On a recent bright spring day in our nation’s capital, leadership from two SND affiliated schools had an opportunity to exchange ideas over lunch. With a shared legacy of the Sisters of Notre Dame and “National Blue Ribbon School” designations the schools have a lot in common. This was the first time, however, that current school leadership had a chance to meet and Sr. Mary Frances Taymans, the Director of the National Education Office, was delighted to introduce them. Pictured from left-to-right are Katie Sague Assistant Principal/Librarian Our Lady of Victory, Washington, DC; Sheila Martinez, Principal OLV; Kris Carr, Principal, St. Agnes, Arlington, VA and Sr. Mary Frances Taymans.
Opened by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1946, Saint Agnes School is located in Arlington, VA and enrolls approximately 440 students in Pre-K through 8th Grade. A “National Blue Ribbon School” with a rigorous core curriculum, St. Agnes teachers incorporate differentiated learning, small group activities, individualized assessments and instruction, group projects, and many other unique approaches to meet students’ academic needs.
Special events throughout the year which highlight students’ achievements include: a third grade “state fair” that features displays with interwoven themes of history, science, geography and fine arts; participation in the Diocesan Shakespeare Festival; the annual Christmas Prayer and Living Stations of the Cross; participation in the Spelling, Geography, and Religious Bees; and musical events showcasing musical talent in the spring concert and end-of-semester band concerts.
One favorite programs among teachers and students alike is “Random Acts of Kindness”. It is a program that recognizes the many random, wonderful and generous acts of kindness that St. Agnes’ students perform on a daily basis. A drawing is held on a monthly basis during the school year for students who are seen doing a good deed. Sample prizes include a dress down day or no a homework night for the entire class. It’s proven to be a very popular – and successful – program!
Not far away as the crow files, and across the Potomac River, Our Lady of Victory School in Washington, DC (OLV) was formed in 1954 and staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame from the Chardon, OH Province. Today the school is thriving with 208 students and has the rare distinction of having earned the National Blue Ribbon award twice – first in 2007 and again in 2016.
OLV is committed to “Developing Young Scholars” with a rigorous academic curriculum that prepares students for rewarding high school and college experiences; an intimate environment with individual attention from faculty and staff, dedicated teachers that are highly qualified, effective, and imaginative, and classrooms that are well-equipped for students to achieve. A full cadre of CYO athletics and supplemental activities like the arts program add richness to the OLV educational experience. “Born for This” is a dramatic presentation of the Stations of the Cross put on by the older students. The school year ends with a Spring Music and Arts Night in which the choir, band, art department and 8th grade host an evening for the enjoyment and entertainment of all school members, families, friends and parishioners.
Once again this year, an OLV teacher was honored with the “Golden Apple Award”. Marlene Aguilar-Nahas was one of 10 teachers in the Archdiocese of Washington to receive the annual award, which recognizes a teacher’s professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values, and devotion to teaching.
Originally from El Salvador, Aguilar-Nahas teaches Spanish to the whole school, but she does more than just help students learn how to speak the language. She incorporates Hispanic culture into her lesson plans, and in particular teaches about different Hispanic religious traditions.
The main objective of her teaching is “not only to teach kids to speak another language,” Aguilar-Nahas said, but to allow them to form an intercultural connection with the people whom they will be able to speak the language to. She considers this “a way to teach language with a Catholic message.” “We learn to love other people and seek God in their faces,” she added. Congratulations Marlene!!