Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Letter From Mrs. Martinez

A Letter From Mrs. Martinez

November 22, 2016

Dear Parents,

Among many other privileges, I am blessed daily to observe and be actively engaged in the multitude of rich academic experiences and opportunities our children are exposed to each day at Trinity.

 Recently, I took the opportunity to sit among our 3rd grade students at their annual class spelling bee. It brought me great joy to see the children so actively engaged and learning to love learning.  Listening to the students confidently and correctly spell words such as ambiguous, special and spellbound was quite impressive!  More importantly than the exemplification of our motto, what impressed me most was the support and encouragement that the students offered one another.  It was evident that each child knew their worth and appreciated one another.  Ultimately, though, the most valuable aspect of the experience for me is that I am confident I would find much the same in all of our classrooms.

Our recent school showing of the documentary SCREENAGERS has prompted me to request that you be extra vigilant about the computer interaction and internet activities in which your children engage in as well as the video games they play, the television programs, and movies your children watch.  I urge you not to allow access to the internet in a room where you are not directly supervising its use. Please be sure the computer is set so that you have full view of the screen. Young children are fear free and quite adept when it comes to the use of the internet.   They could easily be a click away from viewing inappropriate images or innocently participating in harmful activities.

Homework plays an important role in classroom learning each day.  Although the demands of balancing after school activities and family life is challenging, it is important that our children take the time necessary to carefully complete their home assignments regularly.  As we move into our 2nd trimester we ask that you please encourage and support your child in these efforts, as these are skills that will serve them for a lifetime.

With the variety of upcoming prayer services and concerts scheduled throughout December, there will be many opportunities to enter into the spirit of Christmas and enjoy this special time of year.  May the season hold for you and your family precious times and special moments, creating memories that you cherish for years to come.

Warm regards,                                                                                                            
Margie Martinez
Head of Primary School

A Letter From Mr. Rickbeil

A Letter From Mr. Rickbeil


Trinity Families,

The first three months of the year are a busy stretch of the calendar full of activities and events, and it is easy to lose sight of many good things in the midst of the busyness of the year.   As the first marking period has ended and we are moving into the winter months, this is a great time to give thanks for so many things that are making this a wonderful school year.

First, I am thankful for the support our entire school community has given us with our new technology and cell phone guidelines.  We made a great push at the beginning of the school year to make Trinity a cell-phone free environment for our students, and I have been amazed at how successful this initiative has been to start the year.  Removing the phones is helping our students to stay focused and is positively impacting our regular face-to-face interactions.  We could not make this happen without the support of our families.  I could tell from the large audience that came to the Screenagers movie that technology is a very relevant issue and I thank you for your help in guiding our students.

Secondly, we are very thankful for the flurry of shadow students that have been visiting Trinity, particularly in our middle school.  Our fifth grade students especially are getting used to hosting visitors, and the number of students shadowing at the beginning of the year has well surpassed the number of shadow students I have noticed in the past two falls.  Seeing the delight in the faces of our shadow students reminds me that we have a wonderful school that naturally attracts students and families, and I am grateful for the hospitality of our families, students, and our new admissions director Christine Walsh.  I think it is also a sign that you are spreading the word about the good things that happen in our school, as more and more people in our community are taking notice.

Additionally, I am very grateful for the hard work of our students to begin this school year.  Similar to running a race, starting the school year is not easy, and our rigorous curriculum requires a lot of work for our students.  Looking at the first trimester report cards, I see that our students have put in a great amount of work and have accomplished great achievements to begin the year.  I also know that this is just one small part of the work that it takes to accomplish great learning, and am grateful for the hours and hours of support that you as parents give to our students and the countless hours that our teachers put in to make this school year successful.

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our school, take some time to reflect and enjoy the labors of this fall.

God bless,
Kyle Rickbeil
Head of Middle School

A Letter from Sr. Catherine

A Letter From Sr. Catherine

November 27, 2016

Dear Parents,

It is hard to believe that we are one-third of the way as we “run toward the prize to which God calls us” this year.  Our students continue to grow in wisdom and grace before our very eyes and we continue our work each day trusting that the good God will guide us in all that we do.  Celebrating Trinity’s rich legacy of 75 years starting with the anniversary Mass celebrated by Archbishop Lori on October 22nd has been a joy and a gift. Trinity’s history is very rich and I look forward to sharing it with you during the second semester.

