As the working mom of a busy and growing family, physician Luisa Orrico has a list of must-haves for the school she wants for her children. Of course, she wants top-notch academic programs delivered by smart and caring teachers in small, well-managed classrooms. She also wants a well-rounded environment where her children can thrive and build strong relationships with teachers and peers.
On that list, too, is available before- and after-school care for her fourth grade son Nico, his brother, second grader Alex, and their younger sister, kindergartner Valentina.
Orrico knows she has choices in her well-resourced school district, and she wants the very best for her family. After a few years with her two sons attending public school, Orrico is happy to share that her three school-aged children are now all students at St. Norbert School, a small, private Catholic PK-8 school in Northbrook — and she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“St. Norbert School is like a big, warm hug. It really has a family atmosphere,” she says. “Every year, we would talk about getting the kids at St. Norbert and we just decided to do it.” Eventually, Orrico expects 3-year-old Guilana and her new baby — who is due in the spring — to attend St. Norbert School, too.
Because she and her family were already part of the St. Norbert parish community, Orrico says the move was a “no-brainer.”
Described by his mom as “somewhat of an introvert,” Nico is thriving in his fourth grade class because at St. Norbert School he’s encouraged to work collaboratively with peers. “I see how happy he is having friends and interacting with them,” Orrico says. Nico also has a passion for writing. “He’s not into technology. He likes working on a computer, but loves to write and draw and use his creative genius,” Orrico says. “He has beautiful handwriting and it continues to develop.”
The whole family, in one school
Pleased with the convenience and security of having all of her children in one school building, Orrico appreciates St. Norbert’s approach to continuous education from preschool through eighth grade.
“It’s amazing because even now all the teachers know my children,” she says. “At public school, I always felt like I had to explain Nico’s personality and provide detailed information at the start of each school year because the teachers didn’t communicate about their students. At St. Norbert, it’s just the opposite. The teachers talk about academics and behavior and what works for some kids and what doesn’t work for others. The kids advance year after year without requiring that initial period of time to figure out who their students are. They already know.”
This tight-knit community approach makes the transition from one grade to the next more efficient and comfortable, Orrico says. And, while students are recognized as individuals, they thrive in groups, too. And this is especially true in St. Norbert School’s extracurricular activities.
“Nico reluctantly joined cross-country because the whole class was joining. They practiced twice a week after school and he loved it!” she says. Alex and Valentina also participate in Faith, Fun and Fitness, an afterschool program that blends nutrition activities, exercise and faith. They all enjoy chess club in the winter.
The fact that their classmates also participate in afterschool activities provided an unexpected benefit to Orrico: the chance to share carpooling duties with other parents in the St. Norbert school community. This, she says, makes St. Norbert School a very special place.
“I feel like we are part of a family,” she says. “We all pitch in to help each other and to help with our kids. Everyone is always looking out for everyone else. We share and take turns picking up each others’ kids and we don’t even have to ask. It’s so wonderful to have that because it takes a village, and St. Norbert really feels like that village.”
Values-based approach to education
For parents who want to instill their religious values in their children, St. Norbert School is a good fit, Orrico says. When her children attended public school, formal religious education became yet another extracurricular to fit into an already crowded after-school schedule. “It was that extra thing we had to fit in with soccer and gymnastics, but it wasn’t intertwined into daily life as much as we wanted,” she explains.
Having religious education woven into her kids’ daily lives at St. Norbert School is “huge,” Orrico says. “As our children are getting older, they are becoming more independent with their faith. They start their prayers on their own before we eat and in the car before school. They’re thinking about it and growing into the more spiritual aspect of our religion. That’s important to us.”
Learn more about St. Norbert School at stnorbertschool.org.