ST. MARY'S BLOG

Musical Angels, Violins, Trumpets, and More

We have musical angels in our midst at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  They are the 3rd grade and up students who comprise our school Chorus.   Directed by Dr. Kathleen Haley, awesome music teacher, they lead us in wonderful, heavenly song at our all-school Masses.  

Chorus sign up is always an exciting time at the beginning of the school year, especially for our 3rd grade students.   It is even more special when younger siblings are finally old enough to join and follow in their older siblings’ musical footsteps.  There are no try-outs, but space is limited—literally! The church’s sizable choir loft can only hold so many singing cherubs. 

2014-2015 Chorus

Chorus also includes Drama.  In addition to leading us in song during our all-school Masses, Chorus leads and performs at our annual Christmas musical and spring concert.  And, for students who find themselves in the Christmas spirit early in the school year, they can audition for the Christmas musical as it is open to all the students, even those who do not participate in Chorus year-round.  This year’s Christmas musical is titled “Cookin’ Up Christmas.”    

Our other extracurricular music offerings have expanded recently to include St. Mary’s Violins, Boythovens, and Brass.  St. Mary’s Violins is offered to students in the 4th through 8th grades.  New last year, our violin students hosted two fabulous concerts which left us looking forward to more performances.

Boythovens is a singing group for 4th grade and up boys who sing in the treble range. Brass—trumpets and trombones—is offered for students in the 5th through 8th grades.  I hear Dr. Haley has plans for a little St. Mary’s school jazz band possibly as early as next year!

Although I could never sing and my piano playing days are on the back burner for now, I can always hum along to the cherubs in the choir loft and appreciate all the wonderful music being created in Dr. Haley’s music room.  

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Dr. Kathleen Haley has a Bachelor degree in Music Education and a Masters and Ph.D. in Educational Measurement.  Dr. Haley has been teaching since 1990.  Her favorite thing about teaching at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is “getting to know all these amazing young people!”

Enhanced Curriculum PLUS!

My job as the marketing director was new this past year.  Our school has all kinds of offices, but none of which were dedicated to the marketing department— you know Little Ole’ Me. 

It actually worked out fine because what I enjoy most about my job is meeting new families, giving tours, and answering questions about our awesome school.  So, I like to think the whole school was my office during those early days.

As we would walk during a school tour, I would explain that St. Mary’s has an “enhanced curriculum”.  Recently I have thought about using the phrase “Enhanced Curriculum PLUS!” — yes, with the exclamation mark!  The word enhanced explains that our curriculum exceeds both state and national standards.  And the PLUS!? Well, that’s where we really shine.                                              

Karmen Lowery, computer teacher, is a great example of the PLUS!.  Her classroom is the main computer lab.  In the course of an entire school year, Mrs. Lowery teaches all 430 of our kindergarten through 8th grade students.  Impressive, huh?

Mrs. Lowery has five years of teaching experience.  She and I were both new in our positions last year, and she invited me to use a spot in the computer lab to do my work.  It quickly became my favorite place to work while my office was getting organized.

Working in the computer lab gave me an opportunity to see Mrs. Lowery in action.   I noticed early on how she seamlessly dovetailed what she did in her computer lab with what the students were learning in their classes.  For example, the kindergarten students were learning how to count money.  Mrs. Lowery at the same time included money counting computer programs to reinforce what they were learning.  

Mrs. Lowery’s computer classes are interesting, and she has an inviting teaching style.  You can tell that the students really enjoy computer class as she is able to engage them in a variety of ways.  As if I were back in college and auditing the class, even I enjoyed it!  I am surprised by how much I learned in the time I was in the computer lab.

Then, just when you think she was interesting enough, I found myself learning about coding when she had the 4th through 8th grade students in the computer lab!

Mrs. Lowery does not rest on her laurels, I hear that coding will be bigger and more challenging this year.  Our 7th grade students will be using a software tool to strengthen their knowledge about financial concepts.  And, our 8th grade students will build on what they have been learning in the area of movie/video capabilities.   Mrs. Lowery is also exploring many other areas where her experience, ingenuity, and our school’s technology resources can engage our students in interesting and creative ways.

