Random Acts of Kindness

By: Izabella Hernandez, STJ junior

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Throughout the day, it is always nice to see a smiling face or to have someone simply keep the door open for a student who is walking in. Occasionally, a student forgets a pencil or what the page for the math homework is, and a student chimes in to help. At Saint James, small acts of kindness like these are frequently practiced. I find that throughout my daily schedule, friends and acquaintances alike make an effort to help the day flow more easily. For instance, during advisory, I have noticed several students help each other understand the pre-cal lesson of the day, quiz another for a big history test, or lend another a hair tie. These acts are certainly not elaborate, but they help every student just the same.  Displayed prominently in the high school hallway is a bulletin board with ideas for showing kindness. Our counselors, Ms. Garzon and Mrs. Payne, encourage us to “take what you need and give what you can.” Many times, acts of kindness easily go unnoticed, but I believe that is a good thing. It shows that here at Saint James, little common courtesies are frequent and well received with a “thank you.”

It is obvious that Saint James students have manners and respect one another. Of course, we students joke around and give each other a hard time, but when push comes to shove, all students are willing to help out each other. Students even go out of their way to assist teachers during the day. I have seen students go downstairs to get papers from the copier, get a drink for the teacher from the vending machine, carry heavy boxes, and so much more. Teachers also do their part when it comes to kind gestures. For instance, whenever a student is feeling low, Mr. Harrison, our theater director, always tries his best to cheer them up and put a smile on their face, no matter how he is feeling that day. Similarly, our Latin teacher, Mrs. Conner, is happy to join in funny conversations and keeps the atmosphere of the classroom comfortable. But most famously, English teacher Mr. Clinton will dress up in the craziest costumes imaginable and stay in character to put a smile on his students’ faces.

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The seniors, of course, were absolutely ecstatic to get their buddies this year and the little kindergarteners were equally excited! Seniors have been talking about how they intend to spoil their buddies, expecting nothing in return. They simply want to make their buddy grin and have a great day. Little acts like these make students so eager to get buddies when they become seniors. Even the juniors are abuzz with excitement this year for the day they are assigned a buddy! My sister, who was a senior last year, often times spoke about how great it was when her buddy, Alexa, gave her a hug and surprise handmade card. I remember that all the little buddies surprised their senior by putting a banner in their yards, most decorated with smiley faces and little stickers. 

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Also, Saint James often welcomes new students every year from different countries, who are embraced and respected by the student body. Often times, these new students are already trying to get used to the culture shock and Saint James students always do their best to make them feel right at home. Similarly, students in all grades make an effort to befriend any new student and take the anxiety off of such a big change. I find this to be a unique attribute of the Saint James student body that you cannot find anywhere else!

It is always important to be kind, helpful, and respectful to one another. These little acts of kindness could make someone’s day so much brighter and the giver may not even know. But ultimately, kindness is important because everyone feels safe and welcomed in Saint James’ environment, making the school days so much better.

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

Faculty Spotlight: Mrs. Tina Waggoner

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I teach: Elementary Technology

I've Taught for: 32 years!

Hometown: Montgomery, AL

High school: Robert E. Lee

College/Degree: Auburn - BS Early Childhood Education, Oglethorpe University- MA Early Childhood Education

Favorite Book: Changes too often to say!

Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music

Favorite Food: Italian

Married to: Clark Waggoner

Children: One daughter, Erin Waggoner

Church: Church of the Ascension

Fun Fact: I love to travel

Owl Pellets are a Hoot!

Ms. Rodger’s third graders had a memorable (and fun!) science lab last week. Students dissected owl pellets to learn about the eating habits of birds of prey. The pellets are the regurgitated remains of an owl’s meal, including all the bones of the animals it ate (usually small rodents or other small birds). Owls usually swallow their food whole, digest the edible parts, and then expel the indigestible parts through their mouth as a pellet. It might sound gross, but the students thought it was so cool!

Students identifies the bones, feathers, and other hidden treasures found in the pellets. Hands-on labs allow for students to get a firsthand look at what they study in science class. All elementary students, grades PreK3 through fifth grade, attend science enrichment in our lab.

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

STJ Student Experiences UA Early College

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My name is Isabelle Goulet. I am 16 and in junior year at Saint James School. Last year, as a sophomore, I transferred to Saint James from the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham.

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This summer I had the chance to attend two classes at the University of Alabama. I applied for the Early College program and was accepted. I completed an online class so I could attend the summer on campus.

It was an amazing experience. I took two classes for college credit, Russian and women's studies. I was a real student on campus and I wasn't treated any differently. I took classes alongside regular UA undergraduate students. I truly got to experience college early. I stayed in Ridgecrest East dorms and had amazing roommates who I still keep in touch with.

