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School's curriculum connects students to global community

Dec. 6, 2011

School’s curriculum connects students to global community
by Kathy Adamson

In today’s era of instant communication and global access, it’s more important than ever for children to be more than just competent in the core educational disciplines. They must also have an understanding of the world at large, and how our community fits into the global landscape. One way to add this extra dimension to students’ education is through classes such as computer science, foreign language, art, music, and library. St. John Vianney School (SJV) offers an excellent array of these classes, taught by accomplished professionals in their fields, carefully designed to ignite student’s imagination and interest in these areas.
Jared Ziegler, the music teacher at SJV, holds a Bachelors of Music Education from UW-Eau Claire and a Masters of Music in Saxophone Performance from Northwestern University. He works with the community as a faculty member at the Summer Music Clinic in Madison and the Performing Arts Institute in Kingston, Pa. Additionally, he has performed professionally with both the Kenosha Symphony and the Minnesota Opera. Last year, the Civic Music Association awarded Ziegler their Certificate of Excellence in General Music Instruction and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra honored him in their Educator’s Night concert. Fortunately for SJV, Ziegler has focused much of his talent into developing the music program, which includes grades K4 through eighth grade. The students are encouraged to “seek out music in their daily lives and to be an active participant, not only as a listener, but as a music maker,” says Zeigler who also oversees the guitar concert and directs all the school’s holiday musical celebrations. SJV has a band, led by Joan Lueneburg , who has led many vocal and bell choirs and as well as solo performances at different institutions. Maria Gesiorek, who plays the viola and violin, coordinates the school’s string orchestra, has played with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and was a member of the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra.
Linda Moss, St. John Vianney’s Spanish teacher, received her Bachelor’s in Spanish Education from UW-Oshkosh with a minor in English. Moss spent valuable time immersed in the Spanish language and culture when she studied at the University of Salamanca-Spain. All first through eighth grade students receive foreign language education at SJV and Moss believes the earlier children are exposed to a foreign language, the more successful they will be at understanding and communicating that language. The curriculum evolves over eight years, first exposing the younger children to pronunciation then gradually progressing so that by seventh and eighth grade, the students can read, write, and converse in Spanish. In fact, the seventh and eighth grade SJV curriculum meets Spanish 1 high school requirements and many graduating SJV eighth graders enter high school Spanish level 2 courses. Foreign language education at SJV is comprehensive and students will leave “with an understanding of the Spanish language and the importance it has in their lives,” Moss said.

A favorite of many students, computer class is taught by Andy Stemper who holds a Bachelor’s of Elementary Education from UW-La Crosse as well as a Masters in Education from Viterbo University. In addition to his responsibilities at SJV, Stemper serves as an Instructional Technology Coordinator at Cardinal Stritch. Students receive computer training from K5 through eighth grade and Stemper coordinates with classroom teachers to create a project-based instructional program that incorporates all aspects of the school’s curriculum. Consistent with national standards, SJV’s computer program includes keyboarding skills, word processing, spreadsheet manipulation, Power Point creation, research, Web 2.0, and other on-line activities, according to Stemper. The school also has cutting-edge technologies including a newly updated computer lab, mobile laptops, SMART boards in every classroom, and powerful assessment software for teachers. There’s even online access to an interactive program for parents and students to use together. “[We hope] to enable children to develop academically, socially and spiritually through the use of integrated technology,” says Stemper. “At SJV, we value the importance of technology to today’s learners, and continue to evaluate and update it.”
The SJV curriculum includes other professionals who enrich the student’s education. The school’s reading specialist, Gerise Grzeszczak , provides additional lesson plans and support to ensure every student masters learning skills. The art teachers, Robin Leenhouts and Allene Ricker, direct art projects that introduce students to different art medium and challenge students to express their imagination. Librarian Christine Weichart teaches students the usefulness of library resources and promotes the importance of life-long reading. Will Jackson, the school’s physical education teacher, highlights the importance of fitness safety and cooperation.
These are just a few examples of the ways St. John Vianney’s teachers are raising the standard of education for tomorrow’s leaders, and as Nelson Mandela said, "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
St. John Vianney Catholic School of Brookfield, WI has openings in most grades and is now enrolling. To schedule a tour, please call 262.796.3942 or email Principal Pamela Pyzyk at today.

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