ST. MARY'S BLOG

Summer Camp Fun

I confess… I am not a sleep-in-a-tent kind of camper. I have been known to joke that camping is when the hotel forgets to put a mint on my pillow. Since my budget rarely affords staying at such higher-end hotels, it is safe to say that I am a camping novice.

The camps that I do enjoy are the ones offered by St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. St. Mary’s just wrapped up its summer camp season. I had an opportunity to check in on the camps. They were all fun, high-energy, educational, and climate controlled.

Our summer camp season started with a Seashore Music Camp for pre-K4 through 2nd grade students. Dr. Kathleen Haley, St. Mary’s music teacher, designed the camp around movement, singing, and musical instruments. Some of the campers also chose to take an Irish dance elective as part of their camp experience. Dr. Haley’s daughter, Maura, taught the Irish dance class. Maura is a St. Mary’s alumna and Augusta’s only champion-level Irish dancer. Thank you, Maura!

Just as our Seashore Music Camp ended, it was time for CyberCamp. St. Mary’s was honored to be selected to participate in the Air Force Association’s (AFA) CyberCamp Program. Karmen Lowery, St. Mary’s computer teacher, and Dave Besel, Director of Information Operations for Chiron Technology Services, Inc., teamed up to offer this intensive camp at Chiron’s state-of-the-art training center.

On the heels of a successful AFA CyberPatriot Competition during this past school year, Mrs. Lowery and Mr. Besel wanted to continue to build on what our CyberPatriot students have already learned and introduce new students to the program. Similar to the CyberPatriot Competition, the camp focused on cyber security and taught 22 campers how to secure networks and harden operating systems. Our campers had fun, learned a lot, and are looking forward to another successful AFA CyberPatriot Competition season beginning in the fall.

Our longest-running summer camp is the highly popular Art Camp. Art Camp welcomed more than 50 campers who produced an impressive total of eight pieces of art each. Parents were invited to an art show and reception on the last day of camp. Thank you to Mrs. Jenny Storer, St. Mary’s art teacher, Mrs. Alice Hagler, and Mrs. Leigh McCormack, for all you do to make Art Camp such a wonderful experience for all.

When Art Camp ended each day, some Art Camp students and other campers participated in an afternoon Basketball Camp in the St. Mary’s gym. Campers learned about and improved on basic skills and had opportunities to scrimmage. Thank you to Jay Hagler and Maura Lammers, St. Mary’s alumni, for organizing and running the camp.

And, thank you to all of our campers. We loved having you at our summer camps and hope you continue to enjoy your summer break. You earned it!

Eat. Play. Learn.

Have you said good-bye to your “I will go to the gym regularly” New Year’s resolution? We have busy lives and probably spend more time juggling commitments than jogging.

Our children are busy too. In a typical school day they are juggling school, after-school activities, homework, and more.

For adults and children alike, the busier we are the less likely we are to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle. It’s often easier to run through the fast food line or zip it in the microwave than prepare a healthy, fresh meal. And who has time to consistently devote 30 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week to exercise?

So, why am I writing about forgotten New Year’s resolutions, fast food, and exercise?

My guess is that you would not be surprised to hear there is a direct correlation between student wellness and readiness to learn. It’s hard to think when your body is focused on digesting cheese curls. Not only does nutrition play a key role in how our brains and bodies work, but exercise does as well. Oxygen does a body good. The more we move, the more oxygen our brains receive, and the better they work!

We take student wellness seriously at St. Mary’s. As articulated in our Wellness Policy, we are committed to providing a school environment that promotes student wellness through proper nutrition and regular physical activity.

How do we put this commitment into action?

Let’s start with nutrition.

Students learn about healthy eating and nutrition starting in our kindergarten classrooms. They learn about why we all need to eat right and are encouraged to bring healthy snacks to school.

We strive to provide well-balanced school lunch options in our full-service cafeteria. St. Mary’s participates in the national school lunch program so a healthy school lunch can be an affordable option for all. Our cafeteria is headed by Chef Roy Bates. He has been in the culinary world for more than 40 years. Chef Roy and his staff do a great job of balancing healthy options with tasty food that our students enjoy. Each day they offer our students a selection of fruits and vegetables.

After lunch, it’s time for an important part of our school day… recess!

When our students are outside, playing, and running around, they are having fun. They know that being active is a healthy choice. From soccer to basketball, tag to four square, there are always fun opportunities to get our students moving.

Students also have opportunities to be active in PE class and in their classroom with some activity breaks in the school day. Sometimes getting up and moving is also part of the learning process. I learned that they have a name for that—kinesthetic learning. Kinesthetic learning is a way of teaching through physical activity. Instead of sitting at their desks, students have the opportunity to learn while moving. 

When the school day is over, students in our after-school care program have time to play outside after homework and snack time, of course. And Fridays are a favorite because less homework means more play time!

