Viking & Alumni News
Read Across America Week at Saint Olaf
“There is no system in the world or any school in the country that is better than its teachers. Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools”
Read any of Ken Robinson’s books, watch a TED talk or two, or follow his work and you're sure to be inspired by his lofty goals for education reform and strong belief in teachers as key leaders of this much needed reform. He excites audiences by showing what could be possible in the academic world for students. So while this year especially, it has been easy to get ground down by the stressors of daily life in school, his reminder that teachers are our lifeblood is important and necessary. When teachers are on fire, inspiration flows from our schools.
We recently experienced firsthand that inspiration flowing here at Saint Olaf Catholic School in Bountiful, Utah. Our 4th grade Teacher, Ms. Kelli-Ann Allen and her colleague, librarian and art teacher Mrs. Kathy Dorich took the entire student body on an odyssey through their own version of Read Across America Week. Although this national program was created in 1998 in conjunction with Dr. Suess’s birthday on March 2, the program has blossomed into and encourages reading all year long, as it is critical to all learning.
Here, at Saint Olaf, Ms. Allen started our own version of Read Across America several years ago, keeping the original week long celebration in March. In non pandemic years, Ms. Allen has had donuts with grandparent/parent reading buddies, invited parents and community guests to read with and to students throughout the week, offered before and after school snacks paired with reading time, had students read to other grades and with each other, snuggled in the library, or in corners of their classroom. She incorporated games, art projects and class/school challenges into the week. Students and parents alike also participated in an all school book exchange where each day of the week, a book could be donated and another chosen, refreshing home libraries.
However, with the pandemic, Ms. Allen and Mrs. Dorich knew this year would look different and would need to be creative and fun in its own socially distanced way. Students need exciting things to look forward to, and to not lose all “special” activities due to COVID-19. So where there had been parent, family, student, and community close contact interactions, this year the presentations, reading, and activities would need to be spaced. It was an amazing coincidence or perhaps divine inspiration that Saint Olaf had recently caught the attention of the NCEA and catholicmom.com, with a representative contacting the school to see about a possible working partnership.
What followed were several weeks of conversations and emails between our Principal, Simon McFall, these 2 teachers, and multiple authors, including a very well-known and accomplished illustrator and Saint Olaf Alumni, Pete Oswald. Although he wasn’t able to join us via zoom for Read Across America Week, we are thrilled to have reconnected and look forward to future projects in the works. We were able to set up zoom presentations with 5 Catholic/Christian Authors, also all very accomplished and published through Paraclete Press, and 1 local Utah Author. Not only did 6 authors do zoom presentations with our students throughout the week, they sent multiple copies of their books to be distributed to students. Lisa Hendey, creator of Catholic.mom.com led a mini retreat for our staff on Friday, closing out a full and fabulous week. Our Author guest list was as follows:
- Jon M Sweeney, The Pope's Cat
- John Gray, Keller's Heart
- Lisa Hendey, I'm a Saint in the Making
- Laura Alary, Breathe, A Child's Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time
- Karen Kiefer, Drawing God
- J Scott Savage, The Mysteries of Cove Series
Other activities students participated in included designing or redesigning favorite book covers, dressing as favorite characters or authors, playing a week long Bingo game-encouraging daily reading and storytelling at all levels, and a fantastical scavenger/trivia treasure hunt campus wide. Ms. Allen and Mrs. Dorich would love to see the program grow every year, with more to look forward to. Ms. Allen’s students also participate in a reading program all year, where they must select books from every literary genre, trying them out. Both teachers report wanting to make this year extra special because of the extra burdens students and families have felt. However, truth be told, these exceptional teachers are always doing more, pushing for something new and different. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these teachers and many other teachers working with our students. With more than 80% of our students reading on or above grade level, the inspiration of our teachers is flowing stronger than ever!
Saint Olaf Catholic School Remains in the News!
A Testimony to the Strength & Endurance of Catholic Education
IS YOUR STUDENT EQUIPPED? How Saint Olaf Catholic School handles COVID-19
How are our local schools dealing with the present COVID-19 crisis? Are we meeting this challenge to our educational system? Is this destined to be the lost quarter for students globally? We toss these questions around endlessly at Saint Olaf Catholic School. This past fall, before there was COVID-19, we changed our logo and created a motto. While we spent much time evaluating our ethos and how to best capture that in two symbols, we had no idea how intensely significant these new symbols would become as we seek to save precious academic and social/emotional time for our school, our students, and families during a global pandemic.
We started with ideals that seem to register with all parents: college prep, solid academics, and leadership. We do offer and value these, however, we offer more. While students pre K-12 are technically only our responsibility through their senior year, we are not just a school-we are a community of faith, a responsibility we take very seriously. Our faith compels us to focus on the development of the complete student, not solely their K-12 career. We are attempting to prepare and equip our students for the entirety of life, far beyond the school years, while also equipping them for today. The hard truth is that not every child is going to be a leader, an A student, or even attend college, however, every child can be equipped to deal with life’s highs and lows while developing their own individual talents, and learning to live in a Christ-like manner.
In this strange and unusual time of social distancing, evaluations naturally take place. What is really important to me and my family. What have I lost that I deeply care about and miss? What loss has been “no big deal” or a “blessing in disguise?” We share our school process and evaluations as encouragement to others to intentionally lean into this time, process your evaluations, and prioritize maybe again what has value. Possibly ask, “who is my school, what do they say they offer vs what do they provide?” What do I ultimately want for my student?
At Saint Olaf we traded a solitary male Viking logo for a Viking ship on an ocean’s journey. The ship is a symbol that includes everyone. On a ship, we all have a job to do based on our individual skills and talents. We journey together going our separate ways when the final destination is reached. The voyage will be rough and exciting as we grow together. Our selected motto is Strength & Endurance. Our Principal, Mr. McFall, uses three key words to describe instruction. We develop learners who are endlessly curious about all things, resilient to face life’s ups and downs, and deeply faith-filled, kindly serving those around them. As the ideals of these 3 words are used to shape our students, they depart our ship equipped to face present trials and unknown futures.
So how are we at Saint Olaf Catholic School facing this turbulent moment? We face COVID-19 in the same way we have faced every day, with the Strength & Endurance we have built brick by brick, layer by layer. We honor our students’ academic year by seeing it through to its completion, even when we are weary, scared, and overwhelmed. We spend hours in early March prepping student work and moving to on-line platforms as we learn & adapt them. We plan creative ways to keep even our specials like Music, Spanish, and Art going. We use Zoom meetings and other platforms to connect and prepare staff and engage with our parents, equipping them for the coming storm. We remain in the ship, completing this portion of a very important journey for our children as they will never get this year back. The students at Saint Olaf finish the 2019-20 school year in its totality. They will return in the fall equipped to move forward in the next grade level. We will continue on together, stronger, having endured something unprecedented for our time. Our logo and motto have truly become our inspiration, urging us forward into new waters. Our hope and prayer is that each and every student’s academic year can somehow be honored and completed as the wave of COVID-19 washes over the entire globe.