Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Message from Trinity Board Chair Mr. Tom Pilon

Christmas 2016


Dear Trinity Families & Friends,

Christmas is nearly here, and with it, the New Year.  So, no matter how busy we all may be, it is likely that the majority of us will spend a little time reflecting on the year that was – acknowledging our shortcomings, embracing our successes, and evaluating how we might improve in the coming year.  In other words, we will make New Year’s Resolutions.  We might even be so bold as to write them down and post them somewhere conspicuous so that others will see them and support us in reaching those objectives.

This year, the Board of Trustees is going through that exact exercise as we prepare Trinity’s new Strategic Plan.  Our work started in September and will be completed by June, 2017.  In her recent letter to the School community, Sister Catherine gave a brief update on the Board’s efforts.  As she noted, the Board has identified four planning topics to be addressed in the plan:  Mission & Marketing, Enrollment Management, Finance & Institutional Advancement, and Learning & Learning Spaces.  As we consider these topics, we are constantly reminded to think strategically – to consider how Trinity can improve on its successes, abandon strategies that have not worked, and seek out and embrace new strategies that will aid the school in achieving the goals set forth in the plan, moving ever closer to the aspirations embodied in the plan.

St. Julie’s charism is alive and well at Trinity.  Through her continuing prayers, she urges Trinity, and thus all the members of Trinity’s community, to be faithful to God, to instill Gospel values in our students, and to be ever vigilant in ensuring that they are truly being prepared for life – so that as they go out into the world, they will do so carrying God’s love in their hearts, and carrying out His work through their words and actions.  The Board of Trustees’ efforts are aimed at ensuring that Trinity will develop a sound plan that will allow it to remain faithful to, and successful in achieving its Mission.

This Christmas season, please pray for the members of the Board of Trustees that we will be guided by the Holy Spirit, diligent in our efforts, and open to the suggestions and support of all those who will participate in preparing the strategic plan.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, please be assured of our prayers for you and your families – that Christ’s peace, love, and joy will reside in your hearts and homes this Christmas, and sustain you in the coming year.  Have a joyful Christmas, and blessed New Year.


Thomas Pilon Chair, Trinity School Board of Trustees

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Trinity Studio: About Mr. McCormick

Inside the Trinity Studio: About Mr. McCormick

A few years ago the PR and Marketing Committee featured articles on the Trinity teachers and staff. We thought it would be interesting to showcase just a few faculty and staff members this year.

The December issue features fourth grade teacher, Mr. Tim McCormick, interviewed by Development Assistant, Ramona Poblete.

"Meet Mr. Tim McCormick, a fourth grade teacher here at Trinity School. He has been teaching here for 11 years and enjoys teaching Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Spelling, and Math. His favorite subject to teach is Religion. Originally from Towson, Maryland, Mr. McCormick obtained his Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola University. In addition, he is married to his lovely wife, Violet, and has a sixteen-month old son.

Get to know more about Mr. McCormick, his background as a Lawyer, and find out who his favorite sports teams are! Tune in to our live interview below! In addition, listen to Mr. McCormick play a fun game called, 'What Spice is that?' in our exclusive interview with him." - Ramona Poblete

Click Here for the Audio Interview with Mr. McCormick

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December's Virtue of the Month: PATIENCE


Patience is a virtue.  Practicing Patience means waiting.  We need to learn how to wait. Advent is a good time to work on this because during this season we are waiting celebrate the birth of Christ.

Some ways to practice patience are:
    ~ Waiting for help from a teacher
    ~ Waiting for someone to pick you up
    ~ Waiting for an answer
    ~ Waiting in carpool line
How was I patient today?

We will all have many opportunities to practice patience this month as we WAIT in line while we are Christmas shopping.  Think of all the people that you can pray for instead of being impatient.
REMEMBER: Practice Makes Perfect!