Now we look forward to advancing Trinity’s legacy by entering into the development of a new Strategic Plan for Trinity School.  Kevin Shearer, former parent and educator, is chairing the Strategic Planning Committee.  Four areas have been identified for study: Mission and Marketing, Enrollment Management, Finance and institutional Advancement, and Learning and Learning Spaces. These committees will engage in intense study and work from January through April. When the work of the committees is completed, we will share with you Trinity’s goals for the next five years.

As you know we continue to work with our students to help them practice digital citizenship.  While we have encouraged you, as parents, to exercise reasonable control over your child’s use of electronic devices, we are also helping our students understand the value of conversation. A first step toward that goal is to practice “no screen time” during meals and family celebrations. We hope that you will join us in this endeavor.

Trinity continues to remain “green.”  We have a very robust recycling program and through our monthly energy audits students are becoming very careful to conserve energy by turning off lights when not in use. May they continue this at home. Zero Waste Lunch Audits reveal that students can do more to decrease waste. Many students now bring their sandwich in a reusable container.  Where they can do better is to bring their fruit, cookies and snacks in reusable containers. You can find all sizes of these containers in the grocery store.  Purchase a large bag of chips instead of individual ones, and then fill the container.  Get your child involved in preparing his/her lunch.

As we prepare for Christmas, may you find time during the season of Advent, busy as it is, to find time to remove the clutter from your minds and hearts and prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, the God of all goodness, who brings true peace into our hearts and our homes.

Sister Catherine Phelps, SNDdeN

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November's Virture of the Month: FAITH


Faith is confidence and hope in God. 
Faith is not being able to see, but trusting the one who can. 
A person of faith acts and believes that God will take care of us, even though we can’t see what he’s up to or where he is taking us.
We live in faith when we go through our days trusting in God.

Matthew 8:  23 – 27
Jesus Calms a Storm
Lesson:  HAVE FAITH - Do not doubt that God is there to help you.

Matthew 17:20
The disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why couldn’t we drive the demon out?”
“It was because you do not have enough faith,” answered Jesus. ”I assure you that if you have faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this hill, ‘Go from here to there!’ and it will go.  You could do anything!”


FAITH can move mountains.

FAITH means trust.

FAITH means protection.

FAITH is believing.

FAITH results in action.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 6

Part Six: The Tour de Finland

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 6: The Tour de Finland

This post is the sixth installment of a blog series chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

In the middle of my stay in Finland, I signed up for a one week bike tour in an area of Southwest Finland called the Turku Archipelago.  This bike route spans a region in the Baltic Sea covered with thousands of islands, stretching from the city of Turku toward the Aland Islands that lie between Finland and Sweden.  The route I took was 186 kilometers (or 115 miles) long, containing long days of biking Finland's backroads and island-hopping on ten separate ferries on the Baltic Sea.  For me, great vacations take me out of my regular routine and into the wilderness, and I can't imagine being much more "out" than this tour along Finland's coast.  The cool 60-degree weather of most days also was a welcome relief in the midst of a typical sweltering summer in Baltimore.

On the first morning of the bike tour, I found myself somewhat unprepared for the 43-mile trip that would follow that day.  The company had sent me detailed directions of where to turn, but I was in full "vacation mode" and didn't really study the routes.  At the bike rental shop where I picked up my bike for the week, I noticed a young German couple named Robin and Claudia trying out bikes and realized that they must be on my trip as well.  This was my opportunity.  After introducing myself, I asked if they would  mind if I rode with them for the day, since we were headed for the same place.  They agreed, and it was the beginning of a friendship that would last for the next 115 miles.

I certainly understood that bicycles and married couples do not need third wheels, so I started the trip by biking with them while allowing them to have their space whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Robin would navigate the route with his map while Claudia stopped to take photos of the picturesque scenery.  I did my part by tracking our GPS coordinates on my phone, occasionally settling disputes about whether we were supposed to be turning left or right.  They were excited to practice their English skills by speaking to me, and I was excited to learn about life in Europe through them.  After we arrived at our lodgings on the first day, I decided to eat dinner on my own to give them the space that they probably booked the trip to enjoy together.  It was my last meal alone for the rest of the trip.

Two other English couples were also on our tour, and I spent considerable time biking and dining with Richard and Jenn, who were from Bristol.  Richard had the hilarious British sense of humor that you often see on movies, so he was an immediate hit, even if he did not enjoy my puns.  Jenn was warm and welcoming from the beginning, and I always felt comfortable joining them for a meal or a cup of tea.  The third day of our tour allowed us a rest day, and I spent nearly the entire day with them walking around the island, eating meals, and enjoying the scenery.

