What St. Hilary School kindergarten teacher Mrs. Holland likes most about teaching is being with the children. “There is never a dull moment!” she says. “They are all so innocent and loving. They are like little sponges and so eager to absorb everything I could possibly teach them. What positive attitudes they all have! When I see that light bulb go off in their little minds after it all clicks, it is so rewarding!”
Mrs. Holland enjoys being able to teach all the subjects in kindergarten, and notes that they are all connected in one way or another. She adds that she especially enjoys teaching reading because so many kindergarteners start school without knowing how to read, but by the end of the year, all are reading at some level.
Being a part of a Catholic school is special to Mrs. Holland. “I love being able to talk about God on a daily basis,” she says. “I would only teach at St. Hilary at this point in my life. I student taught here, I was married here, and I had all three of my children baptized here.” Mrs. Holland was a kindergarten teaching assistant at St. Hilary before moving on to teaching. “I taught kindergarten and then fourth grade before starting a family. In 2012, I returned as a part-time kindergarten teaching assistant, and now, I am blessed to have my own kindergarten classroom here at St. Hilary School,” she explains.
Married with three children, Mrs. Holland is proud that her children are products of Catholic education. Her oldest daughter graduated from St. Hilary and is a sophomore at a local Catholic high school. Her other two children attend St. Hilary. “I am so happy to be part of such a wonderful staff, and sometimes I feel like I never left,” she says. “I could not imagine teaching anywhere else. St. Hilary has been such a huge part of my life for so long. My family and friends are here. It is my home away from home.”
Mrs. Piekarski began her St. Hilary School teaching career in 1986. Since then, she has touched the lives of hundreds of young students. She loves teaching kindergarten because of the enthusiasm of the children. “They are so positive,” she says. “They just make you feel good.” She describes her young charges as being “like sponges”, and enjoys the fact that she can help them absorb everything they need to get off to a good start not only in school, but in life. “I love my job,” she says.
Compared to other schools, St. Hilary is blessed with an abundance of kids whose parents are actively involved and truly care about instilling strong values in their children, according to Mrs. Piekarski. Teaching these students is a joy, she says. “We also have many gifted and talented kids here,” she says, which allows her to make great use of creativity in her classroom.
Many characteristics of the St. Hilary educational experience set it apart from that offered at other schools, says Mrs. Piekarski. She feels the infusion of religion and good values into everything the children do is incredibly important, as are the high expectations and dedication of both students and teachers. “The kids here are all hard workers,” she says, “and the teachers tend not to take much time off. Everyone here has a really strong work ethic.” The availability of varied activities that appeal to many talents rounds out the package.
Mrs. Piekarski loves to instill in her students a strong self-concept. “I love to help them understand that they can do anything - that they are all good at something,” she says. One exercise that reinforces this, as well as the concepts of nurturing and giving, is the growth of spider plants throughout the school year. Mrs. Piekarski’s former students who have moved on to junior high level grades bring her spiderlings from the plants they grew while in her class. She uses these to begin the process anew each year, and students have a hand in planting and nurturing the spiderlings to grow what become mature plants by the end of the school year.
Each year, kindergarten students learn their way around the school by following a gingerbread man, in an extension of the popular children’s story. As the gingerbread man sneaks off to different places in the school, the children must find him and, in so doing, meet people and learn about their surroundings. This is one of Mrs. Piekarski’s favorite parts of each school year. She adds that watching the joy her students have sharing their weekends with the class mascot, Kinderbear, is also great fun.
Growing up as one of ten children, Mrs. Piekarski says she was always “in charge” of her younger siblings, so becoming a kindergarten teacher was a natural progression for her. A graduate of the University of Akron, Mrs. Piekarski holds a bachelor of science degree in education (K-8), a master of science degree plus 18 hours in supervision, permanent K-8 certification, computer science certification, and basic religion certification. She loves St. Hilary School and is proud that her two daughters attended the school during their elementary years. Mrs. Piekarski enjoys sewing, reading, gardening, working out, and traveling with her husband to visit their two grandchildren.
Since 1985, Mrs. Thomson has been launching the school careers of St. Hilary students. She loves working with young children, and enjoys their genuine, forgiving and loving nature. Teaching Christian values and making religion a part of her students’ daily lives is important to Mrs. Thomson as she guides her little ones through their kindergarten year. “I enjoy watching children take these values and apply them in their lives,” she says. “It’s rewarding to hear feedback from parents about how the her students are applying their values.” She also enjoys helping children develop a strong self-concept.
