St. Agatha Graduate Continues Family Tradition
Eighth grader Ryan Stephens knew when he started preschool at St. Agatha
Catholic School 11 years ago that it was the place for him. It was his destiny
to follow in his family’s footsteps and graduate from St. Agatha. Ryan’s dad,
aunts and uncles are all alumni of this 105-yr-old school in Sellwood. It’s a
legacy that makes him feel good.
“I’m proud that my family has made such a big impact on the school,” said
Ryan. “They’ve contributed financially, chaired the school auction for four
years and given hours of service. They’ve done a lot to make the facilities
When Ryan’s dad Mike Stephens graduated from St. Agatha in 1986 kids
went to class in a building originally constructed in 1911. Today they enjoy
music, art, technology and many more subjects in a newer, bigger school
built in 2003 after the parish raised $3.5 million dollars.
Mike’s four siblings and their children have all gone to St. Agatha. At one
point, his mother had seven grandchildren attending the school at the same
time – quite the challenge on Grandparent’s Day.
“St. Agatha’s small class sizes, home room teachers in middle school and the community of people make everyone at this school feel like family to us,” said Mike.
Ryan’s family isn’t the only one that feels that way. According to a recent school survey, the number one reason families said they send their children to St. Agatha is because they feel like they’re part of a family. A recent Western Catholic Educational Association’s accreditation survey found the same thing, “Throughout the visit, the visiting committee was in awe of the strong sense of community and family amongst the faculty, staff, parents, and students.”
“Building a strong community for our children is one of the best ways to bring our mission of learning, faith, and service to life,” said Chris Harris, St. Agatha principal.
This year 28 students are graduating from St. Agatha. Nine of those have been going to this school for 11 years, longer than they will likely be a student at any school during their lifetime.
Ryan’s favorite memory from his time at St. Agatha – last summer’s class trip to Washington D.C. “The school has given me so much. It’s helped me get out of my comfort zone, make new life experiences and pushed me to be better.”
September 18, 2015
St. Agatha Catholic School seventh grader Meg Metzler-Gilbertz plays the flute, but now she things it's time to shake things up so she's switching to the trumpet as she joins the school's new band.
"I love the sound the trumpet makes." she says. "I wanted to play the trombone, but the trumpet is small and I can carry it."
St. Agatha, in Portland's Sellwood neighborhood, has a new music teacher this year, Tracie Swanson, who has rich experience directing school bands throughout Oregon.
"This band is an opportunity to develop our students' talents beyond academics," says Chris Harris, principal.
Students can choose wind instruments and percussion. The program is open to fifth through eighth grade students who will practice together for an hour before school, twice a week and perform two concerts.
Meg's mom Nancy Gilbertz is thankful for the small group instruction her children will receive for the $150 band fee. She has paid much more for private lessons.
"Having a band really gives the kids and opportunity to learn different instruments and see how they sound together," says Gilbertz.
In addition to the new band, Swanson provides St. Agatha students with general music classes and leads the school's church choir.
"The rigor of learning a band instrument benefits the student both academically and emotionally," Swanson says. "Students feel proud of themselves when they hear how their well-rehearsed part fits into the final product.
Swanson adds that providing students with a band experience at St. Agatha, they will be prepared to continue band at the high school level.
"The main reason I want to join the band is it's something fun to do," say Meg. "I can't wait to perform and see how it sounds."
St. Agatha Catholic School has an enrollment of more than 225 students.
OREGON FOOD BANK
Oregon Food Bank is helping social service agencies in Northern California who are caring for victims of two devastating wildfires. The Valley and Butte fires forced 20,000 people to evacuate and have so far destroyed at least 800 homes.
Volunteers (St. Agatha Middle School students and others) packaged over 1,300 boxes with shelf-stable goods such as fruit, vegetables, milk and beans. "It's about neighbors helping neighbors," says Oregon food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan. "We are here to respond to crisis, whether it be someone struggling in a Portland suburb or a community hit by disaster." Oregon Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, a national network of food banks committed to working together to end hunger.
Oregon Food Bank has helped in other disaster situations, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Most recently the organization was on standby to help victims of fires in Easter Oregon and Washington, but was not called upon.
ST. AGATHA CATHOLIC SCHOOL’S PUBLISHED POET
Catholic Sentinel, May 2015
St Agatha Catholic School eighth-grader Isadora Colpo recently won a national poetry contest, had the poem published and is now moving on to LaSalle High School next year on a $10,000 Presidential scholarship. What she’s just now realizing is Robert Fulghum was right when he wrote the book “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
Isadora started at St. Agatha in preschool. In kindergarten she remembers learning the skills Fulghum writes about in his book - sharing, caring, and being kind. In Isadora’s case you can add poetry to the list. In kindergarten her teacher, Jessie Archambeault, a poet-lover too, assigned poetry. The seed for Isadora’s love of poetry was planted.