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When new families visit St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School and ask about our subjects and structure, we can’t leave it at “curriculum”— rather, it is an enhanced curriculum. 

“Enhanced” explains that our curriculum exceeds state and national standards, but it helps to enunciate how our teachers expand learning in the classroom that make our curriculum great!

So, I think it is more accurate to describe our curriculum as enhanced curriculum PLUS!  The plus is important because our teachers have the flexibility (i.e. freedom) to use their experience and ingenuity in the classroom.  

Go Saints!

At St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School, college football is not the only exciting sport in the fall. While many in the Augusta area love their SEC football, we at St. Mary’s also love our Saints!

St. Mary’s school is a member of the Augusta-Aiken Middle School League (http://www.augustaaikenleague.com/) which is comprised of nine private schools. 

The fall sports season is always an exciting time for us.  Just as school got off to a strong start, 118 of our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students participated in cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, tennis, and volleyball.  

Our students enjoy being active – whether it is on our expansive playground during recess, on a sports team or with other extracurricular activities.  Our coaches also enjoy coaching.  All of our coaches are volunteers.  They are parents, family, alumni, and friends of the school who commit their time and talent to the sport and the players.  Thank you for all you do!!!

So, how did our Saints’ fall sports season fare?  Let’s start with football and cheerleading...

The St. Mary’s football team is the undefeated 2015 league champion! Congratulations to our players, coaches, and cheerleaders who cheered the Saints all the way to the championship. 

The girls’ cross country team finished in 2nd place behind Augusta Preparatory Day School (Augusta Prep), and the boys’ team finished in 3rd place behind Augusta Prep and Episcopal Day School (EDS). 

Tennis had a tough season, but it was not from lack of effort. The kids played their hearts out, and most importantly— they had fun. Their season ended on a high note with one of our 8th grade students earning second place in the individual boys’ competition.

Golf swung their way to a 3rd place finish, just one stroke behind 2nd place St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic School (Aiken, SC).  Soooo close!

Our girls’ volleyball team had a strong 8-1 season and brought home the 2nd place trophy.  Great job, Lady Saints!

Just as our fall sports season has come to a close, our winter season with boys’ and girls’ basketball is about to start.  The sign-up sheets filled up quickly and tryouts are this week.  Good luck to all and Go Saints!

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a private Catholic school in Augusta, Georgia.  For information about our school, please contact Christine Sweeney at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193.

It Takes a Village

and...

hard work and determination

because

we don’t sell…

wrapping paper,
cookie dough,
magazine subscriptions,
kitchen trinkets,
or seeds that don’t sprout. 

Our PTO has only ONE BIG carnival weekend.  This year it was a Wild Wild West Weekend.

It all began with our generous sponsors who are alumni, parents, and friends of the school.

Then our awesome teachers and students got ready for the weekend with a Spirit Day Pep Rally led by our Student Council and cheerleaders.  There was a Family Pumpkin Decorating Contest, and we enjoyed every decorated pumpkin on display.                   

And when they were done and as the students continued with their studies, their gymnasium was quietly transformed into a ranch for a grown-up hoedown on Friday evening.

Full store fronts and life-sized horses decorated the gym with both sawdust and hay on the floor. Billy Morris loaned the school several horse drawn carriages from his private collection. Silent auction items from very generous donors were the centerpiece under strings of lights. And, there was a mechanical bull and plenty of laughter, but mostly there was fellowship. 

Saturday morning came bright and early with perfect fall weather and hundreds of children ready to celebrate. As Mr. Joe McBride, principal, called the 10 o’clock hour, the rides and games opened for all. Pony rides were new this year in keeping with the Wild Wild West theme.  The ever popular ping pong toss game was popular once more. The award for getting the ping pong in the cup? OH… that would be goldfish. Lots and lots of goldfish. Every child’s dream, every parent’s nightmare.  St. Mary’s school mom Tara Scheyer and the Mud Puppy Band entertained the crowd with their original songs and crowd favorites.         As the day drew to a close, kids were running around, hopped up on sugar. Parents were holding hands as those same kids ran circles around them. It was amazing and humbling to watch these families come together at this event that does not just generate PTO funds for the school, but brings families into a community. This St. Mary’s school community we are fortunate enough to call home. 