After returning home, I got a big shock! I had made A's in both classes and made A's on my finals! I made Director's List, which is like the Dean's List for UA Early College.

At Saint James, I participate in theatre and math team and would like to study statistics and analytics in college. I loved my experience at UA Early College and I now have 9 hours of credit just from one summer! Roll Tide!

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Faculty Spotlight: Mrs. Bethany Davis

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I teach: Visual Arts HS art 1, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade

I've Taught for: I am going on my 5th year of teaching

Hometown: Troy, AL

High school: Charles Henderson High School

College/Degree: Troy, Undergrad in Studio Fine Arts, and Masters in Art Education

Favorite Book: So many that I love, but one of them is “Atlantia"

Favorite Movie: It changes but one of my favorites is “What Dreams May Come"

Favorite Food: chips and edamame

Married to: Jason Davis

Church: Thorington Road Baptist Church

Fun Fact: I use to be on the swim team for 7-8 years and lifeguard for 5 years.

Faculty Spotlight: Mr. David Beach

I teach: High School Science (Physics, Physical Science, Environmental Science)

I've Taught for: This is my third year

Hometown: Norcross, GA

High school: Norcross High School

College/Degree: BS in both Physics and Secondary Education from Berry College

STJ Extracurricular: Theatre

Favorite Book: The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, you could call it a theological cookbook

Favorite Movie: O Brother Where Art Thou?

Favorite Food: If I HAD to pick, then it would be rice and beans

Church: Trinity Presbyterian Church

Fun Fact: I took a three week road trip out west this summer

You used to call me on my (eukaryotic) cell phone

Last week in class, fifth grade students drew plant and animal cells using various apps on their iPads. Students labeled parts of each cell and used different colors and shapes to identify their creations. Later, in science lab, students enjoyed a sweet hands-on activity. Using a graham cracker for the plant cell , a sugar cookie for the animal cell, and lots of yummy toppings like Lifesavers and sprinkles, students created their own edible versions!

This project was so fun. I used Lifesavers for the nucleus and Fruit Loops for the mitochondria. Everyone got to eat their cells at the end!
— Della Skelley, 5th grade
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Staff Spotlight: Ms. Kitha Jackson

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Department: Assistant Director Wonder Works/ DHR Coordinator

I've been in this field: 24 years in childcare

Hometown: Montgomery, AL

High school: Jefferson Davis High School

College/Degree: TSUM

Favorite Book: The Giving Tree

Favorite Movie: Love & Basketball

Favorite Food: Salad

Church: Mercy Baptist Church on Bell Road

Children: One fur baby, Kiwi. She is 10 years old.

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Fun Fact: I love shopping for clothes and shoes especially with discounts and coupons! :) I love children even though I don’t have any because they give the sweetest hugs and kisses. I love taking pictures!

"All About Me!"

Students in grades 1-5 used various applications to illustrate “all about me” pages. All elementary students attend formal technology enrichment classes weekly.

First Grade “All About Me”

First Grade “All About Me”

I try to make my activities tie into skills from the content areas whenever possible so that is why first grade worked with handwriting while also learning to use writing tools, backgrounds and recording features in the Seesaw app.

I did an “All About Me” activity with all grades 1st -5th grade. This gave me an opportunity to get to know my new students as well as a way to know more about returning students. There was enough creative freedom built into the activity that it also gave me insight into how each student thinks and organizes his/her information. The activity allowed students to practice design skills while navigating and utilizing tools in a virtual environment.
— Tina Waggoner, Elementary Technology Teacher
First Grade “All About Me”

First Grade “All About Me”

5th grade “All About Me”

5th grade “All About Me”

4th grade “All About Me”

4th grade “All About Me”

First Grade “All About Me”

First Grade “All About Me”

We worked with Digital Citizenship skills by talking about the purposes of commenting on other students’ posts and how to make valuable, constructive comments. This fits seamlessly into our Trojan 24/7.

Commenting should be used to build people up, be curious and respectful, and help us learn something new.
5th grade “All About Me”

5th grade “All About Me”

2nd grade “All About Me”

2nd grade “All About Me”

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Catherine Winn

I teach (subject/grade) or your department: Honors English 1, English 4, AP Literature, and Yearbook

I've Taught for: Eleven years, I think? I taught my first classes at the University of Alabama when I was 21.

Hometown: I was a military brat. I was born in Abilene, Texas, but my family settled in Prattville when I was in third grade.