Creating a hands-on experience is important in Mrs. Thomson’s classroom. She incorporates visual aids and much enrichment into her teaching, to allow the children to experience lessons through sight and touch. Science and nature are woven into much of what her students learn. “I love science, because it opens up a whole new world for the children,” she says. Mrs. Thomson also particularly enjoys helping kindergartners learn to read, and delights in seeing the concept of reading “click” for a child newly able to blend sounds into a word.
In more than 32 years of teaching, 27 at St. Hilary, Mrs. Thomson has many memories. Some of her fondest are receiving hugs from former students who come back to visit her classroom and chat with her. She wants to instill in her students more than just a love of knowledge. “I love to see children take what they learn beyond the classroom and develop it further,” she says. “I want my students to leave the classroom with such an excitement for learning that they will spread their knowledge to others.”
Mrs. Thomson feels one of the many things that sets St. Hilary School apart from other schools is the dedication of its staff. She says the teachers spend many extra hours preparing the lessons they teach, to make experiences enriching for the children. For her own part, she says she wakes up every day and can’t wait to come to work. “I love my job!” she says.
Married for 37 years, Mrs. Thomson has one grown son who attended St. Hilary during his elementary school years. She is a graduate of the University of Akron and the University of Alabama, and holds a bachelor of science degree in early childhood and elementary (K-8) education, as well as a master of arts degree in early childhood education, and also a Religion certification. Mrs. Thomson has taken many courses to further her education beyond her master’s degree, and has been a kindergarten teacher for 32 years. She enjoys collecting antiques and items of historical significance, as well as visiting historical sites, museums and science exhibits.
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
The uniqueness of each child is what St. Hilary School kindergarten teaching assistant Mrs. McGrath most enjoys about teaching. “Witnessing their intellectual growth and their compassion toward others throughout the school year is very rewarding,” she adds.
Especially exciting for Mrs. McGrath is watching her students develop their artistic talents and use technology. She explains, “I enjoy watching the children’s creativeness during art classes. I am also amazed at how adept the children are at using technology. I usually learn from them!”
A long-time school volunteer, Mrs. McGrath says her time at St. Hilary has been a truly rewarding experience. She also served as a substitute teacher during the 2012-2013 school year and says that in whatever role she has filled, she has been warmly welcomed and felt the presence of God in the staff, students and parents. “It’s really hard to have a bad day here!” she says.
Mrs. McGrath holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and pre-law from Ohio University, and a law degree from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Married for 16 years, she and her husband have three children who attend St. Hilary School. In her free time, Mrs. McGrath enjoys reading, gardening and hiking.
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
The excitement of seeing her students learn something new is what Kindergarten teaching assistant Mrs. Parisi most enjoys about working with students. With reading as her own personal favorite pastime, she enjoys sharing a love of reading with her students. “I am so excited about the Super Kids reading program,” she says. “It combines characters, letter sounds, letter recognition, and technology.”
As a staff member and school parent, Mrs. Parisi feels the combination of a strong faith-based education, loving teachers, and rigorous curriculum is second to none at St. Hilary School. “I feel so blessed to be giving back to the school that has prepared my children so completely both scholastically and religiously,” she adds. Having previously worked in crisis social work, Mrs. Parisi enjoys her work at the school and would like to expand her involvement in the kindergarten classroom and as a short-term substitute teacher.
A graduate of the Ohio State University and the University of Northern Iowa, Mrs. Parisi holds a bachelor of arts degree in family services, a master’s degree in social work, and a master of arts degree in public administration. She is licensed as an independent social worker and an educational assistant. Mrs. Parisi and her husband are parents of six children, two of whom are in high school and four of whom still attend St. Hilary School. Outside of school, Mrs. Parisi volunteers her time as St. Hilary track commissioner and has served as a Boy and Girl Scout leader and games coordinator.
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Working in a Catholic school environment is what Kindergarten teaching assistant Mrs. Pelini likes best about her role at St. Hilary School. “The religious aspect of our school helps develop the mind, soul and body,” she says. Mrs. Pelini taught Catechism for 15 years, and describes herself as being committed to the Catholic faith. As the mother of six children, she also brings practical experience to the classroom. “Nurturing young students is so important at this age,” she explains. “I delight in their inquisitiveness and love of learning.”
