WESTFIELD, NJ — At Holy Trinity School, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade, the mission is to educate students to actualize their full, individual potential both spiritually and academically while adhering to the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. The goal is to enable them to become responsible members of their families, high schools, churches and communities in an ever-changing world.
“We are providing a great education to some individuals who will help change the world,” said the school’s principal, Dr. Adele Ellis. “When you teach them the values of caring for themselves, for others, for the environment, it just is instilled in the good person that we hope them to be.”
Throughout the day, service to others is emphasized, Dr. Ellis said.
“It’s talked about every day and those values are infused, also, in classes, clubs, activities,” she said. “What can you do for others?”
A Caring Community
Holy Trinity School begins each morning with everyone together on the playground, during nice weather, or in the gym. Faculty and students start with a prayer, salute to the flag, announcements and birthdays all together as a school community, with some parents often opting to stay for this first part of the day.
Though they spend most of their time with their own class, children have other community-building opportunities at the school, too.
Students in fifth through eighth grade enjoy clubs that give them an opportunity to explore something that interests them with kids they may not always see in class. Club options include student council, newspaper, rosary-making, board games, STEM, service and yearbook.
Once a month everyone at Holy Trinity meets with school “families” consisting of one or two staff members and students from every grade.
“They meet once a month to do a project or an activity,” Dr. Ellis said. On a recent Friday, families colored a paper dove and talked about peace, the school’s theme for the year.
“The space on the bottom was for each ‘family member’ to put a fingerprint on so that everyone went home with their dove with a fingerprint of everyone in their family,” Dr. Ellis said. “I think those kind of community activities that we do actually help you respect people who are different than you and people who aren’t necessarily someone who you interact with on a daily basis.”
Traditional Learning for the Modern Age
The students of today live in a very different one than the generation before, according to Dr. Ellis.
“There’s more technology in their lives,” she said. “The children of today, their attention span is shorter because things come to them more easily through audio and visual stimulation, through technological equipment — they watch TV, play video games.”
In the past, if you needed information you asked someone else or went to the library, she noted.
“Now, you just Google it.”
Rather than ignore technology, Ellis believes in using technology appropriately. While the classrooms make use of smart boards and tablets, teachers at Holy Trinity take advantage of hands-on learning opportunities, too, which also helps children develop social skills.
“We teach the students from an early age how to interact socially in a way that makes connections,” Dr. Ellis said. “In kindergarten, you know show and tell? We do it a little bit different here. You bring the toy in a bag so that no one can see it and then you have to give clues and the kids ask questions about it. So you actually have to interact.”
Teachers here help students develop critical thinking skills.
“The teacher has to stop being the sage on the stage. You can guide students, but you have to let them learn, explore and make mistakes in a safe environment,” Dr. Ellis said. “We learn more from making mistakes than we do getting the right answer from someone else. And I think, too, when you allow students to explore and work with each other and figure things out for themselves, they also learn more about themselves.”
She believes in differentiated instruction to help children reach their potential.
“It’s not one-size fits all,” Dr. Ellis said. “We all have special talents. We all have different talents Everyone is unique and special in the eyes of God.”
Since 1916, Holy Trinity School has provided a quality Catholic education to Westfield and the surrounding communities. A 2011 National Blue Ribbon and a Middle States accredited school, its mission is to educate students to actualize their full, individual potential, both spiritually and academically. Holy Trinity School: Peace-Service-Prayer www.htisnj.com.