More than 80 percent of our sixth through eighth grade students participate in school sports. This year, we also have twenty-eight second through eighth students training for a 5K in the Run Hard Running Program. For some, this will be their first 5K!

We like knowing that our students are equipped to recognize opportunities where they can make healthy choices. I also like knowing that we are never too old or too young to eat right, play, and learn.

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Please click here for St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School’s Wellness Policy.

To learn more about the Run Hard Running Team program, please visit https://runhard.org.

Taking the Initiative

Coming up with a good idea is one thing; following through with it is another. Sometimes all it takes is initiative.

One of our 8th grade students, Christopher Saul, knows what initiative is all about.

First, let me give you a little background about Mr. Saul…

Christopher is a strong student, skilled athlete, and has a big heart.

During the fall sports season, Christopher learned that one of his younger teammates was having trouble maintaining the grades needed to participate on the team. Christopher felt badly and wanted to help. This desire to help his teammate was the impetus for Christopher to launch the Saul Leadership Initiative.

The initiative is a leadership program. It is designed to give 8th grade students a rewarding way to give back to their school by helping fellow St. Mary’s students with school work and athletics. The 8th grade students who sign up become part of the initiative’s leadership team. Team members, two at a time, stay after school for one hour and help students who are in our growing after-school care program.

Christopher told me that the 8th grade students help wherever there is a need. A student may need help with homework or studying for a test. There may be a student who wants to learn about basketball or brush up on his or her soccer skills. Whatever the need, Christopher knows that his fellow 8th grade students can help our younger students gain the confidence they need to excel.

Thank you, Christopher and our 8th grade students, for sharing your time and talent with your St. Mary’s school family.

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a K-8 private Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia. Please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193 if you have questions or would like information.

It's an Honor

… to be nominated. 

Four St. Mary’s students will be participating in the Sixth Grade Honors Chorus for District 10 of the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA).

The students were nominated by our music teacher, Dr. Kathleen Haley. I asked Dr. Haley what criteria she considered when selecting four students for the Honors Chorus. Dr. Haley focused on commitment, ability, and enjoyment. The students have exhibited a commitment to our St. Mary’s music program, have a high level of musical ability, and thoroughly enjoy singing. 

Being nominated has earned our students a “get out of school” card to be used on March 27, 2017. Our students will spend the day in rehearsal at Wesley United Methodist Church with other top sixth grade students from the 15 counties in District 10. The Sixth Grade Honors Chorus will then perform a concert for all to enjoy at 7:00 p.m.

Dr. Haley has certainly expanded our musical endeavors and, yes, there is more on the horizon.

St. Mary’s will have a trumpet trio at this year’s GMEA District 10 Solo and Ensemble event.

Next year, Dr. Haley has her sights set on District Honors Band and Seventh and Eighth Grade Honors Chorus.

We appreciate our students’ talents and eagerness to embrace new opportunities.

We also appreciate Dr. Haley. It is an honor to have her at the helm of St. Mary’s music program.

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Please visit www.gmea.org for more information about Honors Chorus and other GMEA programs.

'Tis the Season

for academic competitions…

St. Mary’s is a vibrant school in the classroom, in sports events, and on college campuses. This past Saturday was no exception.

Ten members of St. Mary’s Academic Team competed in the PAGE Academic Bowl state competition at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. At the same time five St. Mary’s teams—15 students in all--participated in the regional Future City Competition at the University of South Carolina-Aiken (USC-Aiken).

So, how did they do?  

After winning 1st place in their region two weeks ago, St. Mary’s Academic Team won 1st place in their division at the state competition. The team then advanced to the finals and earned 5th place overall in the state! This year’s PAGE Academic Bowl began with more than 130 teams in Georgia and 24 teams advanced to the state competition.

After placing in the top five at our St. Mary’s Future City Competition school event, each team earned a spot at the regional competition. In addition to two Honorable Mentions, our teams placed 1st, 4th, and 5th and also brought home the Best Essay, Best Model, Best Energy System, and Best Distribution of Power Awards.

St. Mary’s 1st place team was named the regional champion! Each team member was awarded a $1,000 college scholarship to USC-Aiken, a book bag, a little spending money, and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to represent the region in the national competition in February 2017.

I talked with Mr. John Allen, Junior High science teacher, about the national competition. He is beyond thrilled about this wonderful opportunity for our students. Mr. Allen told me that he expects our team to bring home the trophy. He then said, “We’ll be there anyway, why not?”

We are proud of all of our students and wish our Future City Competition regional champions good luck at the national competition. Go Saints!

Welcome PAGE Academic Bowl

It’s Saturday. It’s also 7:30 in the morning. There’s a flurry of activity in the school.

Today is the 2017 PAGE Academic Bowl regional competition, and St. Mary’s school is the location for this year’s event.

