BCACS Mission Statement

Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, in partnership with parents, community and the Catholic Church, provide students with an excellent education and solid faith formation. Students will know the Faith, share the Faith, and live the Faith.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Don't worry. The math (and science) still adds up!

Dear Eighth-Grade Parents,

Battle Creek Math and Science Center letters are speeding to your door. Depending on what's inside, you may be happy, sad or confused.

If your child qualified, congratulations! If they didn't, don't worry. Our St. Philip High School staff has you covered.

What if your child didn't qualify or didn't take the test, but they still want to go the MSC?

If your child wants to go to the Center, they still can. St. Philip students have entered the Center as sophomores, juniors, even seniors.

“You get into the 9th grade by taking a test,” Luke Perry, STEM Director of the MSC, said. “However, if your student doesn't qualify, there are other ways available to them and they all start with a conversation with me.”

Rest assured that conversation with Mr. Perry will be well supported by St. Philip staff – a staff that includes a shared-time MSC teacher. They will help your child prepare for the transition.

“We can mirror a schedule pretty near what freshmen and sophomores take at the Center,” Kyra Rabbitt, St. Philip counselor, said.

My family knows first-hand.

My son took AP Calculus BC at the Center his junior year. He not only did well, he took the AP exam and received college credit – all on the bedrock of his St. Philip math education.

My son’s story isn’t unique.

“St. Philip does an excellent job of preparing kids for success here,” Mr. Perry said.

What if your child qualified, but wants to delay attending?

There are advantages to waiting, as the Finnila Family discovered. Their oldest son entered the Center as a freshman. Their daughter waited until her junior year to attend. Joy Finnila felt her daughter had more time to acclimate to high school life and form deeper connections with her peers.

“I felt she was less stressed and more carefree,” Mrs. Finnila said. “I had my hesitations with her not going to the Center to start with, but after her first semester at St. Philip, I realized she was not lacking in her education. It enabled her to transition into the Center with little difficulty.”

As a result, the family’s youngest son decided to wait on the Center until his junior year.

What if your child doesn’t attend the MSC?

My oldest child wasn’t interested in the Center. She wouldn’t even take the test. Her 100% St. Philip education not only got her into the university of her choice but did so with scholarship money. Better still, she earned a 3.97 her first semester, which included an “A” in chemistry.

Long story short, St. Philip has you covered. No matter what that letter says, the math (and science!) still adds up.

Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mingling innovation with inspiration

St. Philip High School English teacher Jenny Niesen believes in self-directed learning, which is why she assigns Innovation Projects. The project can be anything, but it must root from the student's passion.

Emily Pearl, a senior in Mrs. Niesen’s AP Language class, had three main passions: soccer, faith, and food.

She chose faith.

“I wanted to do something to help others and I couldn’t think of a project that would help others in those other areas,” Emily said with a laugh. “Faith is a really an aspect of growing up.”

Like most seniors, the future was on Emily's mind. She knew where she was going to college, had an idea what she wanted to do after college, but the rest was…what?

She found peace in God's plan.

“Once you realize life is chaotic, you realize God is there and it’s in his hands,” Emily said.

Trusting God's plan isn't easy, even with a Catholic education.

“Our theology classes are really important, but they are more about the doctrine of the Catholic faith and not really how to build a lasting relationship that you can really fall back on with Christ,” Emily said.

Emily decided to create a Faith Day for students with speakers, contemporary music, and reflection. The BCACS staff liked her idea. In fact, they wanted Faith Day incorporated into Catholic Schools Week – two months earlier than Emily anticipated.

This would require innovation.

Using local resources, Emily lined up Fr. Christopher Ankley, Tri-Parish Youth Director Andrea Perry, Sara Pekar, who interns at St. Joseph Parish, and Bob Johnson, who completed a service trip to Haiti, as speakers. Ms. Pekar would lead the singing and Fr. Chris would celebrate Mass.

[l. to r.] Sara Pekar, Andrea Perry, Emily Pearl, Fr. Chris Ankley, Bob Johnson
“I’ve never seen a student totally organize an event on their own and pull it off at this level,” Kyra Rabbitt, AP History teacher, said. “I’m really proud of her.”

Faith Day took place on Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week. The theme was “Where Feet May Fail: Trusting in God's Plan”.

Emily cited Fr. Chris’ path from practicing veterinarian to parish priest as the stories she hoped to capture.

“It is an interesting perspective to hear how God’s plan for him was a little bit skewed,” Emily said. “It wasn’t an immediate thing. I think it is really important for us to hear those stories.”

Mrs. Niesen agreed, describing Ms. Pekar's presentation as “huge” because she questioned God's plan.

Students listening to Ms. Pekar's presentation.
“For students this age, it’s key, because which one of them isn’t questioning their faith all the time?” Mrs. Niesen said.

Hopefully, Faith Day helped with those questions.

