ROME — Some things have changed at Transfiguration School in Rome, but other things have stayed the same.
A Thanksgiving tradition of having a school-wide turkey dinner with all of the fixings continued on Nov. 21, as students hosted bus drivers, volunteers, and other dignitaries from the community for the meal thanking them for their tireless efforts throughout the year. Students were dressed in Native American and Pilgrim costumes for the festivities. They sang the Christian song, “Go Light Your World” with words appropriately describing how all people should live their lives. “Carry a candle, run through the darkness, seek out the hopeless, confused and torn. Hold out your candle. For all to see it. Take your candle and go light the world,” the Transfiguration students sang. The children then led their guests to the cafeteria line for a plate full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn and pie.
However, the school has changed over the last few months. At the end of the last school year, Transfiguration School went from a K-6 school to a K-3 school. Many of the fourth, fifth and sixth grade students from Transfiguration School transferred to St. Peter’s School, a few blocks away. Both Transfiguration and St. Peter’s Schools have been working cooperatively to help ease the transition for the older students.
With the extra classroom space, Transfiguration School added a full-day pre-K program. The program provides working parents with a safe, welcoming Catholic environment for their children. In its first year, six students have enrolled and more are inquiring daily. “We have a wonderful physical plant for the kids. We don’t have any big kids so we were able to move everything closer to ground level for them,” said Beth Warwick, principal of Transfiguration School, who also helps with the pre-K program.
The pre-K classroom is located in the old sixth grade classroom, a few doors down from Warwick’s office. This centralized location allows students to join with other grade levels for collaborative lessons.
Nancy Wilson, a second grade teacher at the school, is also one of the team members in the pre-K program. She said the school looked at other full-day pre-K programs in the state before deciding on the format of their program in Rome.
“We did a lot of research. We went to pre-K’s in Utica and Schenectady and saw what they did. We worked all summer and put a lot of time and energy in. There also was a conference in Buffalo that some of us attended and we got some great ideas and resources,” Wilson said. “There is an untapped need in our community for a Catholic all-day pre-K.”
The all-day pre-K is geared for working parents who need the full day for their children. Rome Catholic Preschool, which is at St. Peter’s School, is only a half-day program and Wilson said parents find it an excellent place for that period of time. But some parents just need to have their children at pre-K all day. With before and after school daycare, students can be at the school from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. some days, Wilson said. “People are looking for a loving family environment for their children. There is no better place for that than at a Catholic school,” Wilson explained. “We want to help families in anyway we can to help them get here.”
The team, consisting of Wilson and a few other teachers and a full-time assistant, Margaret White, take the children in pre-K through the day. Students begin the day with common lessons with kindergarten students, along with circle time for literature and learning basic songs, poems and rhymes. Science is also mixed into the curriculum.
“One day recently, we talked about Jack and Jill. They learned the nursery rhyme, then we talked about centrifugal force using a pail,” Wilson said. “We also get them involved in gross motor activities throughout the day.” One major focus of the pre-K program is language arts. “Literature and language arts are so important to early literacy,” said Wilson. “We read to them and we work with them on letters and their sounds.”
Before long, the morning is complete and students have lunch. In the afternoon, all students have a nap because it’s a full-day program. After resting, students awake to different learning centers.
“We have dramatic arts, painting, toys, crafts and a huge block center. We might surprise the kids by putting things in the sand area, and it becomes a discovery time for them. We take an extremely developmental approach which is both fun and inviting,” said Wilson.
Nick Ferlo, 4, a pre-K student at the school, was dressed in his pilgrim attire. He said he was thankful for many things this holiday season. “I’m thankful for my bed, my sheets, my family, God, school and food,” Nick explained.
Other students gave their thoughts on Thanksgiving. Some of the students weren’t big fans of turkey, but loved mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie.
“When I think of Thanksgiving, I see people eating turkey, having big feasts,” said Madison Kirch, 6, a first grader. “I’m thankful for the food we have, my mom and dad, my sister, three goldfish, my dog and all the people that God made.” Second-grader Taylor McCormick, 7, said she is thankful for her family, other relatives and God. She said Thanksgiving is a good time for celebration.
Anthony Gutierrez, 5, a kindergarten student at Transfiguration School, is looking forward to his brother John coming home for Thanksgiving. The family recently moved to Rome.
“I miss him. He stayed and goes to school where we used to live,” Anthony said. “I’m thankful and excited he is coming for Thanksgiving. I’m also thankful for God, my family and friends.”
Dominick Provenzano, 8, was thankful for being in the third grade, having good parents and being healthy. “I’m also thankful for my friends, good food, a nice house and my cats Smokey and Silly.”
After lunch, students gave thanks to Warwick by giving her a card and gifts as part of National Catholic School Principals’ Day.