In eighth grade Isadora entered her first poetry contest, Creative Communication’s Poetic Power contest. The top 45 percent best poems are published in a book. Taylor Swift won this contest when she was in 5th grade. Isadora’s poem, “Some Poems” was published in the Summer 2014 edition. A copy can be found in the St. Agatha library.
Isadora is one of 26 outstanding eighth graders who will graduate from St. Agatha this June. Like Isadora, nine of those students started at St. Agatha in preschool. St. Agatha has provided the upcoming graduates with a variety of learning experiences utilizing 3-D computer printers, a Learning Support Center, service projects, art, music, physical education and academics that have allowed them to thrive.
Eight-grade teacher Carol Weber says this year’s graduating class really exemplifies Fulghum’s message.
“They would give the sweatshirt off their back to help each other,” said Carol. “They are amazing!”
Isadora started at St. Agatha when she only three years old, but leaves it today as a published poet, cantor of her school choir, officer of her school’s Youth Ministry and scoring in the 98 percentile on her Scholastic Aptitude Test. But, most importantly, she leaves as a young person spiritually and academically ready to take on the world.
“I think it’s really good that I’ve come here because if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today,” said Isadora.
For more than 100 years, St. Agatha has offered a pre-K through eighth grade Catholic education in the heart of the Sellwood neighborhood. St. Agatha School is dedicated to the faith, service and learning of its more than 220 students.
In March, spirit of St. Patrick returns to Sellwood
By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE
Clearly, few who participated in the parade or carnival were Irish. Many of the participants and observers weren’t even associated with St. Agatha Catholic School. Nonetheless, a delighted throng was caught up in the “spirit of St. Patrick’s Day” throughout the Sellwood area on Saturday, March 14.
“Welcome to our 17th Annual Sellwood-Moreland St. Patrick’s Day festivities,” grinned this year’s organizer, Heidi LaValley.
Having been on the committee for several years, LaValley said she was selected to lead the 150 or more volunteers who put on the events of the day.
“We all work together on the parade and festival,” LaValley told THE BEE, “because it’s a great celebration for both adults and kids. By being involved, we show our children the importance of contributing to our community.”
Months of planning pays off for her on the day of the event itself, LaValley remarked. “It’s a time when we celebrate with friends, greet neighbors, and have a fun time.
“To see the smiles on kids’ faces when they march in the parade, and play the carnival games, makes it a wonderful day for me,” LaValley added.
The day’s steady rain this year might have discouraged some participants from joining the parade, which travels through a good part of the neighborhood. But many intrepid marchers showed up in rain gear – and even broke out umbrellas – to take part in the procession.
St. Agatha Catholic School Principal Chris Harris told us he was enjoying this local tradition for the first time. “In fact, this is the event to which I've been most looking forward. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into preparing for the festival and the parade, and I’m seeing that effort pay off.”
Impressive to him, Harris reflected, is that it is truly a community event. “We’re delighted that the Sellwood Middle School Marching Band turns out in force, and it’s wonderful to see all the different organizations and groups that come together to be part of this celebration.”
In the main festival tent, the Clackamas Fire Fighters’ Pipes & Drum Corps kicked off the day. The main stage offered revelers plenty of live music and Irish dance demonstrations.
Highlights of the carnival, held in the school’s gym, were once again the “Cake Walk”, and green cotton candy floss – in addition to the many carnival games of chance and skill.
After participating in these activities, many families availed themselves of the food, which was themed for the occasion.
The day is also a fundraiser, LaValley pointed out. “This helps us provide special events for our students, and fund our arts programs and other departments. So, it’s having fun, and raising funds – a good combination.”
Serving others is a vital element of the education offered. Middle school students volunteer a minimum of 32 hours.
First graders recently raised change and made dog toys to support the Fences for Fido program.
"At. St. Agatha we work to develop students who are well rounded, who think for themselves but also think about others - how they can incorporate their love of God and his world beyond themselves," says Brandi Harris, first grade teacher.
The school building, constructed in 2003, offers a large gymnasium, a center for students with additional needs, and science and technology labs.
Arnaud Prevot assisted in expansion of the technology program.
"Teaching at St. Agatha is more than a job, it is about doing good and meaningful work to better the lives of the students," Prevot says.
St. Agatha School in the Sellwood district of Southeast Portland has acadeemic and service programs that have been rooted in the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years.
Benedictine Father Nathan Zodrow, former abbot of Mount Angel Abbey, presides over weekly student Masses and plays a vital role in the education at St. Agatha.