Meet George Jetson...

The song is stuck in your head now—right? His boy, Elroy, isn’t a student of ours, but…

I cannot help but think of that old TV cartoon when I know the big, wonderful, always STEM*-filled, Future City Competition is approaching!  

When you think of a future city, does that George Jetson sky pad apartment come to mind?  How about the time Jane Jetson’s fingers were worn out from pushing so many buttons?  Are we really that far away from the Jetsons’ Orbit City life?

Back to the Future (City Competition, that is)

Mr. John Allen, Junior High science teacher, all of our 8th grade students, and their project mentors are gearing up for this year’s Future City Competition.

Future City is a national engineering competition. 

According to the Future City organizers, it all starts with a simple question—how can we make the world a better place?  Students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics include storm water management, urban agriculture, and green energy.

This year’s focus is solid waste management.

Future City is a five-part program, and it is a required science project for all 8th grade students at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  Our students work together in teams of three with a mentor.  It is important to note that the mentor only serves in an advisory role.  The project belongs to the students. 

There are five deliverables.  The teams will present their solutions to a solid waste management problem using a (1) virtual city design (using SimCity), (2) 1,500-word city description, (3) scale model, (4) project plan, and (5) presentation to a panel of judges at St. Mary’s school in late November/early December 2015. 

The top five St. Mary’s teams then advance to the Regional Competition in January 2016.  Regional winners move on to the National Finals in Washington, DC in February 2016.

Why Does St. Mary’s Participate in the Future City Competition?

Future City gives our students an opportunity to do things that engineers do by participating in the engineering design process.  They identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test/retest and build, and share their results. 

Specifically, our students apply math and science concepts to real-world issues.  They refine writing, public speaking, problem solving, and time management skills.  They also research and propose solutions to engineering challenges and learn more about engineering career options.

St. Mary’s has been successfully competing in the Future City Competition for six years.  I asked Mr. Allen his thoughts about the hardest part of this challenging competition.   He answered, “Having to narrow down our teams to the top five.  We could easily send ten teams every year and successfully compete in the next-level of the competition.”

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*STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  The Future City experience is reportedly found to increase students’ excitement and motivation in these disciplines.  To learn more about the Future City Competition, please visit www.futurecity.org.

More Than a Hat

I couldn’t help but notice the Elsa baseball cap sitting on top of her little kindergarten head in a sea of school uniforms.  Why was she wearing it, and why did I seem to be the only one with a confused look on my face?

Before I could ask, she was off to her next destination, and I no longer saw her or the hat.  I could not “Let It Go.”  Fortunate for my curiosity, I did see her mom and asked, “What’s with the hat?”  

I learned that Mrs. Kathlene Wilkinson, one of our awesome kindergarten teachers, was to blame.

So, I sought out Mrs. Wilkinson and asked, “What’s with Eileen’s hat?”  

Mrs. Wilkinson shared with me that she found the Holy Grail of kindergarten positive motivators.  The hat was Eileen’s reward for five great days in class. When a student has five total great days, they get to pick a coupon and cash it in at any time they choose.  Some examples of the rewards are “switch seats with a friend for a day,” “no shoes in the classroom,” “no homework pass” (that would be the favorite of any mother), and “bring a stuffed friend to class” to name just a few.

Back in the day (let’s just say a few years ago) when my daughter (who just started high school) was in Mrs. Wilkinson’s class, we had the treasure box.  You could reach in and select a treasure for having a good week.  Gone is the treasure box.  Mrs. Wilkinson found something better.

As Mrs. Wilkinson said, “This has changed my life. The kids love the coupon system.”

So, in the end, it really was more than a hat… 

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Mrs. Kathlene Wilkinson, awesome kindergarten teacher, has been teaching for 17 years at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  Her most favorite thing about teaching is “watching my kids 'get it’ when that light bulb goes on as they accomplish something they have been struggling with or working on!”

