15. Saint Anne Parish School to Kick-off Catholic Schools Week with Open House


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On Sunday, January 25, Saint Anne Parish School in Barrington will kick off a week of events commemorating National Catholic Schools week, which runs from January 25-31. The theme of this year’s annual celebration of Catholic education is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

St. Anne Parish School Principal, Dawn Kapka, with St. Anne students - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
St. Anne Parish School Principal, Dawn Kapka, with St. Anne students – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Saint Anne, which has served children from preschool through middle school since 1927, will convene National Catholic Schools week by opening their doors to all who would like to learn more about the school’s faith-centered approach. Saint Anne’s principal, Dawn Kapka, extends a warm invitation to all to attend the school’s open house on Sunday, January 25.

A St. Anne student hard at work - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
A St. Anne student hard at work – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

The open house will begin with a 9:00 a.m. mass at Saint Anne Catholic Community, followed by programs at the Parish School until 1:00 p.m. Faculty and staff will be available to provide tours and answer any questions attendees may have. Guests are welcome to attend for any length of time.

Principal Dawn Kapka looks forward to sharing what she feels is a very unique educational environment. “This is truly a family and a home for our faculty, staff, and students. You feel that warmth the minute you arrive, and it is what defines our school.” Dawn also cites the school’s wonderful relationship with Saint Anne Catholic Community, and specifically Father Bernie Pietrzak’s support, as a cornerstone of the school’s success.

Father Bernie Pietrzak leads an all-school mass - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
Father Bernie Pietrzak leads an all-school mass – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

When asked how she created Saint Anne’s atmosphere of warmth, Dawn shies away from taking credit. “It has to come from a truly genuine place in everyone’s hearts. It’s not just a leadership style or a school climate. It’s truly rooted in love: love for our children; love for our great work as Catholic school educators; and our strong desire to serve God, our children, and one another before ourselves.”

Dawn joined the Saint Anne staff four years ago, and feels she has found her professional home. After beginning her career as a public school teacher, Dawn eventually became a Catholic school teacher and administrator. “It was difficult to transition away from a teacher’s level of interaction with the students, but I look at this position as a ministry with great ability to positively impact all the children of Saint Anne. I view myself as a teacher first, and have been told many times that I am a students’ principal.”

St. Anne students relax after running in Physical Education class - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
St. Anne students relax after running in Physical Education class – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

One member of the Saint Anne faculty has enjoyed a nearly lifelong relationship with the school: Sharon Curran, a fourth grade teacher, attended Saint Anne school herself in 8th grade. “I moved here from another Catholic school, and was able to attend for a year before going off to Barrington High School.” Sharon then attended Northern Illinois University, and was hired at Saint Anne her first year out of college. “I’ve been a Saint Anne student, teacher, and mom/teacher. I’ve raised three children who attended Saint Anne (now 22, 26, and 30), all of whom I taught as well.”

Fourth grade teacher Sharon Curran with Principal Dawn Kapka - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
Fourth grade teacher Sharon Curran with Principal Dawn Kapka – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Sharon says that the dual role of mom/teacher was tough, but manageable. “My husband took over as homework/study parent in those years – I couldn’t very well study with them when I knew what would be on the test!” She admits to wanting to push the boundaries, but resisted the temptation: “There were maybe a couple of times when I wondered if I could designate making the bed as homework, but I never did,” Sharon laughs.

Dawn Kapka says Sharon exemplifies the best qualities of Saint Anne’s faculty members: “She opens her arms and heart to her students, and has the energy of someone just beginning her teaching career,” Dawn says. “She is constantly building bridges among the faculty, and creating opportunities for them to learn from one another.”

A St. Anne student hard at work - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
A St. Anne student hard at work – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Saint Anne faculty members, all of whom are state certified in Illinois, frequently attend professional development courses and continually work to stay abreast of new technology and methodology. The school has recently made significant investments in technology devices for the classrooms, with the help of funds raised by school families in the 2014-2015 Tech-a-thon (see the video, below).

The school has adopted the use of Apple computers and devices, which Saint Anne’s technology teacher, Lauren Wolf, uses to teach students the computer skills necessary for 21st-century learners. She also supports teachers in their efforts to integrate technology into class projects, where appropriate.

“We have optimized our use of resources in this area, to ensure that we have invested in devices that will grow with the development of our programs,” Dawn says.

These investments in professional development and technology have a clear benefit to Saint Anne students: “We are so fortunate to receive feedback from area high schools that our graduates are consistently among their best prepared incoming students,” Sharon says. “It’s so gratifying, and tells us that we’re on the right path.”

Margaret Graff, a Saint Anne parent, parishioner, and Advisory Board member, says she and her husband, Bill Graff, were drawn to the school because of its strong sense of community. “We chose Saint Anne for our son because we knew it would give him the sense of belonging to a larger family.”  Bill is also very active in the community and chairs the Saint Anne Parish Council of Ministries.

Saint Anne has a Buddy Program that connects older students with younger ones which, Margaret says, is part of the feeling of family that Saint Anne school creates.

Students test their contraptions in Andrew Carter's class - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
Students test their contraptions in Andrew Carter’s fourth grade class – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Saint Anne is able to foster that sense of larger community while providing a great student:teacher ratio. The Graffs like that Saint Anne is a smaller school – it currently serves 425 students from 26 northwest Chicago suburbs. Class sizes average between 15-20 students.”I know that, given those numbers, our son is getting individualized attention in each of his classes,” Margaret says.

Margaret has been impressed with the school’s approach to educating the whole child. “I know the teachers will care as much for our son’s spirit as for his mind. Many of the teachers have known him since kindergarten.” She is particularly happy that he is  is now spending his middle school years in the St. Anne environment: “He can spread his wings, but do so in a safe environment where Catholic values are consistently reinforced.”

Middle school girls at St. Anne Parish School - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
Middle school girls at St. Anne Parish School – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Saint Anne offers many flexible options for care and enrichment before and after school. Parents appreciate that students can participate in many extracurricular activities right on Saint Anne’s campus. Margaret also notes that Saint Anne’s athletic programs are very strong. “We have wonderful coaches, and a no-cut policy that ensures all kids can have the team sports experience if they so choose.”

A St. Anne boys' basketball team - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
A St. Anne boys’ basketball team – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Dawn Kapka and the Saint Anne faculty and staff look forward to welcoming the community on January 25th. If you are interested in learning more about Saint Anne, Dawn encourages you to call anytime to ask questions and schedule a visit. The school website provides extensive information on school programs and offerings.

If you are unable to make it to the open house, Dawn will also be speaking at the Barrington Area Library on January 26, at 7:00 p.m., as part of a discussion of alternative education offerings in the Barrington area. To register, email slove@davinciwaldorf.org, or call (847)526-1372.

“Saint Anne is a hard place to leave at the end of the day,” Dawn says.”It truly feels like home.”

St. Anne School Students - Photographed by Sally Roeckell
St. Anne School Students – Photographed by Sally Roeckell

Saint Anne Parish School is located at 319 Franklin Street in Barrington, Illinois. For more information, you can reach the school’s main office at 847-301-0311. Click here to follow the latest St. Anne School updates on Facebook or visit their website at StAnneSchoolBarrington.org.

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