High school: Prattville High School

College/Degree: Bachelor's in English from AUM. Master's in Renaissance Studies and PhD in English from the University of Alabama. (Roll Tide.)

STJ Extracurricular (do you oversee a club/activity?): I will be the Interact Club sponsor this year, as well as the sponsor of Yearbook Club. I co-sponsor Young Democrats with Andy Clinton, and I help run FCA with the two awesome presidents, seniors Lucy Edwards and Katie Leigh Smith. Last year, I also ran Cooking Club and helped with the Speech and Debate team, but I am not doing those things this year!

Favorite Book: This is a dangerous question for a lit nerd! My favorite book of all time is The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, but I grew up reading a variety of fantasy novels, ranging from Dragonlance books to J. R. R. Tolkien, from Mary Stewart's Arthuriana novels to Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series, and I still adore these stories. My favorite Shakespeare plays are A Winter's Tale, All's Well that Ends Well, and Othello. These days, however, I love poetry the most--especially protest poetry. Warsan Shire is my current favorite. (Her poem about the refugee crisis, entitled "Home," is stunning in all of the ways.)

Favorite Movie: Amelie and A Very Long Engagement are my most favorites. They're both French, but they are gorgeous films.

Favorite Food: I love all food. I could eat Mexican food almost any night of the week, but I also like Ethiopian, Thai, Indian, Italian, and Greek. I also really, really love baking bread and coming up with different "signature" cakes for my friends' birthdays.

Married to: In the immortal words of Lizzo, I'm my own soulmate.

Children: Just one! Dresden is here at Saint James with me, in second grade. You will also see me with my niece (Ava Claire, 3rd Grade) and nephew (Cade, Kindergarten). They call me Aunt Duchess. It's the best.

Church: The Catalyst Community

Fun Fact: I was baptized as an adult (at 27 years old) in Trinity's cafeteria!

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

Happiness is the Journey, Not the Destination

This week, Mrs. Parquette’s fifth graders studied parts of a map. They learned about map keys, symbols, drawing to scale, and the compass rose. Finally, students drew their own map of Saint James School! Using rulers and guides, the buildings and streets were drawn to scale and labeled. Students recorded themselves giving directions to our elementary science lab using cardinal directions and distance on SeeSaw, our digital portfolio app.

Map skills promote spatial thinking, allowing students to comprehend and analyze phenomena related to the places and spaces around them. Spatial thinking is an important skills that students can develop as they learn geography, Earth, and environmental sciences. Young students also grow their language skills as they collaborate with peers, parents, and teachers and communicate about spatial relationships. Spatial thinking skills and activities like the STJ map project reinforce the skills that may allow our students to be at an advantage in our increasingly global and technological society. In a world with apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Roadtrippers, map reading has become a lost art (I know it has for me)! Mrs. Parquette and our fifth grade team works hard to prepare students for the next step and think critically.

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Peer Leaders- Leading the Way

The Saint James School High School is proud to continue the tradition of the Peer Leader Program for all incoming STJ freshmen. Each new 9th grader is paired with a senior student who embodies compassion, school spirit, strong communication, and love for learning. These students are known as the Peer Leaders.

Peer Leaders oversee small-group advisory sessions during the first semester of the school year and help facilitate a smooth transition into high school.

Each summer, the selected seniors attend a retreat training to learn how to be Peer Leaders. Since the kick-off at the retreat, all of the Peer Leaders have been ready and willing to work hard and prepare for the 9th graders. June Garzon, high school counselor and Peer Leader advisor, is thrilled with this year's peer leader group and the work they have done to welcome our high school Trojans.

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

The peer leader retreat helped me to better understand what being a leader truly is. It taught me how to explore things beyond my comfort zone and allowed me experience new things in the process.
— India Bond, senior
2019-2020 Peer Leaders: Trinity Goff, Joe Higgins, India Bond, Gracie Sullivan, Nayoon Kang, Katie Leigh Smith, Andrew Sadie

2019-2020 Peer Leaders: Trinity Goff, Joe Higgins, India Bond, Gracie Sullivan, Nayoon Kang, Katie Leigh Smith, Andrew Sadie

The Peer Leader Retreat was held at Butter & Egg Adventures in Troy, AL on Aug. 4 and 5. The students participated in various team building activities and learned how to be effective leaders.

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On Friday, Aug. 16, the Peer Leaders guided the 9th graders through various exercises and assisted and encouraged the 9th graders throughout the day. Students practiced communication, positive decision making, collaboration and working together, and had a blast getting to know each other!

The Saint James School Peer Leader program is designed to enhance the freshman experience within a framework of organized activities, experiences, and discussions.