St. Mary’s has been participating in the PAGE Academic Bowl for many years. Today, we will be welcoming six Columbia County middle school teams who will be competing with us for the coveted first place trophy.

At St. Mary’s, Academic Team is open to all 7th and 8th grade students. Those who sign up participate in practices twice a week early in the mornings. Practices include scrimmage-type events where students have an opportunity to earn points. The top ten point earners will be representing St. Mary’s in today’s competition.

The competition started off without a hitch and things moved along smoothly.  Since this was my first rodeo, I was not given an important job like question reader, time keeper or announcer. I did, however, find my niche as traffic coordinator and guided visitors to the competition classrooms.

Seeing that all was going well, my plan was to stay long enough to point everyone in the right direction and take a few photographs. I soon realized that I wanted to stay to the end. I got caught up in the excitement and enjoyed meeting visiting teachers, students, and parents. Who could leave? Plus, new folks were arriving such as Mrs. Maureen Lewis, principal of Aquinas High School. She wanted to support our St. Mary’s team and enjoys academic competitions.

Who won the competition? Drum roll please…


St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School Academic Team
2017 PAGE Academic Bowl Region Champions!

Our St. Mary’s team won all of their rounds and claimed the first place trophy. Evans Middle School earned second place. Both schools now advance to the state competition at Georgia College in Milledgeville later this month.

We are proud of our St. Mary’s students and wish both teams good luck in the state competition.

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For more information about the PAGE Academic Bowl, please visit www.pagefoundation.org.

"Chris-myth Busters"

We always look forward to the music, acting, and a bit of comedy that adds to the enjoyment of our Christmas musical at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. This year’s musical is titled “Chris-myth Busters”, and it focuses on some of the things we believe about Christmas. For example, why do we celebrate Jesus’s birthday on December 25? How do we know there were three wise men? These and other questions will be explored in a lighthearted and musical way.

2015 Christmas Musical - “Cookin’ Up Christmas”

Preparations for the musical began early. Kindergarten through 8th grade students signed up for auditions in September and, by October, rehearsals were in full swing. While the students prepare for their performance, the St. Mary’s-Aquinas High School Band and St. Mary’s Boythovens singing group are also preparing to regale us at the performance. They will be our surprise (don’t tell anyone) opening act.

Just as Dr. Haley, St. Mary’s music teacher, is immersed in this year’s Christmas musical, she is also helping our kindergarten students prepare for their very own Christmas program. The kindergarteners are SO EXCITED about their program! It is always worth making room on my schedule to attend this sweet performance.

Thank you Dr. Haley and our students for helping us usher in this special time of year.

As we rejoice in the wonder of His birth, all of us at St. Mary’s wish you a very Merry Christmas!

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a kindergarten-8th grade private, Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia. Please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193 for questions or more information.

A Special Thank You

We like to celebrate Thanksgiving a little early at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. We also like to celebrate it with a special group of people – grandparents! They are the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family who love us, instill life-long values in us, and, most importantly, spoil us. They certainly deserve a special thank you for all they do.

St. Mary’s Grandparents Day is held on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It begins with an all-school Mass where we recognize our grandparents in attendance as well as those who cannot be there. For grandparents who cannot be with us, other family members and friends are encouraged to participate on their behalf. After Mass, grandparents and special guests enjoy a lovely reception as they eagerly await classroom visits. The classroom visits are a special time for all and give grandparents a glimpse into their grandchildren’s school day.

Grandparents Day 2015

After the classroom visits, we bid farewell to our grandparents and other special guests. While the students are enjoying lunch, final preparations are completed for another favorite tradition at St. Mary’s – the Turkey Bowl! This year marks the 10th Annual Turkey Bowl.

I remember when the first Turkey Bowl was announced. I was thinking “bowling” with frozen turkeys. I was a little confused because it seemed like a sad waste of food especially for a school that holds monthly food drives and volunteers at the Master's Table Soup Kitchen.

Fortunately I did not tell too many people what I was thinking because…

The Turkey Bowl is actually a flag football competition among our 8th grade students with the entire school in attendance. That makes more sense, right?

The end of the Turkey Bowl signals the official beginning of our Thanksgiving holiday. The students pack up their Thanksgiving projects and head off for five days of family, food, and —hopefully— some grandparent time.

We hope you enjoy a wonderful thanksgiving with family and friends and don’t forget to spoil the grandparents a little.

No Space in the Trophy Case

It’s time to spring clean the trophy case in the school lobby. It’s a must. We need to make room for more.

We just wrapped up another successful fall sports season at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.

How successful you ask?

The boys’ and girls’ cross country teams both brought home championship trophies. Both teams also had four team members who placed in the top ten.

Not to be outdone, our football team, supported by our awesome cheerleaders, brought home the championship as well.

Our golf team earned 2nd place, and three of our students placed in first, third, and sixth place, respectively.