Older students learn responsiblity and provide leadership to younger students as they attend Mass together in familly groups.
New principal settling in at St. Agatha School in Portland
The Catholic Sentinel, November 2014
St. Agatha School in the Sellwood district of Southeast Portland has a new principal, Chris Harris. He took the post July 1 at the 220-student institution.
"This is an incredible community, and I am excited and honored to serve as principal of St. Agatha," said Harris. "It is inspiring to see such a dedicated staff, committed group of parents and community members put the students first. The spirit around campus is tangible, and I look forward to working with everyone here to enhance and further develop the educational opportunities for our children: Helping them to grow academically, socially and spiritually to best prepare them for their futures."
“We are looking forward to planning for and growing our Catholic school with Chris at the helm," said Benedictine Father Nathan Zodrow, pastor of St. Agatha Parish.
Harris spent the past five years serving as third grade teacher, technology coordinator, head of the drama department, and principal intern at St. Francis of Assisi School in Seattle. Before that he taught kindergarten, third and fourth grades at St. Elisabeth Catholic School in Los Angeles.
He earned a master's degree in educational administration and supervision for St. Martin's University in Lacey, Washington. He graduated magna cum laude from Gonzaga University in Spokane, witha bachelor's degree in theater arts and elementary education.
Harris grew up in Portland where he attended St. Anthony School in Tigard and graduated from LaSalle High School in Milwaukie. "I am grateful for the opportunity to return to my roots and be closer to family," said Harris, who is relocating back to Portland with wife Siobhan and their 9-month-old son.
Education runs in his blood. His mother, Sue Harris, is the princpal at St. Cecilia Catholic School in Beaverton and has served in Catholic education for more than 30 years.
Two new faculty members have joined St. Agatha. Arnaud Prevot is K-8 technology teacher and resident tech coodinator. He worked six years in the Seattle area as a faculty technology advisor and also taught French and Spanish. He holds a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish from the University of Dallas, a master's degree in business administration from the same institution, along with a doctorate from Argosy University in Seattle.
Michelle Collins is a Portland-area music teacher, writer and mother of three. After graduation with a bachelor's degree in music education, she began a teaching career in public and private schools.
St. Agatha students serve
The Catholic Sentinel, October 2014
Seventy-six St. Agatha middle school students gave back to local and state community members in need by volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank this fall.
Students, staff and parents sorted more than 5,000 pounds of pinto beans, adding ingredient labels and instructions on how to cook and serve.
The volunteer effort provided more thatn 4,000 meals for the hungry, with an average of 44 meals prepared by each student.
Students reported feeling good knowing they were able to provide so much assistance and good will.
"This was a great way to kick off our service learning for the year, and support our Friends of St. Agatha annual giving theme of "the common good," says Chris Harris, new princpal at St. Agatha.
St. Agatha kids give Lions Club
By DAVID F. ASHTON for THE BEE, January 2015
For several years, members of the Oaks Bottom Lions Club have joined with other clubs in the region to provide eye examinations and eyeglasses to patients they serve in Mexico or other Central American countries.
“Lions Club member Frances Shaw told how many of the older gentlemen of the villages, who come to get eyeglasses, like to wear neckties when they come to the clinic,” explained Jan Hainley, a St. Agatha Catholic School graduate, substitute teacher, parishioner, and the grandparent of a student.
“Last year, the school collected neckties for them to take with them, as gifts to the village men,” Hainley told THE BEE.
Hearing that children who also visit the clinics enjoy playing with “Hot Wheels” toy vehicles, Hainley’s grandson suggested that the school collect new and used toy cars.
“We put out a basket and sign in the front lobby, and people have been very generous,” Hainley said. “483 both new and gently-used ‘Hot Wheels’ toy cars will go down, when they visit the children in Mexico this year.”
To receive the gift was Frances Shaw, a member of the Oaks Bottom Lions Club. “Clubs from the region will be taking about 9,000 eye glasses this year to the Mexico Eye and Health Clinic at El Municipio de Juchipila, Mexico, where we provide services to about 2,000 people.”
Having toys helps at the clinic, Shaw said, “Because at the clinic we also check for blood pressure, and diabetes, well as do vision screening. So, the clients see us at the clinic from three to four hours a day and they usually come in families.
“At the end of their visit, we like to give small gifts,” Shaw explained. “Some of our other Lions clubs donate toothbrushes and toothpaste as well. But the kids have to wait a long time, so it’s nice to have small toys that we can take and give to them.
And, to the St. Agatha Catholic School families, Shaw said, “Thank you so much, for helping our mission.”