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.
'JOSEPH’ AT SAINT PETER'S BRINGS MUSIC, SMILES
By Joe Howard Our Parish Times, May2022 Edition
An athlete trying his hand at theatre took the lead in Saint Peter’s Catholic School’s production of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which tells the biblical story of a boy expelled from Canaan by jealous brothers only to rise to prominence in Egypt and later help his family.
Football and lacrosse player Reese Dickerson impressed in the title role, supported in the school’s largest-ever production by show director Phyllis Bottegal and music director Peter Nguyen.
“It’s very exciting,” seventh-grader Dickerson said of playing Joseph. “You’ve got to take on a lot of leadership. You’ve got to dedicate yourself.”
Dickerson and fellow seventh-grader Andrew Chipperfield – who played oldest brother Reuben – earlier had impressed the show directors singing “God Bless America” during morning announcements, a preview of what they’d bring to the show.
“A rock opera is an entirely sung show,” said Bottegal, the school’s drama teacher. She credited the efforts of the cast and Nguyen in learning those songs. “It was a lot of fun, but it was hard,” she said.
Music teacher Nguyen noted pandemic-related regulations steered the production, including “teaching the acting and seeing expressions that are half-covered” by masks. Nguyen credited everyone – including the set, costume and hair and makeup teams – for staying focused. “The kids have been great,” he said. “There are some long nights.”
While drama productions are normally reserved for seventh- and eighth-graders, the demands of the musical and dance numbers compelled the invitation of fourth- through sixth-graders to participate.
Eighth-grader Ryan Ikwuemesi brought laughs as the Pharaoh of Egypt, delivering a hip-shaking version of “Song of the King” in a sequined jumpsuit fit for a King (of Rock and Roll). Georgie Sardelis signing “Those Canaan Days” as Simeon and Kasey Hartwick with Judah’s rendition of “Benjamin’s Calypso” were other lively solos.
Advancing the story were Gabriella Loudermilk and Demi Stroms as the Narrators, handling heavy doses of lyrics and choreography in harmony.
“These kids were so proud of themselves,” said producer Lauren DeZinno, the school’s Spanish teacher. “You could hear them chanting ‘Go, go Joe,’ and cheering for themselves. It was heartwarming.”
SAINT PETER'S ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT
Danielle Trotta, Saint Peters Class of 1998, Middle School Science Teacher, Holy Redeemer Catholic School
Jacqueline Trotta, Saint Peters Class of 2002, Pre-K Teacher, Saint Peter's Catholic School
Saint Peter’s connection:
The Trotta’s have been parishioners of St. Peter’s Parish for 33 years. Danielle, Jacqueline and their younger brother, Nicholas (Class of 2006) each attended St. Peter’s School from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
Favorite memory from my time at Saint Peters:
Danielle: My favorite memory was field day in 8th grade. Being an 8th grader, we looked forward to being team captains. I remember having so much fun making our banner, coming up with our cheer, and having a blast with all of the events. At the end, we all signed each other’s shirts.
Jacqueline: When I think back to my time at St. Peter’s, two memories stand out the most. In 3rd grade, Mrs. Baka would take any opportunity to read us the Magic School Bus series. She LOVED the book series and always dressed up as Ms. Frizzle for Halloween! Secondly, being a part of the first drama production the school produced, with Mrs. Bottegal. I played the role of a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz (performed in the Parish Hall). It was a wonderful experience!
Biggest influence influences during your time at Saint Peter’s:
Danielle: Mrs. Tagarsee influenced me the most. She was my middle school math and science teacher. She taught me so much, both academic as well as life lessons. She always told me that I would become a math and science teacher. I never believed her, as I had other career ambitions, but all along, she was right. I wish I could personally thank her for everything she has done.
Jacqueline: One person that influenced me during my time at St. Peter’s was my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Baka. The impression that she left while reading to the class instilled in me the joy that I have today when I read to my class. She did not only “read” the book to us; she became the story. Mrs. Baka made learning fun. I am so grateful to have had her as my teacher. Another teacher who influenced me was my middle school Math teacher, Mrs. Convey. Even though math was not my strong suit, she always gave me the confidence that I needed to push through.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Danielle: Being a student, within the Archdiocese of Washington (St. Peter’s and Good Counsel) has set me on the path to where I am today. Because of that, I wanted to be able to give back to the community that helped shape me.
Jacqueline: From an early age teaching was always something I wanted to do. Specifically, working with younger children. I was fortunate enough to start my educational career here at St. Peter’s. I started as paraeducator for 4 years, before becoming a lead teacher in Pre-K. I have enjoyed being a part of the St. Peter’s community for the past 12 years. St. Peter’s feels like my second home!
CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH
By Robin Vanderpool, Our Parish Times, March 2022 Edition
Like other school communities across America, Saint Peter’s students celebrated Black History Month in February. One specific activity included fourth and fifth graders in Ms. Morgan Duffy’s Social Studies classes researching and writing a report on notable African Americans. Each student was asked to investigate important dates and landmarks, childhood and adult milestones, and professional achievements for their assigned African American leader and write an accompanying report that summarized what they learned about the individual.
For example, fifth grader Shaw Vanderpool researched the life and accomplishments of John Lewis, a civil rights leader who served in Congress representing the state of Georgia for 17 terms until his death in 2020. When asked about the assignment, Shaw commented: “It was really interesting to learn about John Lewis’ dedication to public service, his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his involvement in the March on Washington in 1963. I am glad that my classmates and I were able to learn more about African American leaders and Black History Month.”
David Duggan, a fourth grader, reported on Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. The significance of Jackie Robinson’s trailblazing career is highlighted by the fact that the number 42 has been retired across all MLB teams. David shared that he “really liked learning about Jackie Robinson, especially all of his personal and professional achievements such as serving in the military, winning the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955, and his commitment to civil rights.” Both Shaw and David noted that their assigned notable African Americans were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In reflecting on the assignment, Ms. Duffy commented, “During the month of February I try to share with my students the many ways that African Americans have significantly influenced our society. Many of our students know about certain individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vice President Kamala Harris, but individuals like Arthur Ashe, Mae Jemison, Wilma Rudolph, and so many more also deserve the recognition and credit for transforming our society in such a positive way."
INAUGURAL CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING BRINGS CHEER TO SCHOOL COMMUNITY