A former teacher and grief counselor, Sister Kathryn Keenan is now Principal Kathryn at Notre Dame Elementary School in Belmont. Without hesitation, she admits that her favorite part of the job is visiting with the children and teachers and seeing the active learning in the classrooms. Another favorite activity is continuing to build on the Sisters of Notre Dame heritage at the school.
The 2013 school year started with the rollout of the Hallmarks (the values of a Notre Dame learning community) and each week a different hallmark is featured (for example, “We honor the dignity and sacredness of each person”). Students are challenged to live out that hallmark and those who best exemplify the hallmark are honored and given a flower petal with their name and what they did. The petals are added to the Hallmarks’ garden wall.
Not all the learning takes place in the classroom. Every Monday, eighth-graders go to St. Vincent de Paul to bag food and seventh-graders visit the elderly at the nursing home. Younger students help in food drives and other projects. These service efforts go a long way in helping students get a glimpse of the needs in their community.
What people might not know about the school is the collaboration that exists between it, the high school and the university who share the campus. Eighth grade students attend some classes at Notre Dame High School and use the gym for sporting events. NDNU students help out at the elementary school with tutoring and small groups as part of an education class. It’s a very positive experience for all the students.
As with most schools, funding is always a priority and a challenge. Besides tuition-assistance needs, Sister is hoping to get funding for updating the computers and repaving the parking lot.
When asked: What do you want the community and perspective students to know? Principal Kathryn replied, “There’s a tremendous amount of goodness here—in the children, teachers, staff and parents.”