St. Mary adds new staff, changes middle school atmosphere
Doors will open Tuesday at St. Mary, where an anticipated students are expected for the K-12 program. That’s up from 191 a year ago — pretty good, considering some 14 graduates were sent off to college and a new career path while the 2013 senior class will number just eight.
Notice that “career path” is singular. Thirteen of those grads are attending college classes somewhere. And the 14th student is no slouch. Jack Hanford landed a job with an Internet startup company in Palo Alto, Calif.
“People will comment, ‘How do you get these children into college?’” said Megan Glynn, second-year principal at the school. “We know the path their parents and the students want to take, and we work to prepare them for that path.”
“We put an emphasis on values, and we go by our saying of ‘Faith First.’ But we also want to be recognized as excellent academically. Whether a child is proficient in their coursework, average or falling behind, we have the ability to differentiate our instruction to meet the needs of the student,” said Glynn.
In keeping with that emphasis of working with the individuality of a student’s progress, St. Mary will institute a major change in its curriculum for middle school students this fall. In the past, St. Mary sixth graders remained in one classroom and learned principally through teacher Suzi Owen. Now she’ll be joined by language arts specialist Anne Walter, who in the past has handled fifth grade duties, and theology teacher deacon John Ashmore, in providing a more “middle school” atmosphere to sixth graders provided by three teachers in different classrooms. Also, seventh graders will share in the programs — and won’t be moving around as much as in the past.
Walter, who said the change equates to placing a “stepping stone” between elementary and middle school, is excited.
“It gives the students an opportunity to work with teachers who specialize in certain curriculums. And it gives the students a feeling of growing up by being able to switch classes,” she said.
“We found that the seventh graders were treated like high school children, and we know they have to have more influence from their teachers.”
Ashmore is taking over theological studies from Michael Collins, whose work load last year included time in the classroom and working through the church. Collins will remain director of religious education for the St. Mary Parish. Veteran St. Mary high school teacher Chris Schaub will lead religion classes for seventh graders.
St. Mary students will be growing familiar with three other new instructors. They are:
Nick Papes is a recent graduate of Aquinas College, where he played baseball. He’s the new math teacher for advanced seventh grade through high school. Former math teacher Brian Boettcher has left to work for Greenspire, a charter school in Traverse City.
Sandra VanderWulp, the new fifth grade teacher, is somewhat familiar to students. She’s a long-time sub at St. Mary with experience teaching for the Grand Traverse Association of Catholic Schools and Catholic schools in Grand Rapids. A Lake Leelanau area resident, her two children attend St. Mary: Reece, who is entering the fourth grade; and Lauren, headed into second grade.
Sandra Proctor, who grew up in Manistique and spent the last two years teaching English to Spanish-speaking students in Argentina, will be teaching Spanish through a cooperative program with Leland.
And other curriculum changes are on tap. For instance, Algebra 1 will now be available to eighth graders, and advanced course study in math, English and even physical education will be available at the end of the school day for grades 10-12.
While overall class sizes remain small, St. Mary has some strong classes coming up, possibly buoyed by the relatively recent addition of “Young Fives” and Preschool classes. The kindergarten is full, having reached the upper limit of 25 students.
“We have two on the waiting list. I keep hearing it’s a good problem to have, but you’d like to have a place for everyone to come,” said Glynn.