A Wild Wild West Weekend!

The PTO is gearing up and getting the ranch (read: the school) ready for a Wild Wild West Weekend on October 16-17, 2015.  This is the PTO’s only school fundraiser, and it is a big ‘un!

And… it all starts with a Hoedown…

Put on your cowboy boots and join us for a spell at a Hoedown on Friday, October 16, 2016, from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  It will be a fun time at the corral.

The Hoedown is for grown-up cowboys and cowgirls.   For $35 per person you can enjoy fine fixins’, beverages, music, dancing, and fellowship.  Test your skills on a mechanical bull.  Have a hootin’ hollerin’ good time at the live auction where a golf cart and other items are prime for the pickin’.  Sit a spell and have fun at the silent auction with theme baskets, gift certificates, goodies, parties, vacation destinations, and more.  Mosey on over to the raffle table for a chance to win two tickets and hotel accommodations for the 50th Annual Country Music Awards next year (November 2016).

After the Hoedown… It’s Carnival Time! 

The Wild West Weekend concludes with our annual school carnival and all are welcome.   

It will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.   There will be games, music, food, fun, a climbing wall, and pony rides.  The mechanical bull will also be available for the kids to try.

Carnival admission is free.  All-day game wristbands are $20 each with a maximum of $60 per family.  Individual game tickets are $.50 each. 

Please contact St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School at 706-733-6193 for more information about our Wild Wild West Weekend and/or to purchase your ticket(s).  All are welcome.  Bring your kinfolk and neighbors.  We look forward to seeing you! 

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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a private Catholic school in Augusta, Georgia.  For more information about the school, 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.

Welcome Pope Francis!

Both the country and St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School are abuzz with excitement about Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. We have had a good time incorporating the Pope’s U.S. visit into the classroom. 

Señora Moniqua Acosta, Spanish teacher, has introduced a little of the Italian language into her Spanish classes this week.  Her students are learning more about Pope Francis, his Italian heritage, and his birthplace of Argentina which was settled in part by Italian immigrants.  Señora Acosta’s students, who have learned prayers in Spanish, were surprised to hear how similar those same prayers sound in Italian.

The 1st grade students are doing research to learn more about Pope Francis. They are focusing on his life as a young boy and how he started out just like them— a kid playing with his friends. The research and class continue his journey on to becoming a priest. Part of their religion class is teaching the names and significance of the papal clothing worn by the Pope. 

Fourth grade students are doing a Flat Pope Francis version of the ever-popular Flat Stanley project.  They have a map at the end of the second-floor hallway with Flat Francis showing the places he visits.  They are also going to have a treat, possibly one of the Pope’s favorite foods, and talk about the “Walk with Francis Pledge” to do acts of kindness as a way to honor Pope Francis during his visit. 

Mrs. Sherre Watwood’s 7th grade religion classes are watching a live stream of the Pope’s visit as they continue their work on a group project.  She also downloaded The Pope App on the school iPads for her students, which includes the latest news about the Pope and his visit.

It’s interesting to see how our teachers have brought Pope Francis into the classroom and incorporate this historic event into the school day in a variety of ways. 

Thank you to our teachers and to Pope Francis for all that you do!
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If you are interested in following the Pope’s visit, information and a live stream of events can be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website at http://www.usccb.org/

Life Under the Sea

Fifteen years ago, St. Mary’s school bought new fish.  They were cute, swimming around in the saltwater tank. 

One Survived.

More fish were bought, because the last remaining fish just seemed like he needed a friend.  What we didn’t know is that those other fish did not die of natural causes.  We realized that we had “Jaws” in the tank.

He didn’t want any friends.  He ate all of his companions… and then a few more. 

Jaws was not invincible.  He was found belly up during the last school year.  The tank sat vacant as Mr. John Allen, awesome Junior High science teacher, made plans for a fresh start sans Jaws.

Enter Chris Dexter – new dad at the school and saltwater fish tank aficionado!  Chris saw our fishless tank and offered to help Mr. Allen just as Mr. Allen was about to start working on the tank.  Perfect timing…

Now… we were off to a fresh start.

