The rigor of our Middle School (6th-8th grade) curriculum is self-evident, given the emphases on Rhetoric, Declamation, lexical Latin studies and our Advanced Mathematics program. There is, however, also an overarching goal to develop responsible young men and women who are interested in what they learn and who they are becoming. One of the most important things that STCS children master is the art of being a student. It is for these reasons that, in addition to academic rigor, our students receive the personal guidance of faculty, in shaping some aspects of their own education.
The standard math curriculum at STCS is advanced, and culminates in a complete Algebra I course. Students in Accelerated Mathematics program complete a full course in Geometry by the end of their 8th Grade year. The STCS science program integrates technology, theory, mathematics, and practical application in experiments. Whenever possible, Science course content is coordinated to Mathematics lessons to show the real-world use of the concepts studied in Mathematical theory. Students study two languages (Latin and Spanish), logic, public speaking, world politics, vocabulary and grammar. Significant time is also given to the arts, including painting, drawing, singing and drama. To round out this expansive education, we also offer physical education, the opportunity to join team sports, and a number of after school enrichment opportunities in learning a musical instrument, Technology Club, Rosary and Adoration Association, among other perennial offerings.
Middle School students at STCS are also members of our House System. The House System is, certainly from the student’s perspective, the highlight of their STCS middle school experience. Yet while students primarily think of the House in terms of fun, the faculty utilize well-planned House events to mentor students on a individual level. Special care is given to instill in every young person a sense of personal responsibility, not only for who they are now, but also for the future young men and women that they are, through God’s grace, gradually becoming.
The strength of the STCS curriculum, however, is not really about particular systems or specialized content. What truly sets us apart and accounts for the remarkable achievement of our students—who are generally two grade levels ahead of their peers in other similar institutions—is that teaching here is conversational, and rooted in the Socratic method. A great deal of time is deliberately devoted to student-initiated discussions of assigned texts. We want to create a collegial atmosphere where students help one another formulate ideas as they reflect on the development of their own character, in a Ciceronian fashion. This is accomplished through a pedagogical methodology that is frequently rich in informal classroom debate.
So many young people have little meaningful instruction in art; few students today know the satisfaction of making something beautiful with one’s own hands, while understanding such achievement as a reflection of God’s own work as Creator. At Saint Theresa Catholic School, we are committed to the idea that everyone should be an artist—we have Art in every grade, Pre-K thru 8th. Long after our students have left this brick building and shaded sidewalks, when they are 40 or 50, we want them to feel invigorated by their ability to paint, draw, or sculpt what a lifetime of experience has enabled them to see and feel.
Our Art program focuses heavily on drawing, painting, and sculpting. Historically, and developmentally, these disciplines are foundational to so many other forms of artistic expression. We also focus on different periods, media, and schools of art as a conscious reinforcement of the historical periods that students are exploring in each grade level. Through these media and methods we give our students, “eyes to see” the multivalence of the world, to see deeply within themselves and within human experience, to see and mimic the artistry of God. By these same means, we also enable them to see with the eyes of their forebears in the faith and in history.
We think of Art as a mixture of work and play. Our classes dynamically move from collaborative to individual projects all under the gentle guidance of a mature and accomplished artist. We work hard to bring out the best in each student and every student showcases their best work in the two art exhibitions we put on every year.
At STCS students develop a taste for the finer things; they can appreciate excellence when they see it, and they truly find joy and satisfaction in creating a portfolio of meaningful work.
History in grades 4-8 is a five-year survey grounded in Western Civilization. History lessons are taught through the reading of primary texts and historical fiction discussed in Socratic seminars. Close reading and note-taking from lectures and readings are also emphasized, as we assist students in the development of fundamental academic skills. Students are asked to write a significant number of literature-based papers and research papers to solidify the learning process.
The History sequence is:
- 4th Grade: Dawn of Civilization through the end of the Roman Empire
- 5th Grade: Fall of the Western Roman Empire through High Middle Ages
- 6th Grade: Late Middle Ages through Prelude to Revolution
- 7th Grade: Age of Revolution
- 8th Grade: The Twentieth Century and the Modern Era
Geography classes (7th-8th) are focused on contemporary issues in global politics. Students are asked to research competing viewpoints surrounding a particular issue, to take a side, and to defend their position in informal classroom debates.
The goal of our Middle School curriculum is to develop well-formed citizens of the world, whose sense of justice and duty includes a keen sense of global responsibility.
One of the touchstones of an STCS education is the close integration of different subjects, so that students have a sense of the whole of a subject and the inter-relatedness of aspects of human experience. This ideal is exemplified, for example, in our intentional selection of literature in different grades that is either about the period of History that students are studying, or that encapsulates a particular moral dilemma of that era. Our aim is to ensure that in History, students a broad view of a period, with literature providing a deep view of an individual, family, or specific moral and social concerns of the period.
The great books of western civilization are the staples for literature at STCS. This enables us to direct students’ attention to primary sources. It is far more important for them to read Plato than to read a secondary author’s opinion of a given Platonic Dialogue. The STCS approach is to always favor direct engagement with a topic, text, or author. Great books are therefore discussed in Socratic seminars where students collaboratively engage texts under the gentle guidance of an instructor. We want students to acquire a love affair with books and we think that Socratic seminars are essential for connecting young learners to the great conversation about virtue and character that has engaged educated men and women for centuries.
Middle School writing is also integrated into the Literature series at STCS. Students write several literature-based papers focused on the themes they encounter in the assigned seminal texts of western civilization.