 

Our boys’ and girls’ tennis teams and girls’ volleyball team all competed in their semifinals!

What’s next?

Winter sports of course…

Basketball and cheerleading signups are already underway.

See you on the court!

Go Saints!!!

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School participates in the Augusta-Aiken Middle School League. For more information about the league, please visit www.augustaaikenleague.com.

CyberSaints

That’s what I call them. I also call them awesome.

Seventeen of our St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School students are competing in the middle school division of the Air Force Association’s (AFA) National CyberPatriot IX Competition. St. Mary’s participation is coordinated by Mrs. Lowery, computer teacher, who was instrumental in bringing this exciting program to St. Mary’s.

What is CyberPatriot?

CyberPatriot is a competition that gives middle school and high school students an opportunity to find out what it is like to be an information technology professional. Student teams are required to manage the network of a small company.  They are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems. They are then tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and “hardening the system” while maintaining critical services.

Is your head spinning? Mine is… but not our students’…

Our students are excited about this competition, and they are also learning from the best.

Four awesome St. Mary’s parents are generously donating their time and expertise to help our students learn and prepare for the competition rounds. The parents serve as coaches and mentors. And, Chiron Technology Services, where one of our coaches works, has offered use of a cyber training classroom!


Why is St. Mary’s participating in CyberPatriot?

Simply put… today’s students are tomorrow’s cyber professionals.

Career opportunities in the field of cyber defense and security are and will continue to be in high demand. CyberPatriot provides students with an introduction to this career path while also strengthening their teamwork and organization skills. It’s a win-win.

Go CyberSaints!

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For more information about the CyberPatriot program, please visit https://www.uscyberpatriot.org/.

Seventy-Six Trombones...

...led the big parade...

I admit it. Those are all the words I can remember from that very old song.

But I will definitely remember hearing our St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School band for the first time. It was impressive!

This band is a big deal. It is our inaugural band. We even have an inaugural band t-shirt. 

And, more importantly, we have fourteen 6th grade students who embraced the opportunity to stretch their musical selves. 

It all started with Dr. Kathleen Haley, St. Mary’s awesome music teacher, who wants our students to experience being in a band. As Dr. Haley said, “It is important that our middle school students have band experience so they have knowledge about and can determine their interest in participating in band at the high school level.”

So, our 6th grade students had an opportunity to choose their music class this year. They were able to choose between band class and their regular 6th grade music class. 

Fourteen students signed up for band class and only two of the students had prior experience with their chosen musical instrument. That means that twelve students had to start with the basics such as how to hold the instrument and how to make sounds.

Our band met during their music class which was held every day for six weeks. 

Did I mention they were under a little time crunch?

Dr. Haley and the band had a plan. They wanted to perform during our St. Mary’s football games and football season was already underway. 

No pressure, huh?

Within a few weeks they were performing at a St. Mary’s football game! What a treat!

What’s next for the St. Mary’s band?

They will be performing at our upcoming Pep Rally. And, they have an opportunity to continue their participation in band through a joint program with St. Mary’s and Aquinas High School. Two of our junior high students, who also participate in St. Mary’s band, have been participating in the joint program since last year.  

We are proud of our students and the impressive job they did. We hope they will remember the history they made being part of St. Mary’s inaugural band. We will!

It's a Zoo... Sort of

Well… it’s not quite a zoo here at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, but we are excited about our newest, four-legged addition!

Meet Nibbles.  She is two-years old and resides in Mrs. Bosch’s 4th grade (4A) classroom.  This is only her second week at St. Mary’s, and she seems to be getting used to her new surroundings.  Nibbles is keeping an eye on the students and hopping around the classroom when the students are at their specials classes, lunch, and recess. 

Nibbles is a welcome addition to Mrs. Bosch’s classroom.  Sadly, Jasper, 4A’s previous rabbit, passed away this past summer at the ripe old age of 13, which is pretty old in rabbit years.  Jasper was fun and had an “I-own-this-classroom” personality.  He seemed to thoroughly enjoy the students and they him.

Mrs. Bosch told her 4A class the sad news about Jasper at the beginning of the school year.  Fortunately, it did not take long for fate to step in.  Mrs. Bosch’s daughter told her mom that she knew of a rabbit that needed a home.  Mrs. Bosch knew exactly where that home would be. 

Nibbles is not our only four-legged friend at St. Mary’s.  Meet Bellarien (“Bella”), the bearded dragon.  Bella calls Mr. Allen’s Junior High science lab home. He is five years old and came to St. Mary’s during the last school year.  I am not sure if Bella can smile, but he seems to appreciate any and all who feed him his favorite food, meal worms.  

Outside Mr. Allen’s door is our fish tank with a blue tang named Dori, a few clown fish—all named Nemo, and a couple of other assorted species.  They are the school’s welcome wagon.  Just walk by the fish tank, and they will quickly approach the glass.  I like to think that is fish for “hi”.  Maybe not, but I do think they are as interested in us as we are in them.