“I had a few people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you. This day was really cool’,” Emily said.

Very cool indeed.

Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Teacher Feature: Molly Williamson

They say when God closes a door, He opens a window.

When St. Joseph Middle School’s math teacher left in December, God did more than open a window – He opened a new chapter.

This January, Molly Williamson began her post as our middle school math teacher and student learning specialist.

Mrs. Williamson believes learning should not be constrained by time.
“Molly Williamson has been a great addition to our middle school staff,” Katie Reed, St. Joseph assistant principal, said. “Although she has only been with us a short time, her passion for teaching and her ability to connect with students individually is evident. We are very fortunate to have her.”

How fortunate?

The Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo – where Mrs. Williamson has spent the last 19 years of her career – feels her loss.

“Mrs. Williamson has been a wonderful advocate for Catholic education and for the CSGK schools,” Brian Kosmerick, Hackett principal, wrote the CSGK community regarding Mrs. Williamson’s departure. “If you or your son/daughter ever had her as a teacher, you know that she is a top-notch educator and has helped nurture many students through their middle school and high school years.”

Mrs. Williamson started as a special education teacher in Centreville, Michigan. After staying home with her daughters for ten years, she returned to the classroom as a middle school mathematics teacher at St. Augustine Elementary in Kalamazoo.

Eventually, Mrs. Williamson transferred to Hackett Catholic Prep, teaching Algebra and Geometry and serving as the school's special needs coordinator. During her tenure, she received Hackett's Pillar of Excellence Award and earned the Excellence in Education Award for work with a student battling cancer.

Why take a job in another town?

“I was ready to work with new challenges and to grow as an educator,” Mrs. Williamson said, who will continue residing in Kalamazoo with her husband. “God led me to St. Joe to serve this school community and I am humbled daily by His response to my prayers.”

Plus, this new position involved an old love.

“I have always enjoyed the energy and creative thinking middle school students bring to the classroom, and I embraced the opportunity to return to teaching middle school students,” Mrs. Williamson said.

“Philosophically, I believe that learning should always be the constant and time should be the variable, rather than learning be the variable and time the constant,” Mrs. Williamson said. “It always amazes me how much a student can learn and/or improve when given just a little extra time after school.

Already, our students are seeking that extra time, making their new teacher proud.

“I just love it,” Mrs. Williamson said. “The students are kind, respectful, and truly engaged in the learning process.”

And so God begins another chapter in our BCACS story.

Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Nine times a double blessing

Most of us don’t have a twin, which may be why twins fascinate us. Currently, our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools have nine sets of twins.

That’s a lot of twins.

We have five sets in the high school, four sets in the grade school, two sets in the marching band, and even a set on this year’s Homecoming Court.

Nine times a double blessing deserves a little celebrating.

[l. to r.] Rehna and Ryder Weiss, Chloe and Chase Ganka, Ana and Alex Kachman, Bryn and Truman Hall.
Front row: [l. to r.] Kameron and McKenna Haley, Edward and Megan Moore; Middle row [l. to r.] Hannah and Emily Pearl, Abby and Maggie Hill; Back row [l. to r.] Tyler and Trevor Fuller

Staff asked each student what they liked about having a twin at school. The answers were interesting.

Many spoke about the good things – the companionship, the extra set of eyes and ears, the ability to switch seats without the teacher noticing. Some mentioned the hard things – being mistaken for the other, being lumped into other’s personality, rarely having a milestone alone.

Here is a selection of the answers. Remember, each child was asked independently of his/her twin:

“I like playing and eating with Ana.”
Alex Kachman, preschool
“I play with him. I eat with him.
Ana Kachman, preschool

"I like to play with him."
Chloe Ganka, transitional kindergarten
"She always makes me play taggy taggy tag tag."
Chase Ganka, transitional kindergarten

“I like sitting in the car next to her. I like playing outside with her.”
Ryder Weiss, kindergarten
“I like that he is kind here at school"
Rhena Weiss, kindergarten

"We have different friends. We used to sit in different rows but now we sit by each other. Sometimes I feel like talking to Truman when I know I am not supposed to."
Bryn Hall, first grade
“It's kinda good that I can go with her everywhere ’cause if something is wrong with her I am always there to help her, and if something is wrong with me she is always there to help. So it's good."
Truman Hall, first grade

“When I forget my homework or books, I can use my sister's!”
Kameron Haley, 12th grade
“The best thing about going to school with your twin would definitely be always knowing that you would have someone to talk to/annoy during every class.”
McKenna Haley, 12th grade

Catholic Schools Week is nearly here!

