November News

St. Mary's Catholic School

Happiness! Practice Gratitude!

November kicks off the holiday season with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. However, for many, this time of year is tinged with sadness, anxiety, or depression. It is not rare for some to feel lost, overwhelmed or down at this time of year. Research suggests that one aspect of the Thanksgiving season can actually lift the spirits, and it's built right into the holiday — expressing gratitude.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. The word “gratitude” encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Research has confirmed that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone's gratitude, it's a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further.

Ways to cultivate gratitude

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel difficult to think about all these things at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.

Keep a gratitude journal. Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thought about the gifts you've received each day.

Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.

Mindfulness. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is used as a therapeutic technique. We can begin to learn to use mindfulness by focusing on our breathing and practicing autoregulation.

Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude. Prayer is for more than just asking for things or saying ‘thank you’ to God. Prayer is also an opportunity to lift up our concerns, hopes, and needs to someone who genuinely cares about us.

Prayer is a powerful opportunity to talk to God. So how can we listen for what God wants to speak into our lives? Some people have found that they can hear God best when they intentionally slow down, escape the noise of everyday life, and focus on what God might want to tell us.

We invite you to join us in prayer every week on Facebook Live as our students participate in weekly mass. We lift our thoughts to God in prayer and invite our community to participate with us virtually.

At first, we might need help in learning how to practice gratitude in our daily lives, so I have attached 30 days of gratitude ideas to reflect on. As we practice gratitude every day, we begin to create a positive habit that brings happiness to our lives and those around us.

Dr. Clara Magallanes


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Celebration of the Close of the 1st Quarter

We successfully closed the 1st Quarter on Friday, October 30th. The challenges of virtual online learning and transition into in-person instruction present and met head-on with our community working as a team. I am very proud of our teachers, students, and the support received by our parents.

The world of education continues to evolve and the focus for us at St. Mary's remains firm and evident in wanting to provide a program that engages, connects all of us together to support the social, emotional, physical, spiritual, and academic foundation of our students. A school system complements the family in establishing a community that nurtures the development of each and every child.

During these times we want to work together to build the confidence and security of each child. Below I have provided a great resource from Sr. Patricia Mccormick who addresses this and promotes a positive home-school relationship.

Report Card Day was Friday, November 6th. This year a different process will be used to distribute grades:

Montessori - Teachers will provide a hardcopy/electronic version of the report card for each student. If a hardcopy is received, parents are to sign and return to their teacher. If an electronic version provided, parents are to respond to the email sent as an acknowledgment to the teacher.

1st - 6th Grade - Report Cards are accessible via FACTS SIS ( Student information system). A parent is to enter the portal as they do to check progress reports and review the report card. A Growth and Habits Chart has been sent in hardcopy or email by the teacher to each parent. We ask that a signature returned on a hardcopy or a response to the email serve as an acknowledgment.

As we continue to guide our students through these times of great uncertainty, we are grateful for the community that we share. We continue to partner with all of our families in meeting the needs and supporting one another.

As a faith community, we trust completely in God as He remains the truth, the way, and the life. He remains the Alpha and the Omega!

Along with the faith, I encourage all parents to reach out to their child's teachers with questions, concerns, suggestions, and even encouragement/praise for them. They are dedicated to listening, forming solutions, and giving their best to each child virtually and in person. Communication is essential. I know much is discussed within our parent chat groups however I do encourage you to reach out directly to the school. We are here for you.

Parents are welcome now at the close of the quarter and any time to reach out and request a phone or virtual conference. Teachers will be happy to call you and schedule a meeting. I also encourage them to reach out to you! Positive, consistent communication is essential.

Scheduled Parent-Teacher Conferences will be made for the 2nd and 3rd Quarters. We will designate a date and times for parents and teachers to connect. We provide these opportunities annually twice a year.

Teachers continue to send weekly communications, update their Google Sites, send messages on Remind to stay connected.

We did have the grade book closed the last quarter last year when we went virtual and kept it the same as we began this year virtually. However, now with the change and combination of in-person and virtual, we will resume opening the grade book beginning on Wednesday, November 11th. This will allow teachers to update and parents to checking in on the progress of their child.

We celebrate the progress of all of our students. We recognize our top readers and our Honor Roll students from 2nd -6th in a virtual ceremony. We thank you for your continued support!

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Achievement Testing Continues

As we continue to work with our students this school year, data continues to support our programming decisions, celebrate accomplishments, and determine instructional needs.

Annually, our Diocese uses an achievement test to gauge levels of ability and truly assess a student's knowledge and skill level. The test monitors growth using a continuous research-based, vertical scale to accurately measure academic progress. Students annually complete a benchmark in Language Arts and Mathematics in the fall and complete the full battery in the spring.

Our in-person students completed the testing cycle in October and now along with the support from the Catholic School Office, we will be able to assess our virtual students online. Students who are now in-person will also be testing at school online during this testing cycle.

