A strong school community lays the foundation for developing happy, healthy children, secure in the knowledge that they are supported in everything they do. This is the goal at St. Isaac Jogues Parish School, a private, Catholic PK-8 school in Hinsdale. Here, family-centered traditions help kids thrive in their school environment.
“When families walk into St. Isaac’s they can sense a community grounded in faith and know they are in the right place,” says Carol Burlinski, principal of St. Isaac Jogues. “When a new parent asks, why should I send my child to St. Isaac’s, I simply say, it’s what you will feel in your heart. They recognize their children will grow and thrive, anchored in a strong academic program while building solid, healthy relationships they will keep for life.”
As the school prepared to reopen for the fall semester, a team of parents came together to raise funds for all the resources needed to accommodate remote learning any time it might be needed, Burlinski says. “They raised an incredible amount of money to purchase technology for each classroom, including large-screen displays and cameras allowing our teachers to live stream their lessons in real time to reach all students,” she says.
When one teacher needed to quarantine, she was able to teach remotely and parents eagerly volunteered to supervise the children in the classroom while the teacher led the class from home. “That’s just one example of the parental support that has allowed us to remain open the whole semester,” Burlinski says. “We can accomplish anything together. That’s really how we feel. Together we are unstoppable!”
Parents supporting teachers
The pandemic has only heightened the supportive environment at St. Isaac Jogues, with parents jumping in to help in any way possible.
“One mom emailed all of her kids’ teachers to ask what she can do to help, from collecting groceries to washing their cars, to providing lunch for all of us,” Burlinski shares. “They also help each one another. If there’s a family that has an illness or hardship, the community comes together and arranges meals for them, and no one even needs to ask.”
Perhaps most importantly, Burlinski says that the children witness this support and learn valuable life lessons about what it means to be an active part of a parish school community. “Our children witness the selflessness of their parents, their incredible generosity, sharing the gift of their time and talents, and learn to model that behavior as they grow into adulthood,” she says.
Families supporting families
When new families join the St. Isaac’s school community, there’s never the awkward first day at a new school, thanks to a vibrant program to welcome the whole family to the community.
“If you’re new to our community, we want your children to have at least one friend and know someone on the first day, someone you can go to if you have any questions,” says Burlinski. “Our hospitality committee partners new families with existing families and we try to match the ages of the children. We set up playdates over the summer between them and also encourage other children in the same grades to join in.” Sunday evening events welcome new families so they too can get to know each other and benefit from the strong support system they have joined.
The connections continue through a program called Faith Families, which pairs up school children across grade levels to connect for prayer and celebrations throughout the school year. “It’s important for our older children to have opportunities to display leadership,” Burlinski explains. “There is a gentleness that you see when you watch our older students with the little ones. It’s something you often don’t see when they are with their own peers.”
Support that extends beyond the years at St. Isaac Jogues
When students graduate from St. Isaac’s and settle into their chosen high schools, Burlinski makes a point of asking them what — if anything — St. Isaac’s could have done to better prepare them. “I’m happy to say that the majority of our former students say they felt very well prepared, and their parents even say they worked harder in junior high than they did their freshman year,” she says.
From an emphasis on writing and connecting learning to real-life experiences, to developing strong habits of work, St. Isaac’s academic program stands up to the expectations of both private and public high schools throughout Chicago.
From a robust preschool program to a unique set of resources for supporting kids who learn differently, St. Isaac Jogues is building on its 89-year tradition of excellence.
“The most important thing to me is providing a learning environment where healthy and happy children want to come to school every day,” Burlinski says. “We’re focused on in-person learning to develop strong relationships with teachers and peers. If that’s in place, that’s when learning happens.” At St. Isaac Jogues Elementary School, “it’s all about family!”