pant
When classes begin on August 31, Saint Peter’s School will mark its 65th year of providing Catholic education in Olney. Along with the notable anniversary, the 2022-2023 school year has much to be excited about.
Saint Peter’s has had three consecutive years of enrollment growth. As of early August, enrollment is expected to be 465 students, almost a 20% increase from last year, and the third consecutive year of more than 10% growth. Due to the positive enrollment trend, Saint Peter’s will offer a new PK-3 class and two sections of each grade from PK-4 through eighth grade. The school is nearly three times the size it was back in August 1957 when The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill traveled from Philadelphia to Olney to teach the inaugural 160 pupils.
“As we look to the new school year, there is much excitement about the school’s 65th anniversary, as well as the return to post-covid experiences for our students. We look forward to welcoming back morning prayer assemblies, lunch shifts for all students in our parish hall, ballroom dancing, and field trips,” said Interim Principal Nelson Abreu.
Strong fundraising support allowed the school to acquire $200k in technology equipment and upgrades to enhance the curriculum and support the teachers this school year.
The 65th Anniversary will be celebrated in fun ways throughout the year including a parent reception on the first day of school, a school-wide student party on the 65th day, a dress like the 50’s-day and alumni recognition at the school gala.
Mary Randles, the Director of Admissions and Development, is entering her 28th year at Saint Peters. She says that while the school has grown and seen various changes over the years, the sense of community has remained the same. “The teachers, students, and parents, form a close, supportive group, with many friendships lasting well beyond 8th grade. We are now, more than ever, committed to helping our students find their place in the world, spiritually and academically. I’m looking forward to celebrating all the things that make Saint Peter’s School a special place for both returning and new families. It’s connecting with people that brings me the most joy.”
INTERNATIONAL NIGHT RETURNS
The rich diversity of Saint Peter’s community was on display at the school’s fifth annual International Night on April 30. Students, parents, and faculty were thrilled to see one of the school’s most popular events return after it was unfortunately cancelled in 2021.
This year, the event was held outside. Host families set up informative displays and proudly shared information about a specific country. Attendees received paper passports and were able to collect stickers as they visited each country display. Hundreds of attendees enjoyed an evening sampling delicious food, learning different countries around the world and socializing with friends.