The tank looks great.  Clownfish, a blue tang, a coral beauty angelfish, a serpent starfish, a pencil urchin, and some snails have been introduced in the tank.  The clown fish are VERY interested in EVERYONE who walks by.  The starfish is extremely shy.  The others are quickly getting used to being the new fish in the school (get it?).

Keep an eye out for more fish and sea creatures to follow.  As Chris says, “We have big plans for this tank.”  Thank you, Chris and Mr. Allen, for a fabulous tank that we can all enjoy and easily imagine life under the sea!

Wings and a Little Imagination

You may think that it is a bit unusual to have birds sitting in a tree in a school’s gymnasium lobby, but thanks to our awesome art teacher, Jenny Storer, and our kindergarten through third grade students, it is happening at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. 

I saw the creatures when they were sitting in Mrs. Storer’s art classroom.  They were super cute then; now they are downright adorable. Given the instructions of working with playing cards, feathers, pipe cleaners, and glue dots, the children were only limited by their creativity.  With a touch of guidance, Mrs. Storer helped create a flock and just like our students, no two the same.

When I see the birds, I am reminded how thrilled we are to have Mrs. Storer as our new art teacher.  What started with private art lessons at her kitchen table has blossomed into sharing her passion for arts of all mediums.   Mrs. Storer’s background as an acrylic artist helps the students see things from a different perspective.  Her art classroom and wherever she sees blank real estate in the school are quickly becoming places where budding artists can show off their hard work and talent.

In truth, the bird project was Mrs. Storer’s way of getting to know the younger students in the early days of the school year.  She and all 430 of her students will be, ahem, branching out (get it?) during the course of the school year and learning more about different artists and art forms.  Some art projects will be school wide; others will be specific to certain grades.  Mrs. Storer gave me a peak at what is to come... I cannot wait to see more of our students’ creations!

Mrs. Storer has big plans for our students (and our school!)… and it all started with wings and a little imagination!

Look Out in 4B!

Keep your eyes sharp when walking in the second floor hallway at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  You may need to duck when you enter one of our fourth grade classrooms.  It’s not because a student is getting rowdy.  It is due to Mrs. Lori Serji, an awesome teacher, who is practicing her soft ball pitches.  And we aren’t talking about easy questions!

Mrs. Serji enjoys motivating her students to be active in the classroom.  She uses bean bag balls as a way to encourage her students to actively participate in class.  It keeps them engaged, albeit alert!

All Mrs. Serji has to do is pick up one of the balls; the students get ready!

Mrs. Serji asks a question in any subject she is currently teaching, students raise their hands, and Mrs. Serji throws the ball.  As the question is being answered, the ball stays with the student and then it is back in the air.  

Another way Mrs. Serji keeps things fresh in her class is she lets her students have a mint while they are taking a test.  It has been reported that mint stimulates brain activity.  I think there is at least one other benefit to having a mint during tests, other than minty fresh breath.  I remember sometimes getting nervous taking tests and having a mint could have helped my nine-year old self relax.      

Watching Mrs. Serji and her commitment to her students and their education is contagious.  She shows this commitment to them every day in fun, caring, and supportive ways.  The students thank you, the baseball coaches thank you, and I thank you.

Ready, Set, Blog!

My name is Christine Sweeney.  I am the marketing director for St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School.  I absolutely enjoy my job!  Prior to taking time off when my children were young, I had 17 years of experience in marketing and business development.

I am married and have two high school-aged children.  My children attended St. Mary’s school from kindergarten through 8th grade.   

So, I am the only one in the family still at St. Mary’s school, and that is fine by me! 

I am thrilled to be here and involved in marketing this awesome school.  I am beginning my second year as marketing director, and this is our school's first blog. 

I hope you enjoy the blog, learn more about our awesome school, and (please) wish me luck in this new endeavor.
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St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School is a private Catholic school in Augusta, Georgia.  For more information about the school, please contact Mrs. Sweeney at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 706-733-6193.