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 4

Part Four: The Most Powerful Word in Finnish

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 4:  The Most Powerful Word In Finnish

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

Before my trip to Finland, I had great ambitions to learn the Finnish language.  Since I just finished graduate school in May, I figured I would have some extra time over the summer to study the language.  I planned to study 30-60 minutes a day, making flash cards, and devoting myself to this extra project.  I even downloaded a Finnish learning program for my computer, convinced it would help me expand my Finnish vocabulary.  It never really worked out.  After graduating, my brain was ready for a break, so I didn't really take out the flash cards. When the summer began, I meant to open up my computer and practice on the software, but it was summer, so I kept finding other things to do.  In fact, I think I practiced on my computer program only two or three times over the whole summer.  In retrospect, I had good reasons to be discouraged about studying the language.  Finnish is one of the most complicated languages in the world, and it is extremely difficult for foreigners to learn.  The language derives from Hungarian, and bears almost no resemblance to the Latin-based languages that I know.  Learning Finnish in 30 minutes a day was not going to work anyway.

Although I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to understand Finnish, I was able to pick up some important words.  I learned to love pekoni (bacon) at the breakfast table with kahvi (coffee) to get me through the morning.  The markets sold many types of lohi (salmon) and plentiful  jäätelö (ice cream) for dessert.  I was even able to pick up the right greeting for the time of day, saying hyvää huomenta (good morning) or hyvää päivää (good day) based on what time it was.   However, the one Finnish word that really opened doors for me was kiitos, the Finnish word for thank you.

The word kiitos had a profound effect on the Finnish people I encountered, and saying the word always seemed to make them smile.  Maybe they felt honored that I was trying to learn Finnish.  Maybe they thought it was cute that an American tourist thought he could attempt to speak their language.  Maybe I was mispronouncing it in a way that was really funny.  Or maybe, expresing gratitude is really more powerful than I ever imagined.

All of the smiles I received encouraged me to say kiitos all the more.  Kiitos to the man who showed me around Helsinki in an impromptu walking tour.  Kiitos to the grocer at the counter who patiently waited on me when I clearly didn't understand how to buy groceries at a Finnish grocery store.  Kiitos to the dry cleaners that told me where I could find a laundromat.  Kiitos to the receptionist at the hotel who gave me directions around town.  Kiitos to every waitress and waitor that served me.  Kiitos to the principals on my study tour that welcomed me into their schools and the professionals that taught me about the Finnish education system.  Everywhere I went, these words had the same profound impact, no matter who I was speaking to.

Although the word kiitos has a nice ring to it, I think "thank you" can have the same powerful impact in our everyday American lives.  When I pray at the end of each day, my first and most important prayer ritual is to thank God for the blessings of the day.  I occasionally write these down, as a reminder that the day really was filled with grace and blessings.  This practice certainly makes me thankful for what I have, but more importantly makes me a more grateful and humble person.  I need to spend more time on this.

A school day, especially in middle school, can be tough on kids. Many young people experience challenges in a school day that can bring them tension, tears, and frustration.  However, when discussing the day as a family, I would encourage you to reflect on the things you were thankful for.  It does not mean that you glaze over the difficult things or minimize the frustrations, but reflecting with gratitude has a way of putting everything in the right perspective.  After all, we are so often blessed with great food, great resources,  and incredible opportunities, and it's so easy to take all of this for granted.  Taking a few moments each day to be thankful can have a profound impact on our year and a transnational impact on our lives.

Finally, I have a final programming note for this week's blog.  I originally planned on making these blog posts a five-part series, but I now realize that I am going to need a few more weeks.  Thus, this week's post is part four of a series that will probably have seven, eight, or nine parts to it by the time it is over.  In the past three weeks, I have been encouraged with the support I have received, and sincerely appreciate the likes, e-mails, and comments I have received from the Trinity family.  I am also grateful for my friends who have been following me on social media, including my mother (thanks, Mom!)  Some of my posts have even been made their way to Finland, which brings me a great amount of joy and satisfaction.  I am most appreciative for all of the support, and I can truly say kiitos from the bottom of my heart.