We may not need to call the zookeeper quite yet, but until then, we enjoy having our four-legged and swimming friends at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. 

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a kindergarten-8th grade private Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia.  For more information, please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193.

Teenagers and Catholic Education

The following article is written by guest blogger Maureen Grady Lewis, awesome principal of Aquinas High School in Augusta, Georgia. Aquinas is a college preparatory, co-educational, Catholic high school that successfully prepares its students for college and for life. It’s worth reading especially if you are wondering about teenagers today and the benefits of Catholic education. Spoiler Alert: It has a happy ending.

My husband and I attended the Catholic vigil for a friend’s dad at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon. He was someone who rarely if ever missed a Sunday Mass and truly valued Catholic education. His daughter and son-in-law here in town likewise made sacrifices to send their four kids to Catholic schools. We sat next to a teacher at Aquinas and an Aquinas family who had returned early from a weekend at the beach to attend the vigil.

I listened to the priest talk of the love that permeated the room as the 90+ year old Colonel lay dying for the past few days. He spoke of the laughter and the tears, the stories and the prayers, spoken and sung. Tears ran down my cheek, happy and sad for my friend’s family, and happy and sad as I recalled the similar last days of my own mom and dad, minus the singing because we Gradys were not gifted with musical genes.

From there, we went to St Mary on the Hill Catholic Church for the 5:30 Mass. We always sit in the first ten or so pews because I find it much easier to focus when I do so. I share that just so that you know I could not see many of the attendees at Mass, just those in front of us.

Before Mass even started I recognized numerous Aquinas students and alumni, some in town for the summer, others for the weekend. In addition I noted that several recent University of Georgia graduates (and Aquinas alum) were there for Mass. I could not help but smile to think that four years of living on a secular college campus had not tainted them to the point of no return (to the Church).

As the altar servers processed in, two of the four were current Aquinas students. As the collection was taken up, I recognized several handsome lads who are Aquinas grads. When Fr. Arnoldt talked of gratitude and hospitality in his homily, he spoke by name of Connor, a rising senior at Aquinas, whom Father said politely introduced not only himself but also his sister who was serving at Mass as well.

After Mass I saw numerous more graduates as well as several current students. One was in scrubs on the way to work the night shift at University Hospital; others had brought along younger siblings to Mass. One is soon to return to Louisiana for his second year as part of Teach for America. Another is a rising junior, busy playing baseball and conditioning for football, at least when he is not doing his summer reading.

One was home from Notre Dame; another is headed off to Emory Law School. The Aquinas parent I talked to before Mass has a daughter working on her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a son in the seminary.

My heart was warmed to see so many of our current and former students at Mass on a hot, July evening because fulfilling our Sunday obligation is the right thing to do.

Although I firmly believe that parents are the number one influence on the faith life of most teenagers, I found myself thinking that surely the CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) surveys are correct: Students who attend Catholic high schools are eight times more likely to attend weekly Mass than teenagers who do not attend Catholic high schools.

So if you find yourself bemoaning teenagers today or the current state of our world, head to Mass. Perhaps, like me, you will be reminded of the beauty of youth and the hope that they bring to our community, our Church, and our world.

And, you might even recognize that the Catholic high school students of today are very often those in the Church pews tomorrow.

Maureen Grady Lewis
Principal, Aquinas High School
www.aquinashigh.org
July 17, 2016

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Guess what day it is?  Need a hint?  It’s the day that we can all remember with mixed emotions.  It’s the day that you could no longer sleep in until your little eyes opened, but it was also the day that held excitement and anticipation.  You guessed it… It is the first day of school!

At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School…

The morning began with our students eagerly walking to their classrooms with parents in tow.  After a few quick minutes, hugs and goodbyes were exchanged.  Students began to get settled in their classrooms while parents gathered in the school lobby for a coffee reception. 

The morning bell rang and the PA system was awakened by a welcome announcement and morning prayers led by our new assistant principal and St. Mary’s alumnus, Ashley Fisher.  Then, the entire school, parents included, gathered outside for the opening day prayer and flag-raising ceremony with Fr. Jerry Ragan, pastor of St. Mary’s Church.

After the morning activities, I returned to my office. 

Just as I was getting settled, the age-old essay assignment “What I Did on my Summer Vacation” popped into my head.  It has been a long time since I thought about that assignment.  I then wondered – Is this assignment still popular in schools today?  As a grown up, I now know that its whole purpose was to dust off the summer break cobwebs from my brain.

I also wondered… What if students asked the teachers what they did on their summer vacation?  I think students would be very surprised to learn that teachers— especially our St. Mary’s teachers—did not spend their entire summer break lounging by the pool eating bonbons … okay… not the entire time.

