By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
LEE’S SUMMIT — You might think first week of February is bleak and blah! But it doesn’t feel that way in Catholic schools. Each year, the end of January, beginning of February, celebrates Catholic Schools Week nationally, and boy do they celebrate!
Along with donut receptions after the weekend Masses Jan. 28-29, a Catholic School Week video produced by the seventh grade could be viewed in one of the meeting rooms, as well as all the student organization displays and the eighth grade Works of Mercy “glogster.” A glogster is an interactive poster that allows images to link to topical videos, in this case to the Works of Mercy. There was also a special blessing for school families by Father Tom Holder, pastor of Our Lady of the Presentation Church.
Monday, Feb. 1, was student appreciation day, and both students and teachers wore athletic or work-out garb. Photos were taken of the teachers in work-out wear, and everybody enjoyed a Chris Cakes pancake lunch.
The teacher coin war started Feb. 2; a three-day competition centering on the photos of the teachers in work-out clothes. Each teacher’s photo was attached to a jar and the students, many of whom had been saving spare change for some time, voted for their favorite by adding their change to that teacher’s jar. Through pajama dress day, a school service project — donating personal care items and other necessities to fill 470 convenience bags for families at Ronald McDonald House, a contribution valued at more than $2,000 — the coin war continued.
On Feb. 3, the school’s Buddy Bench was blessed by Father Holder with the students. The Buddy Bench, a bright yellow playground bench imprinted with the thumbprints of every student, will be a tool to fight loneliness and sadness and bring unity and inclusiveness to the student body. When a child is feeling left out of playground fun, he or she can sit on the bench, and when another student notices, they go and sit with the lonely student, keeping them company through conversation and friendliness. The bench is a gift to the school from parents.
Friday’s Spirit and Pep Assembly finally arrived.
The sounds of cheering and laughter grew as each class entered the gym. The Spirit Squad performed to much applause, and the noise level reached a crescendo as Mrs. Briggs walked onto the stage.
First she introduced a member of the Knights of Columbus, who announced the winners of the K of C essay contest —Catholic Citizenship.
The coin war totals were impressive. The fifth grade won, with third grade taking second place and sixth grade in third. The grand total collected was $1,371.32. Half the total, $685.66, was donated to the fifth grade’s chosen charity, Little Sisters of the Poor. The remaining $685.66 was donated to Lee’s Summit Social Services, enabling the charity to purchase 80 lbs. of cheese, 80 dozen eggs, and 80 half gallon bottles of milk to feed those in need, as the agency’s representative said.
Following a blessing from Father Tom Holder, and another Spirit Squad performance, the Sister of Charity Teacher of the Year was announced. The first teachers of Our Lady of the Presentation School in 1939 were Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.
The Sisters of Charity award is given annually to a teacher who demonstrates exemplary dedication and service to the school. Students, staff and parents anonymously nominate a faculty member. An outside panel of Catholic education professionals reviews the nominations. The selected teacher receives a $1,000 check provided by Our Lady of the Presentation PTO and a plaque commemorating the honor. The teacher is also given a reserved parking spot near the school’s entrance to use for one year.
The 2015 honoree, fourth grade teacher Kathy Coleman, was handed the envelope to make the announcement. Brigid Oberkrom, who teaches third grade, and has twin sons in the seventh grade, was named the Sisters of Charity 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Although Oberkrom began teaching at Presentation as a substitute in 2010, and has been teaching full-time for just two years, Briggs said she was a good choice for teacher of the year, citing her patience and her ability to see each student as an individual.
She explained, “Her true love of them radiates. Brigid’s the best of the best, phenomenal.”
Oberkrom’s husband Steve and sons Joshua and Christopher were present when the announcement was made.
Oberkrom, teary but smiling, said she couldn’t wait for the parking spot near to the door.