October's Virtue of the Month: PERSEVERANCE


Perseverance is the will to see things in spite of fear, obstacles, hard work, or discouragement.

A person who practices perseverance shows commitment and determination and demonstrates persistence and endurance.

Do you practice perseverance in these situations?

~ Being faithful to your commitment as a car aide
~ Never missing a drama rehearsal unless ill
~ Attending all Cross Country practices
~ Signing up for a job or activity and completing it
~ Doing your part in a class assignment
~ Setting a goal and reaching it

Practice, Practice, Practice

Perseverance in prayer.  Ask and you shall receive.  Keep on asking!!

Choose to persevere....rather than quit.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 3

Part Three:  Where Specials Classes are Special

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 3:  Where Specials Classes are Special

This post is the third installment of a five-part series, chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

Inspired by the work of noted travel author Rick Steves, one of the goals of my Finland trip was to fully experience the ins and outs Finnish culture.  In his writing, Steves encourages tourists to go beyond the "touristy" places to truly meet the people of a foreign culture and embrace their way of life.  During my time in Finland, I learned quite a bit about the Finnish people by going to Church, shopping at the grocery store, visiting the public sauna, and taking walks through the central marketplaces of the towns.  However, I gained my best insights on Finnish culture by visiting Finnish schools.

For one week of my visit to Finland, I participated in a Finnish study tour led by a company called Learning Scoop, which specializes in giving foreign educators a tour of the Finnish education system.  During my study tour, I was able to visit four different schools, spending a few hours at each school.  I walked through the hallways, visited classrooms, met with some of the students, teachers, and principals, and dined on their school lunches.  One of the biggest differences I noticed with their culture was their special treatment of the classes we would call "specials".

Looking at a side-by-side comparison of our two curriculums, I noticed that Finnish students spend more time working on classes that we would not consider our "core" subjects, such as foreign languages, physical education, art, and music.  Although Finland's students place near the top of the charts on international reading, math, and science tests, they  spend a smaller proportion of their school day in these subjects.   Instead, it is very common to find Finnish students studying other pursuits during a school day.  Students learn multiple foreign languages in school, and it is not uncommon for a middle school student to study Swedish, English, and an additional language of their choice in addition to their native Finnish.  Music and art are also important parts of their curriculum, just as they are in many American schools.  While many Trinity students would tell you that gym class is their favorite, it is also a hit in Finland.  Some of the schools even have small forests with cross-country ski trails right on their campus, so students can enjoy a 5k loop on their skis during gym class.

Additionally, it is not uncommon to find classrooms in Finnish schools with looms, sewing machines, power saws, and woodworking equipment.  Crafting and woodworking are staples of the Finnish educational system, and they have revised their curriculum to make sure that boys and girls learn how to sew and do woodwork.  Home economics class is also alive and well in Finland, and many schools offer this as an elective class.  During one of my school visits, I walked into a classroom full of kitchen appliances, with eager students learning to cook and eat pancakes together.  Some of the principals told me that home economics has become the most popular class in their school, as students want to emulate the celebrity chefs on TV.  Of course, if I had the chance to eat pancakes in class, this might be my favorite class too!

In the United States, we have a way of short-changing these "special" classes.  When we have to prioritize, we limit our scope to math and language arts, sometimes clumping science and social studies into this as well.  Although all of these subjects are important, Finland taught me not to underestimate the rest of the curriculum.  After all, it is through these subjects that we truly learn about what we need for life.

As a single adult, I have to admit that my learning in these "specials" classes has become increasingly important to my life.  My Catholic school religion classes led me to a career teaching religion, and Mass on Sunday serves as the foundation of my week.  Gym class has become more and more influential to me as an adult, as learning to exercise regularly, eat properly, and develop a fitness routine helps me to do my best.  I'm even finding myself more drawn to music and the arts, as they make for a well-balanced life.  As for home economics:  The more I go on in life, the more I realize how I missed the boat by not taking a class like this.  Last week, I felt inspired to sautee some chicken and kale for a nutritious and protein-rich dinner.  My cooking errors were numerous.  First, I did not marinate or season the chicken, leaving it way too bland.  Next, I did not put enough oil in the pan, causing the chicken to cook slowly.  After this, I added too much oil to compensate, giving the kale leaves a slick and greasy texture.  The end result was a rather fatty and tasteless collection of chicken and kale- with plenty of leftovers for the next evening's dinner.   Yes, I can positively state that I could have benefitted from home economics class!