In short, we believe—based on the observations of the best educators in history, that is Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Cicero—that the best way to develop one’s best thinking is to only read the best.
At STCS, our students are students of the written and spoken word. Much attention is given to a rigorous analysis of language. Grammatical studies at STCS (1st-7th) are intense and are seen as preparatory to the Logic classes that all of our Middle School students take in sixth and seventh grade. We feel that both Grammar and Logic help develop clear thinkers. Poetry classes also nurture their burgeoning analytics skills as students are asked to master the art of scansion.
In addition to analysis, we are also especially intent on helping our students learn how to express themselves elegantly and persuasively. Classes in rhetoric, both written and oral rhetoric, help students find their own forms self-expression appropriate to their own intentions and the audience they find themselves addressing.
At STCS we tend to avoid a “report” oriented language arts curriculum (something that pervasive in American education) that asks students to “cut and paste” from informational texts. We offer to our younger scholars, instead, the blank page and the unoccupied podium, and we ask them to produce something original. We ask our Middle School students to write, to speak, and to defend themselves within the community of intellectuals that is our student body.
The study of Latin in Middle School builds upon the Primary School foundation, while shifting from a conversational to a textual model. The move to a more lexical approach results in our students completing Latin studies at STCS by reading selections from the writings of Saint Augustine, Julius Caesar, and Cicero, in the original. These pursuits are a valuable reinforcement to studies in History, Literature, and Theology at STCS. Secondary benefits to such undertakings include the fact that children who study a classical language typically score 12 to 15 percentage points higher on standardized tests. This impressive outcome results in large part from the fact that the grammar of classical languages is complex, and mastery of them therefore expands a child’s capacity for intricate thought.
Because Latin is mother tongue of so many of European languages, it is an excellent introduction to all the Romance languages, making it relatively easy for our students to master Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc. A good Latin student already knows around 80% of the vocabulary that he or she will encounter in the romance languages. At STCS, Latin language studies are complemented with explorations in Spanish, starting in 6th Grade.
Mathematics is studied in a deliberately methodical way at Saint Theresa Catholic School. Our students typically average within the top 15% of the country in their math test scores.
Given the highly abstract and conceptual nature of Mathematics, we teach the subject in a conceptual as opposed to a formulaic manner. We use the Singapore Math Series (K-8th grade) because the program fosters an intuitive, not a mechanical approach to mathematical concepts. We also rely on the Singapore Math approach for its strong curricular connections between concepts and manipulatives. In short, the best way for children to grasp concepts, is to allow them to grasp things. The Singapore curriculum is built on that important educational insight.
At Saint Theresa Catholic School, our Music program primarily consists of vocal instruction through the Ward Method. The Ward Method was developed to teach American Catholic school children the fundamentals of Music so that they would be able to sing the vast repertoire of Sacred Music which is a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s hymnic tradition. The Ward Method is unique in that it has a basis in Gregorian chant. The Ward Method also teaches modern musical notation and song. We have after-school and liturgical choirs (Little Flowers, Flos Cantum, etc.) that enable students to build on the vocal instruction they receive during the school day.
We also offer instrumental lessons to our student body after school. For example, we offer piano, violin, and guitar, with many public performance opportunities. In short, we want to develop a culture of music at Saint Theresa Catholic School and we fully believe that Music, like math and science, should be a part of the lives of all our students.
At STCS, Physical Education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole child. Students in grades 6 through 8 have either P.E. or Recess every day of the week. Our motto is mens sana in corpore sano for we believe that an active physical life aids a healthy mind. We also deliberately incorporate the mission and identity of Catholic education into our P.E. curriculum, through a unique focus on patron saints and different sports or developing different neuro-motor systems and coordination and skill of different body parts.
Physical Education is also intended to introduce our students to the value of sports. Sports, properly engages, is a great venue for character formation. Through sports, we learn endurance, patience, sacrifice, and teamwork. At Saint Theresa Catholic School, Physical Education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole person.
Our mission to witness to and model Gospel values is the chief hallmark of an STCS education. It is imperative in any authentically Catholic school that students be taught to understand the Catholic Faith and how that Faith relates to the various alternate viewpoints that students will encounter in today’s pluralistic, multicultural society. For all of these reasons, we also help students to understand clearly what the Church teaches, on what authority, and why.
Middle School Religious education at STCS is therefore a sustained engagement with Scripture, Apologetics, Church History, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Building up a life of Christian faith is not merely a cerebral pursuit, and we also aim to engage our students’ hearts and hands, through retreats and projects that develop a sense of social responsibility. These undertakings are essential to our sense of religious formation of our students.
The Middle School Science curriculum offers a graduated and systematic exposure to many scientific disciplines (e.g., earth, biological, chemical, and physical sciences) within a unified curriculum. In these endeavors, we are primarily concerned to help our students think scientifically, through weekly labs that develop students’ skills in scientific discovery and verification. In the upper levels (5th through 8th Grade), Mathematics and technology are intentionally integrated into the classroom. The history of Science is one of advancement through the mutual exchange of theory and technology, and our Science curriculum is a unique blend of STEM, and what in earlier generations was called “Natural Philosophy.” Saint Theresa Catholic School is also committed to teaching every discipline in the full living context of the subject. Just as Latin is conversational at STCS, and Art is taught from the standpoint of Art History at rather than mere technique, Science classes prioritize the study of living organisms, habitats, and species interactions within a given ecosystem.