The prides of one area Catholic school

Bishop Johnston blesses a classroom in Our Lady of the Presentation School’s new wing during Catholic Schools Week. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

LEE’S SUMMIT — Our Lady of the Presentation School has a lot to be proud of and three of those things were showcased on the last day of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 31.

Early in the morning, the 6th and 8th grade Robotics Team met to review their First Lego League project, the Park Planners #6476, that made it to the top 44 championship teams out of almost 200 teams. They will be one of the teams representing the Kansas City area at the Arkansas Regional Robotics competition this spring.

Our Lady of the Presentation School began offering the after-school Robotics club nine years ago, and this academic year, has two multi-grade teams — a 5th and 7th grade team and the 6th and 8th grade team. The school also offers an instructional team for interested fourth graders.

The team consists of four eighth graders and two sixth graders — 8th graders Garrett, Erica and Alex have been active in the Robotics club for four years; Ricky, also an 8th grader, has been active for two years, as have sixth graders Ian and Amelia.

The kids explained that the Lego League project theme changes every year, with “City Shapers” being the 2019-2020 academic year theme. There are four elements to the Robotics Club: Core values – teamwork, learning about self and forming the best version of self in daily life — projects, robot design and robot games.

Before they decided on their project, they had to answer the question, “How can you improve a public space in your community?” Answering involved teamwork, inclusion, integration and discovery.

The Lego League Robotics team that will take their park renovation project to the Arkansas Regional Robotics competition this spring shows off the project and trophies.

The team decided that Pleasant Lea Park, an outdated, unimproved neighborhood park was to be their Lego robotics project and began the process of renovating the park with Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation. The team took a field trip to the park to learn everything they could about it, studied the park and surrounding community’s demographics, spoke with land use designers, a zoning attorney and a family with a wheelchair bound member. They researched handicap accessible playgrounds on the Internet and began.

The competition was part project display and part robotics display. Along with photographs, charts and drawings of the current park and what the team hoped to accomplish, they built a robot named Dade, entirely (except for the motors) of Legos. The kids used pivoting attachments and figured out that inserting the motors upside down gave them more room, but they had to reverse their commands as a result. Down meant up, and backward meant forward.  The robot has two color sensors, black and white.

The kids say the project will bring accessible equipment and new ideas to Lee’s Summit parks. Currently, there are only a few parks where differently-abled children and adults can play together. Additionally, they expect that implementing a pump track and some other ideas would revitalize the park and neighborhood.

About mid-morning, the whole school gathered in the main hallway and stairwell of the new classroom and chapel wing for Bishop James Johnston, Jr.’s blessing. Accompanied by Fathers Tom Holder, pastor, and Olvin Giron, parochial Vicar, and Deacon Jim Olshefski, the bishop led a short prayer service for the whole school in the stairwell, reminding the students and teachers that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.”

A student reads a prayer during the prayer service and blessing of the new wing of the school Jan. 31. Listening are Bishop Johnston, Deacon Jim Oshefski, Fr. Tom Holder, other students and faculty. (Marty Denzer/Key photos)

In front of a painting of the Virgin Mary as a child, he asked God to “bless this work and the education that takes place inside the beautiful new wing full of light and pictures of the saints.” He asked that it help “bring the light of Christ to the world. What happens in the classroom is holy,” he said. “We grow in knowledge and Christ shapes our lives. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our lives!”

He then walked to each of the eight new classrooms, blessing with holy water the walls, doors, desks, books, black-and-whiteboards, the students and teachers.

The morning and the school day ended with an assembly in the gymnasium – a time of games featuring the teachers, cheerleaders dancing and cheering, fundraising proceeds given to charities, essay contest winners announced, KC Wolf making a brief visit (he had to leave for Miami as the Superbowl would be played in two days) and the annual Teacher of the Year Award.

Bishop Johnston was a special guest at the assembly, with Presentation’s Knights of Columbus Council Grand Knight Paul Matlock announcing the top three K of C essay contest winners, the president and CEO of Operation Breakthrough Mary Esselman, and Matt Fanning of Lee’s Summit Social Services.

Our Lady of the Presentation students had raised $356. 73 for Operation Breakthrough, one of the school’s favorite charities. School principal Jodi Briggs also presented Operation Breakthrough with a check for $1,500, part of the proceeds of the annual Turkey Trot.

Father Holder announced the coin wars winners. The total raised from the coin wars each year is divided between Lee’s Summit Social Services and the selected charity of the winning classes. This year, the fourth grade came in second, and their charity was their sister city in El Salvador. First place went to the third grade, whose charity was Hope House. 

Lee’s Summit Social Services also received $3,000 from the Turkey Trot.

As KC Wolf was leaving, he handed a huge card to Mrs. Briggs. That card was opened and read by Bishop Johnston; the students learned that the Monday morning after the Super Bowl was to be a late start. Cheering and applause ensued.

Then came the moment all had been waiting for — The Teacher of the Year award. The Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth founded Our Lady of the Presentation School in 1939, and the Sisters of Charity Teacher of the Year Award was initiated in 2009.

The Teacher of the Year receives a check for $1,000 and a year’s use of a “coveted” parking space right by the school entrance.

First though, there was a round of loud applause for all the teachers.

Teacher of the Year nominations are made by past and current students, school parents, and friends. The names are redacted so that the nominated teachers are not identified, and the nominations are voted on by a committee not affiliated with Our Lady of the Presentation School. 

The teacher receiving Honorable Mention, which includes a check for $50 and a chance to win again the following year, was fifth grade teacher Carol Feuerborn.

Kaye Mount, 2020 Teacher of the Year, tearfully smiles with Fr. Tom Holder, Jodi Briggs and Bishop Johnston.

The 2019 Teacher of the Year was Jeff wright. He was called to the stage to help present the 2020 Teacher of the Year award. While there, his daughter, a seventh grader, read an essay in his honor.

The 2020 Teacher of the Year “sets the bar high and helps her students reach it,” “is a driving force who helps build confidence in every child in her class,” among other rave reviews. When first grade teacher Kaye Mount’s name was called, she burst into tears as her students surrounded her, hugging and clapping for their teacher.   
Her only comment was “I love teaching!” The applause was sustained.

At noon came the end of the end of Catholic Schools Week 2020.


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October 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph