Welcome to the New School Year!
Sixty years ago this month, our school welcomed its first students. Classes were held in the basement of the church and also in one of the houses on the block I am told. The school building was still under construction. It was soon completed and was opened later that year.
Things have changed over 60 years. Tuition for a St. Thomas the Apostle School education in 1956? $0.00. The entire school was supported by the parish. The school was run by the Sisters of the Holy Names, so the cost of salaries and benefits were not quite what they are today. There were as many as 50 children in each classroom.
In 2016, we celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of St. Thomas the Apostle School. Today, we have diamonds hanging from the ceiling as a reminder to the children that they too, as children of God are precious, unique, valuable, and very strong. Change is what makes a diamond, basically converting carbon to the precious gemstone we have come to know. Oh, and it takes at least a billion years for it to happen in nature.
As we begin our 60th year, we have a few changes. We welcome three new teachers. Mr. Cunningham in Grade 5; Ms. Biggane as our Grade 6-8 math teacher and Grade 7 homeroom teacher; and Ms. McGivern as our 6-8 science teacher. We are fortunate to have each of them join our St. Thomas family.
Another change this year will be with our World Language program in PK-4. The students will learn French this year exclusively. Spanish will be taught in Grades 5-8. It is very important that children are exposed to different languages at a young age. Learning new words and meanings along with the customs and traditions of different cultures makes the world more accessible to all of us.
Additionally, we are seeing our library/media/research program evolve in a very exciting way. This year, all children will be guided by their teacher to find the most appropriate books for their reading level and interest. The teachers will guide them with their research using both print and electronic sources. We plan to better our relationship with the Bethlehem Public Library and Upper Hudson Library System giving us access to hundreds of thousands of electronic and print media. That doesn't include the thousands of titles we can access through the school's Amazon Prime account. Did you know we have nearly 50 devices that can be used as e-readers, and that does not include over 150 Chromebooks we have to help the students to conduct research.
Helping us in our library updating effort is Linda Berry, a recently retired media specialist from Bethlehem who will be volunteering as a librarian. She has already begun the long overdue task of organizing all the books in the media center. Additionally, we will be cataloging all the books in the media center and classrooms-a job that has needed to be done for more than a decade. We might have over 3,000 printed books in the school that can be loaned to students, but for years we didn't know what we had. Now we will. That is a good change!
Improving our math skills and abilities is a school-wide goal this year. Every teacher, every student, every staff member will be challenged to reach their potential in understanding and applying math in their lives. Thankfully, with the addition of Ms. Biggane and Ms. McGivern (a trained Singapore math expert) along with all of our teachers we will find a path for every student to reach the top of "Mount Mathematics." It won't always be an easy climb, and we will need your help as parents along the way. Shortly, we will be holding evening classes for parents to catch you up to speed on your own math skills, and review with you how you can help your child at home. Stay tuned for more information about those evenings.
We are educating our children for at least the 22nd Century. Our Kindergarteners will likely still be working in the year 2080 (they will only be 69). They will be working alongside people who might very well be alive in the year 2156 as our school celebrates its 200th Anniversary. Stop for a moment and think about that fact: our children will be talking and working and living with other people who will spend the majority of their lives living in the 22nd century.
Most of what we teach has been around for more than 2,000 years, but it never gets old. The life of Jesus and his teachings are the cornerstone of our education. It is the model for how we should live our own life. It is how we are called to treat each other with dignity. It is a part of every moment at St. Thomas.
Every First Friday, after we celebrate liturgy, we will return to school and spend the remainder of the day in service to the school or to others in the community. This is something new for us, and we are excited to be able to offer our children the opportunity to connect what they are learning in the classroom to real world acts of mercy and service to others on a regular basis. Our first liturgy is this Friday, September 9, at 12:15 PM.
There is so much to celebrate as we begin our 60th year. Do know that my heart always fills with God's blessings on the first day of school when I see 192 smiles walk through our doors. Today was definitely extra special, as I know this year will be as well.
On behalf of all of us at St Thomas the Apostle School, I thank you for being part of our family. I am forever grateful that you are able to see what great and wondrous things can be done when we work together and support one another in this world.
God's blessing and peace to you this year!
Thomas J. Kane