The testing window for our students will be November 16th - 20th. Since it is a benchmark testing should conclude on Wednesday. ( Monday-Wednesday) In-person students will report to school on a normal basis during this time. Their schedule does not change.

Proctors have been designated for virtual/online testing. Students will work with the following faculty and staff members ( Mrs. Anna Lindsey, Mrs. Ana Gomez, Dr. Clara Magallanes, Mrs. Ana Loya, Mrs. Carmina Gonzalez, and Mrs. Denise Salazar)

Testing will take place in the morning and students will report to their classroom teachers in the afternoon.

How your child(ren) can prepare for test-taking—and what you can do to help

A child(ren) d who is well-rested and well-fed and has a positive attitude about testing is best prepared for testing. You can help your student do his or her best by considering these tips:

· Make sure your child(ren) is ready and on time on test days.

· Make sure your child(ren) gets a good night’s sleep and eats a healthy breakfast before each day of testing.

· Remind your child(ren) that these tests are only one part of the school day. Emphasize that you have confidence in his or her ability to do the best job possible. Encourage them!

· Remind your child(ren) to listen carefully to the directions and to each question as it is read aloud during testing. Encourage your student to ask the teacher/proctor for help if he or she does not understand the directions.

Each student who will be tested will receive a Remote Assessment Parent/Guardian Agreement from their child's teacher. It is to be reviewed, signed, and returned to their teacher prior to testing.

Instructions on logging on will be shared this week via each classroom teacher.

A practice to access and sign in prior to our first testing day will happen this week via the Specials period.

Details will be communicated from the main office to you via the classroom teacher.

Thank you for your cooperation. The results from the benchmark will allow us to meet the needs of all of our students and will be communicated with our families. We look forward to a successful testing cycle.

Leadership Opportunities - Call to Serve

Along with our national elections, our students cast their votes after a week of campaigning from our 6th graders for positions on the Executive Board, and students in 3rd - 6th cast their votes for their classroom representatives.

The intention of the Student Council is to allow students the opportunity to interact, engage, and make a difference in their school community. They are the voice of the student body that promotes spirit, faith, community, and teamwork.

The goal is also to instill leadership qualities along with teamwork for our students. By doing so, they build awareness of the needs of the community and the greater community.

With the virtual and in-person connection with our students, our council will be represented on both ends. This year we have added an advisory council made of 6th graders who ran for executive positions. They will complement the executive board and representatives in serving as a collective voice in sharing ideas, input, and most importantly serve as peer mediators for the younger class in conjunction with our counseling program. They will support the ongoing program of "Being Kind" to assist with promotion and activities held virtually or in-person in the future.

We are excited to have alumnus Phillip Nicart address our Student Council and assist with the swearing-in of our 20-21 Student Council. We will host a virtual event on Thursday, November 12th for student and their parents at 6:30 p.m.

We thank Mrs. Karla Gutierrez who will serve as our sponsor this year for coordinating this year's election and ceremony.

Join me in congratulating all of our students and we look forward to the creative ways they will serve their community.

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ADVENT - A Time for Preparation

The Advent Season will soon be upon us beginning on Sunday, November 29th. The word Advent originates from the Latin word "Adventus" which means "coming" or "arrival." Advent Season is focused on a period of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. As a Christian community, we believe Christ has come and will come again.

The Advent season leads us to the celebration of his birth and coming at Christmas, His presence in our lives now as his followers, and in the Second Coming where Jesus will appear in His full glory. This will be a moment that will be perfect and complete our community and identity as His people. We will be united with Him and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Hope, peace, love, and joy are the themes of Advent. These are represented in the traditional Advent wreath shared as a church. We are encouraged to focus on these themes and prepare not only our homes with the joy of the season but our hearts as well.

As a family, we may engage in daily prayer, penance, and almsgiving. The following is a link with more ideas for our families to engage in.

Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate and truly receive Christ in our hearts.

May this Advent season draw us closer to Christ as we receive His grace that we in turn share with those around us!

Picture below from December 2018

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Supporting SMS - Keeping the MIssion Alive!

Our school community remains to be blessed with many who continue to come forth to support our school and its mission. As we celebrate an anniversary year, it is a testimony of the impact our beloved school has made in the lives of many in receiving calls and messages on how they can help and support the school especially with the effects of the pandemic.

Knowing now that regulations remain in place for the safety of all, limits our ability to fundraise for our school program in our traditional fashion. Our school advisory and several committees have been meeting to think outside the box on ways to support our school.

We are excited to change it up a bit but remain hopeful that we will one day return to share as community great events such as our Style Show and community runs. Our efforts will assist and support our current program, the additional costs in technology and programming, support to our tuition assistance program, and needs to maintain our facilities.

Looking at the months ahead the following events are in the works! We hope that as many will be able to support us, engage, and build community!

  • SMS Saints Forever Fund - In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, the Saints Fund will be our first ever annual fund allowing families past/present, alumni, parishioners, faculty/staff - EVERYONE has the opportunity to donate to the school. This will open very soon and remain open for the entire fiscal year which ends June 30th. Giving opportunities will be shared with the community.