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STJ Class of 2023

STJ Class of 2023

The Peer Leader Retreat was so rewarding because I got to see the students in my advisory open up and try new things. The best part is they had fun while doing it!
— Gracie Sullivan, senior

Faculty Spotlight: Mr. Andy Clinton

I teach: 10th grade English, 10th grade Honors English, 9th grade English, Visual Storytelling (a filmmaking elective).

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I've Taught for: This is my eleventh year teaching at Saint James School and my twentieth year teaching overall.

Hometown: Wynnewood PA, a suburb of Philadelphia

High school: Lower Merion High School, class of 1994.

College/Degree: Haverford College, Class of 1998. B.A. in English, University of Iowa M.A. in English, University of Iowa M.A.T. in English Education.

STJ Extracurricular: I sponsor Write Club, a creative writing club. I co-sponsor the Young Democrats Club.

Favorite Book: I’m an English teacher — I’ve got stacks of favorite books! But let’s say “Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree."

Favorite Movie: Far too many favorite movies to list. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Toy Story, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, any Muppet movie.

Favorite Food: Jelly beans and burritos (not together).

Married to: Joyce Kelley, English professor at Auburn University Montgomery.

Children: One daughter, Hazel, in second grade at STJ.

Fun Fact: Well, in my free time I am a freelance puppeteer who sells custom puppet greetings on the internet. True. Also, when you see me in public it’s most likely that my shoes will not match.

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Abracadabra!

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Last week during STJ Wonderworks, elementary students were thrilled and mystified by a guest magician. Sleight of hand, disappearing acts, and various magic tricks made for a rousing afternoon of fun. Squeals of delight echoed the halls when a rabbit appeared in a top hat! STJ Wonderworks, in addition to everyday programming, invites guest speakers and performers throughout the school year to interact with students and provide additional enrichment.

The magician was so funny. I want him to come back!
— Hunter Hassell, 2nd grade

The Saint James after school program, STJ WonderWorks, is a service provided for students enrolled at Saint James School. The program coincides with the school calendar and is open to students from Pre-K3 through fifth grade. Sessions are offered from noon until 5:30 p.m. Extracurricular activities such as dance, chess, Abrakadoodle art, piano, ukulele, and soccer are offered at an additional fee. These activities are subject to change and ages may vary for the activities offered.

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

Faculty Spotlight: Mrs. Sana Burney

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I teach: High School Biology

I've Taught for: This is my first year

Hometown: Houston, TX

High school: Pearland High School

College/Degree: B.S. in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry

STJ Extracurricular: Boy Scouts Troop Leader

Favorite Book: To Kill a Mockingbird

Favorite Movie: The Pursuit of Happyness

Favorite Food: Sushi

Married to: Dr. Basil Burney

Children: Zain (2nd grade) and Zara (K4)

Fun Fact: I am bilingual in Urdu/Hindi and English

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The "Pie of Life" - There's Nothing Sweeter!

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Today in 8th Grade Advisory, students constructed a pie chart illustrating how they spend their time each day. With homework, sports, chores, after-school clubs, and spending time with friends, there is little free time leftover. As our eighth graders prepare for the workload of high school, it is helpful to analyze how efficiently time is spent doing the things we need to do (and the things we want to do for fun). How much of the evening is spent watching TV or looking at the phone? Are we getting as much sleep as we need to be rested and ready for the day? Activities like “pie of life” charting helps students work on time management and better organize their daily schedules. Advisory time allows students to study their calendars, write down assignments and meetings, and prepare for the coming week.

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

Staff Spotlight: Mrs. Laura Gibson

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I teach : K3-5th grade counseling

I've Taught for: This is my first year teaching at Saint James, but previously traveled to schools across 7 counties to teach guidance lessons as a guest in their schools

Hometown: Military dad, so moved a lot as a child until 5th grade when we moved to Wetumpka, AL

High school: Edgewood Academy

College/Degree: Auburn University for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and Auburn University in Montgomery for Master's of Education in School Counseling. WAR EAGLE :)

Favorite Book: Can't remember the last time I read anything that wasn't for my counseling program, but before school I used to love anything by Jodi Picoult

Favorite Movie: Titanic, The Notebook, Armageddon (clearly anything that makes me cry ha!)

Favorite Food: Anything Mexican

Married to: Mark Gibson for 6 years

Children: Grayden is in K4 here with Mrs. Capiouto and Mrs. Martin, and Willa who just turned 7 months

Church: Centerpoint Church in Prattville

Fun Fact: I've lived in 7 different states and countries to include Alaska, Japan, and Panama!

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool

#WeAreSaintJamesSchool