The more time I spent in Finland, the more I realized that these "special" subjects not only receive priority in school, but they are prioritized in life.  The Finns place a high priority on the arts, and take pride in many of their classical composers and musicians.  They enjoy physical fitness, and it is common to see many people walking, running, and biking outside on a summer day.  The Finnish people are also experts in learning foreign languages, and were very comfortable demonstrating their English to tourists like me.  Finland does not just prioritize these subjects because they want to give their students a break from math and language arts, but because they are important to living a healthy and balanced life.

Please don't take any of this as a message against language arts and math, as they obviously carry great importance in school and in life.  However, there is so much more to life than just academic work and so much more to school than just the core subjects.  If you come to my home for dinner, you will realize just how important the "specials" classes really are.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip - Part 2

Part Two:  The Sauna Experience

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 2:  The Sauna Experience

This post is the second installment of a five-part series, chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

Being from Minnesota, I understand stress.  Life in Minnesota has plenty of stresses, including snow in April (and occasionally May), tater tot hotdish, frequent summer road construction, more frequent summer mosquitoes, and weeks in a row where the temperature never tops 30 degrees.  Additionally, we have some strange rituals in Minnesota designed to reduce stress that actually seem to create more stress such as ice fishing, camping with the mosquitoes, and watching the Minnesota Vikings.  Growing up prepared me for strange forms of stress and recreation, but nothing could have prepared me for the Finnish version of recreation.

In Finland, the national recreation obsession is the sauna, and they are everywhere in Finland.  They are in the vast majority of the hotels, apartment complexes, and individual homes.  They are in summer cottages on lakes and larger vacation homes beside the Baltic Sea.  If you are ever lucky enough to take a boat tour around Helsinki, you will find an endless supply of houses with an equally endless supply of saunas.  In fact, most of the saunas are built to resemble the houses they are next to, with the same color roofs and paneling.

Staying in hotels, I had plenty of opportunities to visit a sauna, although the hotel saunas are supposedly not as authentic as the municipal ones.  On one of my days in Finland, I paid a visit to a public sauna next to the large lake on the North end of the city I was staying in.  I was suffering with the jitters from a rather strong cup of coffee (another Finnish tradition), so visiting the Sauna in the early evening seemed to be a good idea to relax.  I had no idea what I was in for.

The sauna experience begins with a plunge into the lake.  In fact, most summer cottages usually place their sauna a few steps away from the waterfront for this convenience.  However, this lake was nothing like Chesapeake Bay.  In fact it was a frigid 55 degrees, which seems out of place anywhere in the middle of August.  Although I have plunged in a few Polar Bear plunges, the cold water was a shock to my system, and I immediately began gasping for breath in the water while the native Finns around me chuckled to themselves.  After a short one or two-minute swim, I made a mad dash out of the water and into the sauna itself.

This was the other side of the story.  The sauna building was a toasty 185 degrees, which was not even the warmest sauna I visited during my stay.  The first few minutes are comfortable, taking away the cold blast of the water.  The next few minutes make you sweat.  The next few minutes make your ears and eyes feel like spaghetti that is softening up in a boiling pot of water.  When someone pours a ladle-full of water on to the rocks in the sauna, a pleasant steam rises and fills the entire room- until a minute later, when you realize that same steam is giving your face and ears the sensation that they are melting.