Unique to St. Hilary in Mrs. Pelini’s eyes are its leadership, religion, and dedicated faculty. She also enjoys the amount of individual attention the school is able to provide to students. “Assisting students gives me the opportunity to work one on one with each child,” she notes. Formerly affiliated with the military, Mrs. Pelini’s family moved multiple times and only her youngest child had the opportunity to attend St. Hilary’s Kindergarten, which she says was the best of all the programs her six children attended. It was her positive experience with the program that led her to want to join the staff as an assistant.
Mrs. Pelini holds an associate’s degree in radiologic technology from Youngstown State University, as well as a Catechist certificate from the state of Maryland. Her interests include reading, gardening, playing softball, volunteering at nursing homes, exercising, biking, attending Bible courses offered at St. Hilary, and especially college football. With five sons and one daughter, Mrs. Pelini says her family is her greatest accomplishment.
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
As a kindergarten teaching assistant at St. Hilary School since 1998, Mrs. Seither has enjoyed seeing the “twinkle in the eyes” of her young students each year. “They have such enthusiasm,” she says, “and a great perspective on life.”
Mrs. Seither feels many things combine to give St. Hilary students the best education possible. The religious foundation upon which the students’ learning experience is based, the use of appropriate discipline to foster good behavior, and the support of parents and staff are all key ingredients in the success of St. Hilary students, she says. Mrs. Seither notes that a group of moms meets weekly to pray for each of the students and staff by name, as well as for their intentions.
St. Hilary is a school differentiated from others by its kind and compassionate environment, according to Mrs. Seither. Students readily assist one another, and are particularly helpful to their peers with special needs. The parish and school work together and support one another, and the school continually reaches out to the community through donations of time, food and money. “There is something special here,” she says. Mrs. Seither adds that the class “buddies” program enhances the feeling of community by linking students from one class with those in another class for various activities during the year.
Mrs. Seither’s students participate in many special activities throughout the school year. At Christmas, students present a “rainbow play” that portrays the true meaning of Christmas. In May, the children present a special program to honor and celebrate their mothers for Mother's Day and create a special surprise for their dads to give them on Father's Day. Growth and changes in the students are mirrored throughout the school year as they experience the growth of spider plants, butterflies and tadpoles in their classroom. Mrs. Seither particularly enjoys seeing the excitement of the children as they spend two months watching an embryo change into a frog.
A graduate of the University of Houston, Mrs. Seither holds a bachelor of fine arts degree and has received a basic catechist certificate. She enjoys gardening, reading, exercising, listening to books on tape, and expanding her knowledge of child development. Mrs. Seither has three children who are all graduates of St. Hilary School. She feels that the strong academic and spiritual foundation they received at St. Hilary was an important factor in their successes in high school and college.
Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
St. Hilary School Kindergarten Teaching Assistant Mrs. Zilka loves seeing a student take a new concept, work hard at learning it, and finally completely master it, but she also enjoys the students’ personalities themselves. “I love working with the students because they are so willing to learn,” she says. “Because they are naturally curious, they understand that knowledge is power in their own way.” Playing on the students’ eagerness to learn, Mrs. Zilka endeavors to make the classroom a place where the students want to be. She says she wants them to feel comfortable and confident, because when that happens, learning will surely follow.
Closest to Mrs. Zilka’s heart is working with students as they are learning to read. “I love to see how excited they are when that light bulb goes off and they are reading on their own,” she explains. “The pride they have in themselves when that happens is priceless.”
Having volunteered at St. Hilary School for more than a decade, Mrs. Zilka began working as a substitute teaching assistant in the 2012-2013 school year before joining the school’s staff. “St. Hilary feels like home,” she says. “So many people offer their time and talents to ensure the students have the best possible school in which to learn and grow in faith.”
Mrs. Zilka holds a bachelor of science degree in journalism from Kent State University. Married for 19 years, she and her husband are the parents of three sons. Two of her children currently attend St. Hilary, and her older son is a St. Hilary graduate now attending a Catholic high school. When she is not sharing the joy of learning with her students, Mrs. Zilka enjoys reading and playing tennis.