Forging Ahead Into the New School Year

As the doors of St. Thomas’s Day School opened for the first day of school last week, Head of School Gina Panza remarked, “There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of this community.” With the largest enrollment class in recent years, renovated classrooms and learning spaces, new technology, and updated curriculum, the school year began with an incredibly positive charge. The excitement was palpable as students not only took part in the usual first day fun, but got right down to serious learning as well.

Over the summer, Mrs. Panza led a team of designers, contractors, administrators and teachers in re-envisioning and then renovating classrooms and spaces for learning and playing in the 21st century. In addition, Assistant Head of School Sarah Walters co-developed curriculum that the spaces could now support.

Although the first floor renovations are breathtakingly new and fresh, the upgrades are not simply aesthetic. Everything from the carpeting to the furniture to the lighting was carefully considered and chosen based on proven research regarding the most productive learning environments. In addition, safety, accessibility, and flexibility were just some of the additional factors considered in the upgrades.

Perhaps most exciting is the upgraded technology and the makerspace. Formerly referred to as the Instructional Space, this summer it was transformed into a space to accommodate our new integrated learning program. Starting this year, each grade will have a weekly one to two hour time blocks dedicated to integrated learning where students will work with their teachers and the Technology Integrator on open-ended projects that demonstrate learning in content or curricular areas.Technology Integrator Chris Stapleton says, “To be able to stimulate problem solving and critical thinking skills through students and see their creations is one of the more exciting things I’m looking forward to.”

Touch It boards were also added to each classroom and is where we saw the most impact in the classrooms starting on the first day. Fourth Grade Teacher Lesha Daley reported, “The students were able to begin showcasing their summer projects using the Touch It board. It helped presentations come alive with clear visual and audio effects,” and in Erin Clark’s second grade class, she says “We used it for our interactive morning meeting today. We also plan to use apps such as Google Earth during Lower School Express to give the children a rich understanding of other countries, geography & culture.”

Though the school surely looked different for the start of it’s 63rd year, St. Thomas’s remains unchanged in its mission and commitment to its students. St. Thomas’s will forever be a school that empowers students to be independent thinkers who appreciate, understand and serve others by engaging active happy minds, open hearts and brave ideas.

Click below to see a video of highlights from the first day of school!

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