When I signed up for the bike tour, I imagined that I would spend the entire week taking in the scenery and solitude of a week of my bike.  Instead, I found myself more and more occupied by my new friends.  We spent all of our meals together, dining on increasingly larger tables that could accommodate all of our group.   I learned how to enjoy a conversation over tea in the morning or a five-course dinner at the end of the day.  I learned more than I ever imagined about German medical schools, cold water swimming, European tax laws, and the European Union.  But more than anything, I learned how to be a European for the week, with the sights, tastes, and large hotel breakfasts that came with it.

Anyone who has ever seen me run a 5k race or coach a basketball game knows that I am competitive, and I enjoy the thrill of competition and the feeling of victories and accomplished goals.  I envisioned my bike tour being full of personal fitness goals and photographs that I could post of Facebook to the delight of my friends.   However, it did not take me long to realize this tour was not a race, but a casual ride with six new friends on the journey.  This is a very Finnish way of looking at things, where teamwork is treasured and the frequent recesses offered during school days are seen as classrooms in collaboration.  I like this approach, as collaboration and partnership are indoctrinated aspects of Finnish life.  Collaboration and teamwork even make their way into their tax structure, as Finland pays some of the highest taxes in the world (the value-added tax in Finland is 24%), but many of the people I met agreed with the high taxes and the benefits of the services the taxes provide.

In the United States, we have a way of turning many things into competitions, and school is not immune to this competitive culture.  Students want the highest scores on the test and the highest honors at the end of the school year.  Even simple games at recess can turn into Super Bowls of competition.  School is not much fun as a competition, however, and is much better off seen as a journey with other cyclists on their way.

I think that life is often like my bike trip, trekking through picturesque scenery on a path to heaven, with traveling companions assisting us along the way.  As we continue our trek through this school year, let's learn to enjoy the companionship of our fellow bikers.  After all, they are the best part of the trip!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 5

Part Five: Encountering Flow

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 5:  Encountering Flow

This post is the fifth installment of a blog series chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

Last Fall, I was in the midst of a brutal six-credit semester at Marymount University when I came across a book titled The Smartest Kids in the World.  I had already chosen to research the topic of anxiety disorders in one of my classes, but I was curious about this book, particularly because I had heard good things about education in Finland.  The book immediately drew me in, and within days I had changed my research topic to the Finnish education system.  Over the rest of the semester, I worked longer and harder than I ever had at any point in my career, leaving Trinity regularly at 6:00 and spending many evenings in the Baltimore County Public Library working on my Finland research.  However, I found the topic to be so interesting and meaningful that the long hours and late nights passed quickly.  Once again, I was encountering flow.

If you have not heard the word flow used in this context, it is best defined as being completely engrossed in what you are doing.  When you are in a state of flow, you are firing on all cylinders, working hard on a task while enjoying it the entire time.  You are motivated yet challenged, and you find the experience too hard to walk away from because you enjoy it so much.  When you are working in a state of flow, hours go by as if they were minutes, and the tedious details of the job become interesting parts of a puzzle.  It is, without doubt, the best way to work.

In my research of Finnish education, I did not reach much about flow.  In my tour of Finnish schools, the educational experts and principals that I spoke with rarely talked about flow or its importance in Finnish classrooms.  They didn't need to.  I saw it firsthand everywhere I went.  The second grade students that walked over to the public library immediately after school were experiencing flow.  The middle school students making pancakes in their home economics class knew about flow.  The teenage high school graduate leading me on a tour of her former elementary school demonstrated flow in all of her work. The teachers working in Finland's schools enjoyed flow as a regular part of their jobs.  It was everywhere.

Flow naturally answered many of my questions about Finnish education.  Why do Finnish schools take 15-minute recess breaks every hour?  The kids have a better chance to experience flow after taking these breaks.  Why do teachers spend significantly fewer hours teaching in Finland and more time collaborating with their peers?  Collaborating makes the job more enjoyable, with more flow.  Why does Finland prioritize the "specials" classes?  They create flow, and the variety of classes within the day make students more likely to find flow within their math and language classes as well.
 I remember one of the most powerful experiences of flow that I experienced in my life.  During my junior year of high school, I had my career dreams set on being a meteorologist on the nightly news.  For my high school service project, I worked as an assistant coach of a 5th and 6th grade girls' basketball team at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton school in my hometown of Saint Cloud, Minnesota.  Within a few weeks, I was hooked.  90 minute practices flew by, and felt as if they were 10 minutes long.  Weekly basketball games  became the most enjoyable part of my week.  I started doodling game plans and diagraming plays in my notebook during chemistry class.  The experience of flow I encountered coaching basketball changed my life for the better and led me to a career of teaching and coaching.