This was the first cool dip and toast.  I repeated this pattern about 12 times over the next two hours.  The first few plunges seemed masochistic, but something strange happened the more I entered the water and the sauna.  I started getting used to it, as each plunge seemed a little less frigid and each toast seemed a little more tolerable.  My body had actually adapted to the sauna experience, and I found myself enjoying the experience more and more.

The Finnish people swear by the saunas, and it did not take me long to understand why.  The constant ups and downs in my heart rate left me feeling completely relaxed after the two hour experience.  My body felt like it had run a five-mile race, even though I spent most of the time sitting still in the steam.  The Finnish people swear that saunas help them to reduce their stress, sleep better, live longer, and fight off disease.  Finnish people celebrate saunas with their families, with honored guests, and even to finalize business agreements.  They are the essential cultural experience of Finland, and I can see how the toasty sauna must be a relief during a long, cold winter.

I miss the sauna, and wish I could put a public sauna with a cold lake right here in Ellicott City.  But the point that my sauna experience really drove home was the importance of having a plan for stress.  In Finland, frequent saunas a good way to handle the stresses of life. I may not have a local sauna, but I need to plan for the stress that is a routine part of life.  I need to make time to run, work out, and play pick-up basketball.  I also need a daily prayer routine, regular time with my friends, and a few hours each week with the Minnesota Vikings, even if the latter may actually increase said stress.

The beginning of the school year is an especially stressful time, and it does not take long on campus to feel the stress and anxiety that come with the anticipation of everything coming in the new school year.  As a family, I encourage you to plan for the stresses that will be coming your way this year.  Make a plan of when you will play together, exercise together, or do things you enjoy together that will help you manage the stress in your life.  You might not find yourself cooking in a Finnish sauna, but planning for the stresses that are coming will help you thrive in the midst of them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 1:  Less is More

This post is the first installment of a five-part series, chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

This summer, I decided to take a field trip to a faraway place to learn about the most successful and efficient school system in the world.  I wanted to see how a different culture educates their kids.  I wanted to learn from their successes and see what aspects of their educational system are applicable to American schools, Catholic schools, and all of us at Trinity.  My journey took me over 4,200 miles away to a small country on the North coast of the Baltic Sea.  This is the story of my trip to Finland.

Finland has been an educational giant in the developed world since the results of the first PISA tests sixteen years ago, which ranked Finland 1st in reading literacy, 4th in math literacy, and 3rd in science literacy.  If you find it surprising that Finland ranked at the top of the list, nobody was more surprised than the Finnish people themselves.  When the first results were released, the educators themselves figured it was some kind of mistake.  This “mistake” was only confirmed three years later, when Finland placed 1st in the world in reading literacy and science literacy, and second in the world in math literacy.  Finland clearly had a good thing going after all.  Of course, humility comes somewhat naturally to Finnish culture, which may explain their top ranking in the world after all.

In my 16 days in Finland, I was constantly surrounded by a people and a country where less is more.  The city of Helsinki contained fewer skyscrapers than any big city I have ever seen, with two modest Cathedrals setting the skyline for the city.  The Finnish people live in modest homes and apartments, retreating to small cottages in nature as their favorite vacation spot.  Although it helped that I was on vacation, I was constantly presented opportunities to slow down, enjoy a cup of coffee, and take in a meal at a café.  Finland was a good destination for business travel and relaxing, and people genuinely seem to enjoy a slower pace of life.

This culture of "less is more" permeates their education system as well.  Children start their formal schooling in first grade at the age of seven with hours that resemble my half-day kindergarten back in the 1980's.  Finnish students take recess several times per day, with law mandating a 15-minute break after each 45-minute class.  Doing the math, this adds up to as many as six recesses a day in a common middle school schedule.  Finnish teachers spend significantly fewer hours teaching the week and more time collaborating with other Finnish teachers over warm cups of coffee.  Visiting Finnish middle schools, it was not uncommon to find foosball and ping pong tables in the hallways, as students needed something to do with all of their break time in the middle of the day.

