Students welcome first day of school at St. Joseph's

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., Sep. 3, 2013
Maya, Avianna and Mindy Blair on the first day at St. Joseph's School in Thompson. Photos by D. Coffey.
Maya, Avianna and Mindy Blair on the first day at St. Joseph's School in Thompson. Photos by D. Coffey.

Caterer Russell Mackowiak was busy in the kitchen of St. Joseph's Elementary School in Thompson on Aug. 28, getting ready for students and their parents on the first day of school. He'd come in early to make coffee for the parents. A box of doughnuts sat on the counter. When an eighth-grade student came in and took a seat at a table, Mackowiak noticed. “Looks like he grew 3 inches over the summer,” he said.

Second-grade teacher Lori Proulx was in early, pulling pre-school duty. She was happy to be starting the school year because of the exuberance of the children, as well as the routine. When Mindy Blair came in with her daughters, Maya and Avianna, Proulx greeted them. The youngest hovered around her mother.

Principal Sharon Briere greeted parents and children as they arrived. She'd sent out an alert the night before so parents could drop in with their children if they wanted to. “It's nice to catch up with people,” Briere said.

Briere is in charge of 103 students in pre-k through eighth grade. It is the only Catholic pre-school in the state to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). For a program to be accredited as such, they must meet 10 standards including a curriculum that fosters all areas of a child's development, effective teaching approaches, ongoing assessments, and the promotion of positive relationships for all children and adults.

Briere is proud of the distinction. She's also aware of the responsibility she and her staff have to the children in their charge. “I said this to my teachers yesterday,” she said. “This job is a gift. These people are trusting us with their most prized possession - from 8 a.m to 3 p.m. and some from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's a very long day to put someone else in charge of bringing up your child.”  

Parents can drop their children off at 7:15 a.m. if they want to take advantage of a before-school program. An after-care program lets kids stay until 5:30 p.m. “There is snack, movie and time to do homework,” Briere said. “Parents take advantage so they can work.”

The small family environment was what drew Grace Gustafson to the school. “The teachers know the kids,” she said.

Parent Lisa Antonson agreed. Her son Evan is going into third grade, and her daughter Olivia graduated from St. Joe's. “We love the family environment and the values stressed,” she said. “But you don't need to be Catholic to come here.”

Lisa Adase isn't Catholic, but she chose St. Joe's because of its faith-based approach and the quality of education. “The classes are small. Each kid is treated as an individual,” she said. “Nothing makes the kids feel alienated.”

St. Joseph's pastor, the Rev. Charles LeBlanc, gathered with the teachers and staff for a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. “The kids get us back to what's important,” he said.

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