  • Joy Run 2020 5K/ 1 Mile Virtual Run/Walk - This will satisfy the postponed Mommy and Me Run from the spring. Registration will open soon! The challenge date will be Saturday, December 19th. We will encourage as many to participate! If your family registered for the run in the spring you are already registered. Packet Pick up and details forthcoming!

  • SMS Christmas Parade of Lights- This will be a drive-thru event; details are in the works. This will take place the week prior to our Christmas break.

Support from the community is welcome complying with all policies/protocols in regards to the safety of our community is appreciated. Interested parents may call 956-546-1805 or email Mrs. Anna Lindsey at our Admissions and Advancement Director.

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Calendar and Upcoming Events


11/11 - Veteran's Day - Children's Liturgy at 8:15 a.m. Ms. Kickham's 5th-grade class

11/13- World Kindness Day! The unveiling of a new "kind" shirt! Blue Jean Day

11/16- 11/20 - IOWA Assessment for virtual students - Details forthcoming

11/18- Children's Liturgy at 8:15 a.m. Mrs. Carpio's 4th-grade class

11/20 - Friendsgiving - Thanksgiving activity for all students virtual/in-person


11/23 - Asynchronous Day- Teacher planning and preparation day

Little Saints will be open

11/24 - 11/27 - Thanksgiving Break - Little Saints and St. Mary's School

(additional holiday approved by the superintendent)

11/29 - Advent Season begins


12/2 - Children's Liturgy at 8:15 a.m. Mrs. Rey and Ms. Solis 2nd Classes

12/8- Children's Liturgy at 8:15 Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Mrs. Gomez's 3rd-grade class

12/11 - Our Lady of Guadalupe - Prayer Service - Virtual

A virtual Christmas Program is in the works for both Montessori and 1st-6th grade for both in-person and virtual students in the most creative way. We want to include our community and share as always our Christmas message and prayer.

Further dates and details about December will be forthcoming in our email communications and December newsletter. Thank you!

Update on Safety Protocols - Holidays Approaching

The school community continues to work in unison and in full force in implementing our safety measures during the school day. Our plan has been implemented successfully and each member of our community doing their part.

The communication with our families and compliance with protocols so appreciated. Notification of travel plans, symptoms, and compliance with medical check-ups and clearances exceptional. I thank our families for their understanding, dedication, and teamwork.

With the holidays around the corner, there are a few clarifications and reminders I would like to address.

Sharing and bringing food items/treats/snacks to school are not permissible at this time. Though we have been told that the transmission of items is low, items can be cleaned, etc. The Diocese is still taking precautions to not allow outside items brought in and shared. This is an additional precaution for now. It will be reviewed again in December. The Catholic School Office will allow the school to offer a treat ( and we plan to) just so it remains controlled, we limit items brought to school, etc.

Travel is not being restricted at this time however all precautions should be taken when traveling with your family or without. There is still the risk of exposure anywhere we go. In the Return to School plan, it limited travel outside of the valley. That has changed. Travel within the state with proper precautions may not require quarantine. However, travel outside of the state and country may. Communication with the school is essential and a determination with administration will be made if a 7 - 14-day quarantine is necessary. These precautions support our plan and support safety for all. We once again thank our families for their compliance and extra measures taken.

The CDC and local health authorities offer suggestions and precautionary measures as we engage with each other and our own families this holiday season. Let us be aware and implement to care for one another.

Day to Day Interactions at SMS

As we have worked through each week we gradually have added minimal changes to our procedures.

Recess is provided daily with each classroom teacher supervising their individual class. Each class has now received a bag of equipment just for their class to use. Students wash/sanitize their hands before and after recess. All equipment is disinfected daily.

Mass attendance is by grade level now. The first cycle of mass was one class at a time. So if a 6th-grade class has prepared the mass, all 6th graders are in attendance, socially distanced with a mask. Only family members of the students participating in the mass may attend. School mass remains private and is not made public.

These minor adjustments to our plan will be made to reflect an up to date plan.

Also, a hard copy of our Media Release has been shared with all of our in-person students.

We now need to collect acknowledgment from our virtual students only. Below is the form for your review and a Google Form Link to confirm acceptance. The Google Form will also include the Parent-Student Handbook which will go out to our in-person students this week. In-person students will return the Acknowledgement Form to their teacher.

An electronic version of the Handbook for 20-21 can be found at our website under Parent Resources. A hardcopy may be requested. Once both documents are reviewed by our virtual student's families they may submit the Google form of Acknowledgement using the button below. .

Please note and remember that all policies in our Return to School Plan are in effect and superseded the policies at this time in our handbook, however, there are many important policies and information contained in our handbook for the 20-21 school year.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if there are any questions.

Handbook and Social Media Release Acknowledgement

Form to be completed by virtual families only. Please follow the directions.