The beauty of flow is that it shows us how God has made each of us so unique that we enjoy different tasks that would bore others.  During my time in Finland, I befriended a German accountant who was well-versed in international tax laws.  At one point, he gave me a detailed lecture on setting up a business within international tax laws while we biked together on the western islands of Finland.  I never, EVER, would consider this work interesting, but I admired his expertise and the fact that he was so enthusiastic about his work.  After all, even international taxes can be an experience of flow- just not for me.

I worry that in the United States we are constantly drawn to an idea of education in which our children are well-rounded experts at everything.  We yearn for our children to reach the American dream of being on the honor roll while earning playing time on the varsity team and playing at an expert level on a musical instrument at the same time.  While learning to be a well-rounded person is certainly important, I think we would do better by focusing on each subject, sport, and activity as an opportunity for flow.  In high school, the service component of my Catholic school helped me discover a love for teaching, coaching, and working with young people that changed my life.  All of our kids should be so lucky.  To create a school in which children learn to love learning, we must arrange it so that our students regularly experience flow.

My trip to Finland was my first visit to Europe.  When I told people this, many of them looked puzzled as to why I would make my first European venture to its remote northern outpost.  I was not puzzled- I love Finland, and it was the perfect place for me to explore first.  My trip there this past summer served as a 17-day experience of flow, whether I was visiting a history museum, relaxing in the sauna, biking on the islands of Finland’s Turku Archipelago, or visiting Finnish schools.  I know I have a specific curiosity in Finland that is not shared by many other people, but I enjoy that as well.  After all, you have to "go with the flow".

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Trinity School Celebrates 75 Years

Trinity School Celebrates 75 Years Of "Teaching Children What They Need For Life."

Trinity School in Ellicott City is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a liturgical celebration on Saturday, October 22, 2016.  The celebration, presided over by Archbishop William Lori, will be held in the school's auditorium.

The land Trinity School inhabits was purchased in 1934 by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  It was originally opened as a junior high and high school for girls.  In 1941, the elementary school was opened and named the Julie Billiart Country Day School, after the foundress of the order.  In 1972, the girls high school was closed. Trinity School grew to take over the high school building.  Trinity's oldest building was constructed in the early 1900's and its newest building, St. Julie Hall, the middle school, was completed in 2002.
The mission and philosophy of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is still fundamental in the Trinity School of today.  Trinity offers a strong academic curriculum with expanding and enriching programs in all disciplines, creating an environment where children learn to love learning.  The school fosters a positive self-image in its students and provides skills and opportunities for leadership.  Decision-making skills and accepting responsibility for one's actions are integral to a Trinity experience.  Trinity is committed to nurturing self-respect, self-discipline, and self-direction in each student.
One of the cornerstones of a Trinity education is creating a stimulating and caring environment that is conducive to learning both in and out of the classroom.  Trinity encourages students to participate in programs and projects to help the less fortunate, including regular food and supply drives for local food pantries, bingo with the residents of St. Martin's Home and even helping those within the Trinity community that have fallen on difficult times. Not only are students encouraged to participate, but families as well, creating a strong and caring community.
Trinity is steeped in tradition and also administers programs that foster the growth and development of the entire family.  There are a multitude of activities that offer parents the opportunity to join the students, such as the annual Turtle Derby, the Fall Festival, and the Trinity Trot.  Around the campus daily, you can see parents volunteering in many different capacities.
At the helm of Trinity is Sister Catherine Phelps, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur.  She has provided leadership to the Trinity School community for over 45 years.  She has worked with her staff to develop an educational program that encourages students to recognize and accept the uniqueness of each person.  

"I know that I am in a position where I can create an environment that really makes children happy and helps them to thrive," Sr. Catherine states. "I also want to have that same environment for my teachers where they can grow professionally and spiritually."
Trinity has twice been named a United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School.  The school has earned many other awards such as the Maryland State Green School Award and the several Healthy Howard Innovative Awards.  39 high school scholarships were earned by the class of 2016. 
The Liturgical celebration of Trinity's 75th year on Saturday, October 22 will be held in the school's auditorium at 4:00pm and will be followed by light refreshments.  Trinity welcomes all to hear Archbishop Lori and to join in the festivities.  

Jordan Alexander-Payne
Trinity Parent
Trinity PR & Marketing Committee