For example…

Three of our teachers—Allison Hardy (1st grade), Allison Crow (3rd grade), and John Allen (Jr. High science)—traveled to Savannah, Georgia for the final curriculum development team meeting for the new Diocesan-wide science curriculum.  As with each subject curricula, St. Mary’s teachers are an integral part of curriculum development.  Our teachers bring their passion for teaching, expertise, classroom experience, and desire for the best for their students to the process.  Mrs. Hardy told me that she thoroughly enjoyed being part of the team and is excited to introduce the new science curriculum to her 1st grade students.

Karmen Lowery, computer teacher, was selected to participate in Augusta University’s week-long GenCyber Camp for teachers.  Mrs. Lowery told me that camp was a lot of fun.  She appreciated learning about some new resources that she and other St. Mary’s teachers can use in the classrooms.  What did Mrs. Lowery enjoy the most?  She especially enjoyed meeting other computer/technology teachers in the area.

Katharine Doss (2nd grade) and Allison Crow attended the National SDE Reading, Writing, Math & More! Conference for grades K-5.  The conference included fabulous speakers, lots of ideas for the classroom, and teacher resources.  Mrs. Doss and Mrs. Crow are looking forward to sharing all the good news from the conference with their fellow St. Mary’s teachers.

Back at home, Laura Kuhlke, reading interventionist, administered placement tests for our new students.  We are so excited to welcome many new families to St. Mary’s school for the 2016-2017 school year.  Thank you, Mrs. Kuhlke, for helping to make the summer placement testing process run so smoothly.

We thank all of our teachers and staff who work so diligently throughout the ENTIRE year for the benefit of our students.  We wish them, and our students, a wonderful 2016-2017 school year!

Let the school year begin!

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The process used by our curriculum development teams is the result of a partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Collaborative for Academic Excellence.  The ACE Collaborative is a professional development program that strengthens curriculum, instruction, and assessment by increasing collaboration among teachers.  This partnership resulted in a curriculum development process that has been successfully implemented for three new diocesan-wide curricula to date—social studies, math, and science.                                                                  

St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a private Catholic school located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia.  For more information, please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193. 

"Have a Nice Day, Mrs. Cagle"

Sitting in carline, I am waiting for my first born to get out of school. We have piano today and I cannot help but think about this school and how beautiful it is. Not physically beautiful- it does not overwhelm me with gables and antiquity. The original building was built in the 60s and few things about the 60s scream “Beauty!” Rather, I am talking about the interior beauty of the school. 

Seven hours prior to this, I dropped off those little blonde curls. A sweet seventh grader opened the door, waited patiently for my pokey child to get out and gave her a high five before looking at me and saying, “Have a nice day, Mrs. Cagle.” As the door closed, I heard her say, “Morning, Eileen! Are you ready for a great day?!” Eileen responds with an emphatic YEAH before tearing across the playground and heading into her first grade classroom, those curls and that book bag bouncing the whole way.

It’s hard to argue with that being the start to your school day. 

Eileen’s teacher is the quintessential southern belle. She is incredibly soft spoken and adored by every one of her students. Mrs. Folsom has been teaching for 34 years, but you would never know it, as her enthusiasm is as fresh as the first day of her first year. She openly says, “I love teaching first grade. Kindergarten has just a little too much chaos for me. I need the structure of first grade students.”

Having volunteered throughout all of last year in Eileen’s kindergarten class, I understood what Mrs. Folsom meant. It is chaotic compared to first grade- but, I could see the method to the madness and the control in the chaos.

Eileen’s kindergarten teacher had “her number” from day one. Mrs. Wilkinson, one of the three kindergarten teachers, showered her students with both love and affection. The students knew where the lines were and worked hard to both push those boundaries and stay safely within the realm. 

As both a kindergartener and first grader, Eileen’s grades reflect a smart kid. That being said, I don’t know how she best learns and what magic tricks her teachers have to cease her incessant wiggles. The brains underneath those blonde curls clearly come from her mother. The wiggles? Probably from me, too.

This year, the first grade has a third class. Mrs. Tyre came from a Catholic school in Macon, GA. Her husband was relocated to Augusta. I get the impression that her previous principal called Joe McBride, St. Mary’s principal, and said something to the effect of, “If you have a need for a teacher, you don’t want to let this one get away. She is that amazing.”

And, y’all— she is. She truly is. 

One of Mrs. Tyre’s students is Eileen’s BFF… you can be as shocked as I am that first graders know what “BFFs” are. The students love her and those two girls argue/debate/decide who has the best teacher. 

The third teacher that rounds out first grade is Mrs. Hardy. She is a native Augustan and an alumnus of this sweet school. Mrs. Hardy has been teaching for 10 years and also coaches the girls cheerleading squad. If memory serves, I think she once donned the uniform and pompoms, too. Having three teachers and two assistants keeps the classes small, the children engaged, and the opportunities endless.

