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St. Mary’s strengthening its faith-based education

Posted on September 26, 2018 by Taber Times
GOOD EATS: St. Mary’s School recently had its welcome-back barbecue where staff, students and parents got to enjoy the vegetable Taber is best known for, its sweet corn on the cob. TIMES PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ST. MARY'S SCHOOL

By Greg Price
Taber Times

Intertwining faith and a quality education, St. Mary’s School is off to another good start to the school year.

Given the large graduating class from last year, St. Mary’s was expecting a small dip in its numbers for the 2018/2019 academic year, but got a pleasant surprise.

“We’re up a handful of students. We expected a smaller population coming in because our class coming in was smaller than our graduating class. But we enrolled probably a plus-10,” said Randy Spenrath, principal at St. Mary’s School.

As far as staff goes for St. Mary’s, there is a new CTS (Career and Technology Studies) teacher in Jason Kraemer. There are also two university interns in Anne Haalen (Science and Math) and Brendan Kearl (physical education).

A new health initiative is being done at St. Mary’s this year with the aid of five University of Lethbridge nursing students. They will be coming in every Thursday and Friday to support wellness initiatives in the school, until the end of November.

“We are looking forward to that. It will be things like nutritional aspects, do classroom sessions and even Q&A sessions with students, along with supporting some health programming,” said Spenrath. “We want them setting up some sessions on our flex Fridays with whatever their area of expertise is going to be in.”

Coming near the end of an educational cycle, the school has a new faith theme for 2018/2019. The overall three-year cycle faith theme has been Growing in Faith Together. The first year it was rooted in Christ with foundational work in prayer and understanding scripture. This year it is about sharing one’s bounty.

“It is taking your God-given gifts and sharing them in the community. Sharing them globally, sharing them in the school. It’s identifying them first of all and then sharing them with others,” said Spenrath.

Spenrath has seen many encouraging trends emerge at St. Mary’s School in recent years which he would like to see continue as the numbers get crunched.

Last year, over 30 per cent of the student population was involved in fine arts programs, be it the arts or music.

“We are not designated as a fine arts school, but that is a very high number for students to be involved in programs like that. There is all that data out there that supports greater academic success when students are involved in those types of programs,” said Spenrath. “It’s very valuable to have that high of a population enrolled in them.”

Also, over half of the student body is involved in an extra circular programs, mostly athletics.

“And we all know the benefits that come with that in participating in athletics. With health, leadership and teamwork, time management, and you see an improvement in academics,” said Spenrath. “It’s an opportunity to learn in a fun environment.”

Those athletics have the school bursting with activity where Spenrath noted the school’s gymnasium is booked solid from when the bell rings at 3:15 p.m. every weekday until 9 p.m.

Digging further into the academic numbers, Spenrath beamed with pride with the recent diploma and PAT results in Grade 9 Science, Biology 30, Chemistry 30 and Math 30-1.

“I know we are not perfect, there are still things we have to develop and build on with regard to some of our PAT and diploma results. But, we are really happy to see some of those strong results in areas of excellence,” said Spenrath.

That being said, the St. Mary’s School graduating class of 2018 qualified for over $46,000 in Rutherford Scholarship money.

“That was out of a graduating class with 35 students. That’s a lot of money for those few of students and that’s just Rutherford money,” said Spenrath. “Those are numbers we are quite proud of, and it’s because of the commitment of the staff and the commitment of the students to work hard.”

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