A fifth-grader at Sacred Heart School in Winnetka found a twenty-dollar bill on the playground one day and turned it in to an adult.
Another student got down on one knee to tie the shoe of a younger student in a hallway.
Sacred Heart third-graders were playing kickball at the school when a first-grader expressed interest in pitching in the game. A third-grader let the boy pitch.
Random acts of kindness, all of the above.
Witnesses — or “courtesy catchers” — described the acts on pieces of paper. The pieces of paper ended up on a bulletin board for all to see, a refreshing old-school way of communication in a technology-laden world. The kind students were recognized at mass at the end of a month.
“It’s about the whole child here, not just about a child’s academic record,” says Kristen Fink, principal at Sacred Heart School (pre-K through eighth grade) since 2015. “We turn out outstanding citizens, good disciples of faith. Service is such a huge part of what we do as Catholics.”
Sacred Heart (current enrollment: 197, all in the same building) recently administered the ACT Aspire Assessment to its students for the first time, and the results reached a glowing status. SHS was unsurpassed across all five disciplines in all six tested grade levels compared to both the Archdiocese of Chicago and national averages.
“We meet our students’ needs,” says Dr. Marcy Canel, Director of Student Services at the school. “We know there is not a manual that teaches each student how to read; everybody picks up reading differently. If a student needs math help? We make sure the student gets it, though I prefer math ‘expansion’ to math ‘help’.”
Walk into Julianne Schmitt’s first-grade classroom at Sacred Heart, and there’s a good chance your eyes will swell. You might do a double-take. Or maybe a triple-take. The room contains a bean bag here, a yoga ball there. Big pillows, too, plus a couch. Traditional chairs and desks are available for students, as are kneeling desks and stools with rounded bases.
Flexible seating arrangements enhance the learning process.
“Research says you’ll learn more in a classroom if you don’t sit in the same spot each day,” says Schmitt, in her sixth year at Sacred Heart. “My room has a variety of seating options, like a Starbucks in a way. The students are excited about them because they’re different and they’re comfortable.”
Principal Fink, a former grade-school teacher, still considers herself a teacher first. She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. Her second-grade teacher was Miss Corsmire, passionate about more than just words and numbers. An unforgettable influence.
“She made learning fun, and she had so much energy,” Fink recalls. “And she got to know us, wanted to know us. I remember Career Day, second grade, the day I dressed up as a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher. I wore my hair in a bun, put on some glasses and carried a book and a ruler.
“Our teachers at Sacred Heart are incredible, so collaborative, and they’re vital to our community of students and their parents,” she adds. “Our parents are generous, great volunteers, and they’re welcoming to parents of our new students.”
A first-grader named Tom will join Schmitt’s first-grade class in November. His first day at Sacred Heart is Nov. 7. Schmitt’s students know the date. They’ve been excited about his arrival for weeks.
“Just the other day,” Schmitt says, “my students were asking about Tom and wondering about his school supplies. One of them said to me, ‘Tom is going to get a folder like the ones we have, right?’ ”
Tom, initially, won’t notice the unique classroom furniture on his first day at Sacred Heart School.
He’ll be too distracted by something else, something warm: a roomful of beaming classmates.
Sacred Heart School (1095 Gage Street, Winnetka) hosts an Open House on November 17, from 9-11 a.m. and from 7-8:30 p.m. For more information, please call (847) 446-0005.