The clock is winding down. In about 6 minutes those blonde curls will pop into my car and she will regale me with the things she gets to do on Tuesday— Good Shepherd (religion class), gym (they like to play “cookie monster”), and computer class. She got a special treat in the lunch line today— breakfast!— and I will learn that she did not eat the biscuit with sausage gravy, but ate all her waffle and bacon. We will talk about what she did on the playground (probably some sort of version of “Store”) and she will read to me from her Tuesday homework book. After piano, we will head home and have supper before doing it all again the next day.

Those same little blonde curls will get dropped off on Monte Sano Avenue and a different seventh grader will help her out of the car before looking at me and saying, “Have a nice day, Mrs. Cagle.”

Knowing that she is encapsulated in love and learning the best from the best, I will. 

I absolutely will.

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Rachel Cagle, guest blogger, is a parent of three children and member of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. Her first born, Eileen, is in her second year at St. Mary’s School. When Rachel is not sitting in carline, she is wrangling the other two and is an active volunteer. Her husband, Dr. William Cagle, is a Pediatric Intensive Care physician at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. They call The Hill home and St. Mary’s the perfect place for their children.

Evening of the Arts: The Talent Show

Knock knock… who’s there?... interrupting cow… interrupting cow who?… moooo!  It was the opening line in a comedy bit by one of our 2nd grade students that kicked off the Talent Show.

St. Mary’s Evening of the Arts continued with the always-anticipated Talent Show.  Auditions are open to all kindergarten through 8th grade students making it a mix of grade levels and talents. This year’s talent pool included musicians, singers, a karate kid, Irish dancers, a cheer-dance team, and a 5th grade student who—according to my ears—easily hit all the notes in Adele’s Hello.  No kidding.

Although we have a large gymnasium with plenty of seating for even well-attended sports events, the ranks swell considerably when you add grandparents, siblings, other relatives, and friends who are eager to attend a student performance. 

Call me a smarter and wiser audience member… For many years, I would walk (read: run) to the gymnasium before the rest of the crowd to find a seat (and save one for the husband).  Not this year: I pulled the marketing director card and requested a front-row seat so I could take photographs.  This is the smarter and wiser part… and it was worth it.

The Evening of the Arts is a highlight in our busy school year.  We enjoy that our students share their artistic talents with us, and we appreciate that they and their talents are, indeed, gifts from God.

Evening of the Arts: The Gallery

School cafeteria by day, the space was transformed into the St. Mary’s Art Gallery for an evening. Patrons, also known as family, friends, and St. Mary’s alumni, perused the masterpieces. The gallery was bathed in colors, media, dimensions, and smiles—lots of smiles.  There were smiles by the students when they discovered their artwork, and smiles by family and friends who showed their appreciation for the artist and their creation.

The Evening of the Arts showcases selected works created by each of our kindergarten through 8th grade students.  Each piece has some type of meaning for the student; each piece may represent their “favorite”.  Was it the media used?  The colors?  The feeling of accomplishment?  Or, possibly, did creating that particular piece ignite their passion for art?

As I strolled through the art gallery, there was a deep sense of appreciation for Mrs. Jenny Storer, awesome St. Mary’s art teacher, and all that she taught her students this year.  I was also reminded of a story Mrs. Storer told me at the beginning of this school year – her first year teaching at St. Mary’s.  

She was traveling to Athens, Georgia last summer to visit a pottery studio.  St. Mary’s has a kiln in the art room.  Mrs. Storer, an acrylic artist, wanted to learn more about pottery so she could share it with her students.  

After arriving at the studio, Mrs. Storer was directed to a young woman named Michelle.  They began to talk and soon discovered that Michelle was a former St. Mary’s student!  She told Mrs. Storer that it was ironic that she was teaching pottery to Mrs. Storer, when it was the St Mary’s art room where Michelle created her first piece of pottery.   

We strive for a well-rounded Catholic education for our students because, as we know— you never know in what subject or St. Mary’s classroom someone discovers their passion. 

A Mom, a Car, and a First Grade Field Trip

Given the opportunity, I jump at the chance to volunteer at my daughter Eileen’s school, St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. There are plenty of places to get involved.

Recently, the first graders made the trek to Aiken, SC to the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center. Of course, when the note went home that drivers were needed, I signed up. At the time, I remember thinking, “Hmmm… I wonder where the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center is? Must be near Fort Gordon.” 

Imagine my surprise when I get the address. 

“AIKEN!?” I scream. 

Aiken.

I packed snacks. I packed drinks.

Four little girls in their perfect Mass uniforms eagerly walked to my car on the day of the trip, carrying their car seats, and giggling the whole way. Twenty minutes and one wrong turn later, the kids are in a classroom acting as “junior scientists” learning about magnets. They performed experiments to determine what things are magnetic and what things are not. They learned how to drive a car from South Carolina to Oregon using nothing but magnets.

