By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Jennifer Frank, in her 15th year of teaching kindergarten at St. Mary’s, likes the feeling of family that exists at St. Mary’s, which is celebrating Catholic Schools Week next week.
“It really feels like a family with the students and staff,” said Frank.
Frank grew up in St. Cloud and attended North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton for two years. She completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and early childhood education at Valley City State University.
She accepted a teaching position at St. Mary’s right out of college and has been pleased to remain.
“I’ve lived right across the street from the school for nine years,” she said, “so there is not even a commute.”
Frank did not attend Catholic schools growing up, but a strong faith was nurtured in her, modeled by her grandparents and her parents.
She has moved to progressively smaller communities and is content to be in Melrose.
“I like the small community,” she said. “I like being part of the whole community — at events, fundraisers, teaching community education and in the church community.”
“We discuss in class the advantages of attending a Catholic school,” Frank said. “We can wear crosses and other Christian symbols to school. Sharing my faith with my students in all areas of teaching is very important to me.”
Frank has seen her first two kindergarten classes graduate from high school. A significant moment happened two years ago when a student from her first class invited Frank to the annual Students of Excellence recognition ceremony in St. Cloud.
“Emily Scholz was the valedictorian that year and had the opportunity to invite a teacher who had influenced her,” said Frank. “She had a bazillion teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade, and she chose me; that was pretty amazing.”
At the end-of-the-year kindergarten graduation ceremony, students share what they learned during their year of kindergarten.
“It’s good to see how much growth happens in that short amount of time,” Frank said. “They get so excited about their learning.”
Frank knows that as much as the students learn from her, they teach her every day. “It’s always interesting, with never a dull moment,” she said.
The biggest change during her 15 years of teaching has been the addition of new technology. Melrose is always adding new tools, starting with a Smart Board in each classroom three years ago.
This year, every sixth grade student has an iPad for their own use, and the other classrooms all have five iPads. The computer lab, which had 12 old green-sided Apple computers, is now fully outfitted with 24 new computers.
“The kids are coming to school a lot more prepared than they used to,” Frank said.
When she began teaching, kindergarten was held three days a week. As that changed to five days a week, the focus became more academic.
“They are reading by the end of the year, now,” said Frank. “That is the trend in education in general.”
“I truly love teaching at St. Mary’s because of the people I work with, and the kids and their families,” Frank said.
This year’s Catholic Schools Week theme is “Catholic Schools Raise the Standard,” supporting the recent launch of national standards for Catholic elementary and secondary schools.
St. Mary’s School in Melrose has several special activities and events planned for each day of Catholic Schools Week. The week begins with a breakfast, community e-book fair and Mass on Sunday morning.
A world rosary will be said Wednesday as part of Color Day. There will also be a Crazy Hair Day, Dress-Up Day, Pajama Day and Spirit Day.
Community members will teach mini-courses Friday afternoon. The week’s celebration culminates Friday with a Family Fun Night.