The most amazing thing about their "less is more" philosophy is that it worked.  I knew about their approach, their recesses, and their efficiency in class.  What surprised me was their rationale behind their approach.  Finnish children do not get so many breaks because it lightens their load or because guilty Finnish adults worry too much about the stresses on today's youth.  The breaks and "less is more" mentality is emphasized because it gets results.

In a trip designed to learn from Finnish culture and schools, I am not 100% sure what to make of all of this.  I'm not sure that frequent recesses, breaks, and foosball tables would improve our education in the United States as it does in Finland, although I call dibs on the foosball table if we ever get one.  However, as we start a new school year, I do know that I could benefit from a little more "less is more" in my life.  I know that my work could improve with a little more sleep, a few less 10-hour workdays, and a few less activities crammed into my free time.

This may be the place many of our families find themselves in as we enter this new school year.  As we settle into the September routine, I encourage you to think about "Less is More".  You may find that by doing fewer activities and allowing more open time on your family calendars, you will find yourself happier and more productive.  Maybe the "to do" list could be shorter so long as the things at the top get done.  Maybe we can all benefit from a few more lazy Sundays, a few more opportunities to relax on the margins of our daily schedules.

This school year, don’t be afraid to do a little less.  As the Finns taught me, less can definitely be more.

Apple Science Experiment in Mrs. Buckley’s Kindergarten

During our unit on Apples, the kindergartners used the scientific process while observing how different liquids affect apples.

First we picked apples from the apple trees on the Trinity campus. 

In the classroom we set out five containers with a few apple slices in each one.  We labeled the containers with the name of the liquids we were going to use. We also set up a “control” cup of apple slices with no liquid. 

Each kindergartner drew their predictions on a recording sheet.

The liquids were added to the containers. After two hours we observed the apple slices again and recorded our observations again, noting any changes.  We recorded observations the next day also.

The control apples had started to oxidize, as had the apples in water and soda.  The children’s least favorite was the apples in vinegar because they were “stinky” and very, very brown.J

Kelly Buckley
Kindergarten Teacher
Trinity School
(443) 498-5071

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Virtue of the Month for September: DILIGENCE

Virtue of the Month

Comes from the Latin word diligere meaning to value highly,
to take delight in

A DILIGENT person works Hard to finish a job.

A DILIGENT person is:

a hard worker

A DILIGENT person applies himself/herself to the task at hand;
Starts working right away;
Works hard to finish a job;
Invests time & energy;
Does a job efficiently;
Applies his/her God-given talents;

DILIGENCE is a key ingredient to success in practice, exercise and study.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Trinity Summer Camp is in Full Swing

Summer is here and, for many of us, not a moment too soon… but, as the school year ends and the warmest months of the year descend upon us, a new program comes alive at Trinity School – The Trinity Summer Camp! Newly revamped for the summer of 2016, Trinity Summer Camp has a whole new attitude towards summer fun, education, and child care. With fantastic new staff, lots of exciting new specialty programs, and extended child care options, Trinity Summer Camp has truly embraced modern parenting while providing a safe, fun, and educational experience for its campers.

Offering unique programming for kids of many different age groups isn’t always easy, but the Camp Director, Mrs. Sally Sweeney, enjoys the challenge. By dividing the campers into three program groups based on age and interest, Trinity Summer Camp provides a uniquely tailored experience to each child – optimized for his or her age, interests, and education level. These groups include a traditional Summer Camp (for kids Pre-K4 to Grade 5), a Middle School Summer Camp (for kids Grade 6 to Grade 8), and a Sports Camp (for kids Grade 2 to Grade 8).

Don’t think because the camp takes place on the sprawling Trinity School campus that campers will spend the summer in a class room – oh no! Trinity Summer Camp works to engage children both indoors (when weather isn’t so sunny), and outdoors. This year’s Summer Camp program includes exciting outdoor activities, including Wildlife Adventures and group sports. For days when there’s rain, or it is too hot to be outside for the entire day, Trinity Summer Camp offers arts and crafts, a Science Extravaganza, and even magic shows.