FYI: It is harder than you think to steer a small toy car with a magnet. Fortunately, the kids did not need to ask for directions or stay on the interstate. 

After learning about “cow magnets” (something that cows swallow to catch all the metal they eat) and how compasses work, they headed downstairs to the planetarium. 

When I was a kid, the planetarium came to the school and was set up in the cafeteria. We took turns going into the blow-up tent and learning about the constellations. Childhood has advanced in the last twenty (ok, thirty) years. 

The students went to a real planetarium and were dazzled with, not just the constellations, but also the stories behind them. Hearing those little “ohhhhhs” and “ahhhhhs” of amazement when the lights dimmed and stars came out made me smile. Oh, to be a kid.

After a sack lunch, the kids loaded back up, tired from their adventures and ready to get back to school. It was a fun day for the kids and a fun one for the parents who volunteered. We got a chance to see budding scientists in the making.  

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Rachel Cagle, guest blogger, is a parent of three children and member of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church. Her first born, Eileen, is in her second year at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. 

Going to State!

You’re thinking sports, right?  It may be because you heard about our award-winning athletic program at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, but did you know that our students also successfully participate in academic competitions?

Two of our awesome 7th grade students recently qualified for competitions at the state level -- Alex C. for MATHCOUNTS and Jude W. for the National Geographic Geography Bee.  

Alex C. and Jude W.

MATHCOUNTS        

MATHCOUNTS is a national math enrichment, coaching, and competition program for middle school students.

Alex qualified for state based on his strong results from the regional competition held at Augusta University.   He was invited to compete at the state level with other Georgia middle-school students at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Alex arrived at Georgia Tech ready for competition.  All students first competed in two timed rounds.  At the end of the second round, the top ten students were invited to participate in the countdown round.  Although Alex was not in the top ten, Mrs. Donna Skidmore, Junior High math teacher, said that he did a great job and represented St. Mary’s well.  

What did Alex like best about the competition?  He liked that the event was held at Georgia Tech and it was very organized.  Alex also told me that the day went by very quickly.  He must have been having fun!

Alex is definitely looking forward to next year.  He has his sights set on a spot in the top ten.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC GEOGRAPHY BEE

Jude was one of the top 100 students in grades 4 through 8 to qualify at the state level for the Geography Bee recently held at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.  I am hoping that no one had trouble finding the Geography Bee.  

Being in the top 100 in your state is quite impressive. Think about it:  National Geographic reports that millions of students from thousands of schools in the United States participate in school-level geography bees.  The competition is then narrowed down to the top 100 students in each state who advance to their state’s competition.  

What did Jude like best about the competition?  He liked the challenge of the competition.  Jude also liked that he learned some new things.  Did you know there are tree kangaroos? 

As the year wraps up and eyes start to look towards summer, we can reflect on another successful year for academic competitions.  St. Mary’s upcoming Academic Awards Ceremony may be a long one.

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For more information about MATHCOUNTS and the National Geographic Geography Bee, please visit www.mathcounts.org and www.nationalgeographic.com/geobee/.

It Was a TerraNova Week

It was an unusually quiet week at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  It certainly was not the week to wear tap shoes in the halls.

The 1st through 8th grade students were taking their TerraNova standardized test.  Published by CTB/McGraw-Hill, TerraNova is our only standardized test.   Its purpose is to assess student achievement in language arts, mathematics, reading, science, social studies, spelling, and vocabulary.

So, I hung up my tap shoes and did my best not to be noticed.  Fortunately, the tests did not actually comprise the entire week.  Classes, including specials classes (art, computer, library, music, PE, and Spanish), were held on a modified schedule. 

I almost forgot about testing week since there is not much fanfare leading up to it.  The teachers do not spend teaching time preparing the students for the tests unless you count reminding students to get plenty of sleep and eat a good breakfast as preparation.

Yes, there has been a lot of negative discussion in the news about standardized tests.  The biggest discussion seems to center on too much required test taking in public schools.  So, why would a private school even bother with a standardized test?

St. Mary’s and other Catholic schools in our Diocese, the Diocese of Savannah, use TerraNova results to show how our students compare with other students nationwide using nationally-based standards. 

Our teachers use TerraNova results to identify students’ needs and achievements with regard to lesson planning.  St. Mary’s also uses the aggregate scores to analyze curriculum strengths and weaknesses for internal review and improvement.  TerraNova results provide us with important information that we use to make our curriculum and teaching even better than it already is.    

How do our students perform on the TerraNova test?  Our students consistently score well above the national average.  And, our students do not seem to mind taking the tests; it’s a small price to pay for a no-homework week.

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is located in the beautiful and historic Summerville area of Augusta, Georgia.  For more information, please contact Christine Sweeney, Marketing Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193.

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