Ongoing Curriculum Work
Providing a solid framework of curriculum to direct and lead our teaching is essential for an optimal learning environment. The National Common Core Standards are far more rigorous than the Illinois State Standards, and therefore, over the last five years, we have made it our goal to begin implementing these curricular changes. St. Thomas the Apostle has used a backwards design approach to implement both English and Math Common Core Standards. Every year a new subject gets added.
We actively use a computer-based testing instrument three times a year to capture instant feedback on both individual, as well as, classroom growth. (Measures of Academic Progress Results) MAP testing provides a growth model, allowing us to capture data and evaluate how our students are improving throughout the school year. This information is highly valuable to the teacher as they study both student and classroom growth and learning.
At St. Thomas the Apostle, we recognize that all students have unique gifts and talents. It is our responsibility to foster and cultivate these strengths as well as to identify additional areas needing support. At STS we use our MAP testing results to offer small group reinforcement, particularly in the area of Math. Two full time resource/gifted teachers allow us to offer target groups at every grade level.
Challenge our Minds, Expand Thinking was created as an enrichment/gifted opportunity for those students who qualify based on their MAP results, ITBS and classroom grades. This is offered twice a week at every grade level. The program’s focus is in the area of Math with a specific emphasis placed on problem solving, teamwork, higher order thinking skills, and exposure to some concepts earlier than the grade level.
St. Thomas prides itself in educating the whole child. In 3rd and 4th grade, we offer a Steps to Respect Program. This is a nationally recognized program and is taught by a staff member that incorporates learning about the cause/effect of respect/disrespect, preventive measures to disrespect and reporting techniques for bystanders.
The 6th-8th grades participate in Advisory which helps students develop positive relationships through experiences that utilize group dynamics. This promotes critical thinking skills through discussion and problem-solving activities so students can learn to make responsible choices. It also builds self-esteem and confidence in students, showing them they are capable young people who accept responsibility for their own actions.
Religious Education and Faith Formation
From the time that you enter our building, it is our hope that you can see and feel the difference of our Catholic school culture and community. We pride ourselves in teaching core values that every student needs to become a compassionate and service minded citizen. We work, in partnership with our parents, to find teachable moments to show that with faith and God’s love we can reach far beyond ourselves.
Constantly Growing in Technology
In a technology driven society, it is important that we embed the skills and concepts needed for the 21st century learner.
- All classrooms are equipped with an interactive smartboard for interactive engagement.
- Every student has access to a Chromebook. 5th through 8th grade students have their own leased device, and Kindergarten through 4th grade classrooms each have a Chromebook cart for student use.
- St. Thomas is a Google for Education school and utilizes Google Classroom for 4th-8th grade instruction.
- All Kindergarten-3rd grade classrooms use Clever’s single-sign on platform to access applications on the Chromebooks.
- In 2016, we opened our MakerSpace housed within the library. This lab increases student engagement and collaboration for projects across curriculums. It includes lots of electronics such as Spheros, Ozobots and Little Bits, as well as games, free-play manipulatives and making supplies.
- In 2015, St. Thomas won a grant and purchased a 3D printer that allows students to design and print their own creations, from keychains to Greek columns.
- Students are exposed to elements of Coding throughout the grade levels, such as CodeSpark Academy, code.org and Scratch.
- Online learning continues when school is closed. During our long-term eLearning, each student, Kindergarten through 8th grade, has a Chromebook at home to continue lessons and communicate with teachers.
We have aligned our K-8th grade writing program to meet the rigorous demands of the National Standards. All students are exposed to a variety of forms with an emphasis on developing an awareness of form, structure, formal style, organization, sentence fluency, and voice in various formats and genres. In the Fall of 2018 we implemented a new writing series school wide, titled Traits Writing.
Fine Arts Programs
- Band – St. Thomas the Apostle is fortunate to have our own in-house band program.
- Art – Every classroom receives an Art lesson by a dedicated Art Teacher. The objective of our art program is to develop an understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of visual art as well as to identify and develop individual artistic talents in our students.
- Drama – Students may explore their acting and drama skills through our school spring musical.
- Spanish – Spanish is offered by a dedicated Spanish instructor once a week for K-4th and twice a week for 5th-8th grades.
School wide, as well as, classroom service projects are fundamentally important to our mission here at STS. Our student council, as leaders in our building, help organize our annual Neighborhood House Toy Drive. STS partners with the Neighborhood House, which allows our students to help run their sale. In past years, every grade level has picked a project that they feel passionate about. Our seventh graders have partnered with PAWS to make blankets for the animals at the shelter. Our students enter St. Thomas the Apostle to learn and exit to serve!