The Trinity Summer Camp program begins the week of June 13th and continues to offer weekly summer activities through August 12th. The final week of Trinity Summer Camp includes an annual tradition – The 20th Trinity Summer Olympics. Because campers can be registered in weekly increments, children don’t have to attend for the entire duration of the program – but many children decide to stay, hang out with their friends, and build memories that last a lifetime.  Don’t forget about the extended before and after care options, too, which are great for busy parents.

Interested in learning more about Trinity Summer Camp? 
Curious to see if there is space for your child in the upcoming weeks? Please contact the camp director, Mrs. Sally Sweeney, at or learn more on the website here:

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Virtue of the Month for May is REVERENCE


* Reverence is embracing and respecting the sacredness of all beings.

* It is reverential treatment of life as if all beings and things are sacred and special.


* Reverence is about practicing respect, recognizing the presence of the scared in everything` our bodies, other people, animals and nature.

* Respect/Reverence is characterized by COURTESY.

* Polite behavior shows respect for other people.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Public Speaking Skills Start Early at Trinity School

At Trinity School public speaking skills start early and continue through 8th grade. 
In preschool the student of the week brings in a poster about themselves.  They present the poster to their classmates and talk about what makes them special.  There are also performances for the parents at Halloween, Christmas, and at the end of the school year.

In kindergarten the big event in the spring is the 3 Piggy Opera.  This is the musical version of the Three Little Pigs performed on the music room stage by the whole kindergarten.  Family and friends enjoy many pink refreshments in the kindergarten classrooms after the play. 

Another highlight of the kindergarten year is the Saint Project.  Students choose a saint to research and present to the class.  For the class presentation the children dress as their saint.  After each student's presentation Mrs. Buckley asks the class if they have any questions or compliments.  Mrs. Buckley reports that there are no questions - only compliments.  At Trinity the students are so used to speaking in front of the class that this is a fun assignment for them.

The parent of one of our recent graduates reports that at Loyola High School public speaking is required in Freshman English class.  Her son told her that all of the Trinity boys thought this was no big deal while students from other schools really struggled.   At Trinity School you really do learn everything you need for life in kindergarten!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trinity Students Get Ready for Earth Day

Trinity School enjoys finding new ways to celebrate Earth Day.  This year the 5th grade will be sewing and germinating seeds in the Green House.  A variety of seeds were used: Herbs, Vegetables, and Flowers.  This is the first time students will be using the new Green House.  In order to be “green”, they recycled old newspaper to create their own seed starter planter pots.  No plastic pots needed!  These pots are easily transported into the ground when ready and are biodegradable.  We should have lot’s to harvest when we return to school in the fallJ 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Trinity School Virtue of the Month April: Integrity

Virtue of the Month for April: Integrity

Integrity is a virtue for moral decision making. 

It is doing what God expects of you.

Three Basic Ingredients of Integrity:
1. Telling the truth
2. Keeping one's promises
3. Taking responsibility for one's behavior

A person who has integrity:
Stands for something
Has strength of will
Is moved by God to do what is right

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trinity Virtue of the Month for March: Humility

Virtue of the month for March: Humility

Humility is the virtue that recognizes that by ourselves we are nothing: all comes from God.

To be Humble:
  • Know yourself - be honest
  • Truthfully acknowledge your accomplishments
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Down-pay self importance
  • Don't brag
  • Recognize your limits
  • Recognize the talents of others

If we relied totally on God, we would never sin.

The humble wait patiently, while the arrogant want it now.
The humble demonstrate kindness, while the arrogant don't even notice the need.
The humble are content, not envious or jealous, while the arrogant feel they deserve more.
The humble honors and esteems others, while the arrogant brags on himself.
The humble does not act unbecomingly, while the arrogant's manners are rude.
The humble shows a servant spirit, while the arrogant demands to be served.
The humble are not easily provoked, while the arrogant are quick to take offence.
The humble quickly forgive a wrong suffered, while the arrogant can't rest until they even the score.