Leaving Footprints

Dec. 4-10, 2003
Leaving Footprints
By Kristen Fox / SUN contributing writers
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Trinity Catholic School strives to educate the entire child

Oswego, NY — Small inspirational banners have decorated Trinity Catholic School since the school year began in September. They contain phrases like “Taste the soup,” and “We leave footprints in people’s hearts,” a favorite of principal David Friedlander. Friedlander put them up at the suggestion of Father Michael Carmola, director of Christ the King Retreat Center in Syracuse, who held a workshop for Trinity’s teachers and faculty prior to the start of the school year. “They remind everyone who enters the school to stop and think about the important things,” said Friedlander.

Trinity, serving pre-K through sixth grade, is the sole Catholic school in Oswego. As a Catholic school, one of its foremost tasks is to provide an environment in which words, actions and beliefs are modeled on the life of Jesus. “Academics are important, but we also want children who are in tune with God and who are productive and kind human beings,” Friedlander said. “We can give children the best education, but if they don’t develop into compassionate people then we haven’t done our job.” Like other Catholic schools in the diocese, Trinity has been involved in a strategic planning process to improve and enhance Catholic education. The school is currently in its second year of its long-range plan, according to Friedlander. The school’s planning committee is comprised of faculty, parents, members of the parish community, including pastors, and representatives of the general community. Their goal is to restore the livelihood and ensure the future success of Catholic education in Oswego County. “What we are doing is not only establishing a financial base for the future but also making sure our enrollment remains strong and developing better communications with the diocese as well as with other parishes in the county,” Friedlander said.

With strong enrollment numbers, an environment rooted in academics and faith coupled with art and music programs, Trinity’s future looks bright. “Students, teachers, faculty and parents have pride in Trinity Catholic,” said Friedlander. Denise Knight-St. John, technology coordinator at Trinity, is just one of Trinity’s highly experienced and motivated teachers who is committed to making the learning experience as meaningful as possible. Knight-St. John teaches computer instruction for kindergarten through sixth graders with supervised Internet access.

While computer labs are a staple of most modern schools, many students are left unattended to navigate the Internet world. There is a need to teach students how to properly use the equipment, remarked Knight-St. John. “The mere presence of equipment does not determine the success of a technology program,” said Knight-St. John. “Students need to learn how to use the programs available on the equipment, be instructed in the ethical, moral, safety and legal issues involved with having these resources, and carry them over as a life-long skill.” The trick to learning is to do it in a way that is exciting for the students, noted Knight-St. John. She instituted a robotics program for the sixth grade, which is a fun way for students to learn about technology. “It is a very exciting, demanding and enjoyable experience for the students to put problem-solving engineering and programming skills, as well as good old computer workstation know-how, to use,” she said.

Trinity follows New York State learning standards for curriculum development, said Friedlander. But he added that the teachers, such as Knight-St.John who “truly love what they do” often take the extra step in the classroom to make learning fun. “We follow the cirrculum but we don’t stop there,” said Friedlander. “Our teachers think outside the box. In doing so, they are setting high expectations for their students.” Teachers at Trinity help their students master skills by turning ordinary lessons into fun and exciting adventures. Sixth grade teacher Rebecca Flack strengthened her students’ social studies skills as they participated in the Greek Olympics. Wearing Greek-themed attire, the students reenacted Olympic events such as the javelin throw. Through the smiles and fun, they were soaking up knowledge about the time period. “Learning can be fun,” said Flack. Students learn at different rates and in different ways. Trinity is able to serve some students with mild disabilities. Resource and remedial reading teachers are present three days a week to assist students with special needs. “Students with learning disabilities should not be prevented from attending a Catholic school,” said Friedlander.

Even the pope knows there is something special about Trinity. On Oct. 17, Trinity received an apostolic blessing from Pope John Paul II. The large, framed proclamation, bearing a greeting from His Holiness to the students and faculty was delivered to the school on behalf of Bishop James Moynihan and the pope. The plaque states, “His Holiness John Paul II cordially imparts an apostolic blessing on Trinity Catholic School as a pledge of divine grace and protection.” “This is very special for us,” said Friedlander, adding that it came during the pope’s 25th anniversary. There will soon be another addition to the school. Trinity has received a grant from the Heritage Campaign to replace its original windows, which have been in place since the building was constructed in 1935. The improvement is one of the pro-active responses to the criticisims regarding the future of Catholic education in Oswego County, said Friedlander. “Trinity Catholic is on the right track and moving forward,” said Friedlander. “We are here and we are going to be here.” For more information, contact Trinity Catholic at (315) 343-6700 or visit their website at http://home.twcny.rr.com/trinity

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