Anytime is a good time to visit our Catholic schools, but Catholic Schools Week is special. The full schedule of events is at www.bcacs.org, but here are few dates parents won’t want to miss!
  • Sunday, January 29th everyone is invited to 10 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph gym, which will officially kick off CSW. After Mass, there will be coffee, doughnuts and fellowship. The school will be open for current families and curious families.
  • Monday, January 30th is Pack the Gym Night at St. Philip Catholic Central. Catch our Lady Tigers in action as they take on Burr Oak. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 31st is McTeacher Night at the Columbia Avenue McDonalds. Come between 5-7 p.m. and have a happy meal with our big happy family, knowing 15% of all proceeds go to our schools!
  • Thursday, February 2nd Bishop Paul Bradley will celebrate our All-Schools Mass at St. Philip Church. Mass starts at 9 a.m. and will include the blessing of the throats for the Feast of St. Blaise.
  • Saturday, February 4th Full House Drawdown in the St. Philip Gymnasium from 6:30 p.m. to Midnight. Great food, spirits, fun and a chance to win cash prizes up to $5000. Contact Pete or Lois Werner at (269) 209-2569 to purchase your winning ticket!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The story behind "Adriana's Angels"

I discovered this story in pieces. First, there was a post on our BCACS Facebook page, thanking our children for helping our St. Vincent de Paul pantry during Christmas. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Having had three kids at St. Joe, I was well aware of food donations during school Mass. A week later, there was a special “Tiger Paw” given to Adriana Nelson in the St. Joseph Church bulletin, thanking her for suggesting a Christmas collection for the St. Vincent de Paul pantry. I wondered if these items were related, and was delighted with the answer.

Adriana Nelson, a student in Mrs. Kuenzel’s third-grade class, had a question her mother couldn’t answer.

“We give stuff on Thursdays at church, but why can’t we give stuff to the poor every day?”

The “stuff” she was referring to was the non-perishable food items St. Joseph Elementary and Middle School students bring for the St. Vincent de Paul pantry every Thursday during school Mass.

Adriana wanted to have a competition amongst the grades to see who could bring in the most food during December. The winning class would receive a prize.

Her mother took Adriana to the school’s office, where she presented her idea to the St. Joseph staff.

The staff loved it.

"When one of our students gets the courage to come to the office and ask for something like this, it just warms the heart and reaffirms that our parents, staff, and church are all working together to create amazing young people,” Jeanine Winkler, St. Joseph Elementary administrative assistant, said.

The staff decided to call the competition “Adriana’s Angels”.

From December 2 to December 16, each grade would collect as many non-perishables and toiletries for the St. Vincent de Paul pantry as they could.

When thinking about the prize, the staff decided against an “out of dress code” slip or a pizza party. Instead, they chose a simple poster, which would declare the winning class as possessing “the true Spirit of Christmas, one of service before self”.

The children embraced their goal.

Non-perishable items overwhelmed the baskets at school Mass on Thursday, and sometimes the counters in the classroom, prompting a couple classes to walk their items over to the pantry themselves.

St. Joe's tiniest Tigers delivered these pantry items personally.

Every Friday, Mrs. Winkler would announce the classroom in the lead. When it was over, Mrs. Doyle’s second grade won, bringing 98 items to the pantry. The real winners were the needy in our area. Thanks to “Adriana’s Angels”, the St. Vincent de Paul pantry received 285 items.

Adriana Nelson, the inspiration behind "Adriana's Angels"
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” How true. ~nlvm
Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Learning the ABCs of character

I received a lovely surprise last week. My daughter was named “student of the month” for the freshman class. Her nomination had nothing to do with grades or extra-curricular activities, but kindness.

How cool is that?

St. Philip High School's "Students of the Month" for Kindness
Kindness is one of several “student of the month” themes our middle and high schools celebrate. The list includes qualities like leadership, service, wisdom, cooperation, graciousness, honesty, patience, positive attitude, responsibility.

Why not test scores? We have some of the best in the area.

Why not athletic success? We have our share of swag.

Why not? Because that is not Christ’s definition of success.

St. Joseph Middle School's "Students of the Month" for Leadership
The two most important commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Talents are gifts from God, but these gifts are ineffective without good character. Our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools aim to develop our children’s character alongside their gifts.

This is evident in our new program “Crayons to College and Career”, which recently received a grant from the Calhoun ISD. Creator Kyra Rabbitt wanted to encourage our littlest Tigers to think about higher education and their future goals.

What does it take for a successful future?

Most would say good grades and a great plan, but Ms. Rabbitt and her team believe there’s another component.

“Life is about more than grades and what you can put on paper,” Ms. Rabbitt said. “You need personal skills and to be strong in your faith. We want to celebrate the whole student and not just the academic piece.”

This is why “Crayons to College and Career” is starting with the ABCs of character.

Each week, our preschool through fifth-grade students will concentrate on two character traits, starting with “A for Attitude” and “B for Behavior”. Teachers will lead class discussions about these traits, read special books that correspond with these traits, and, at the end of the week, nominate students who best exemplify those traits.

It’s a mini-version of the middle and high school’s student of the month.

St. Joseph Elementary School's "Students of the Week" for Attitude and Behavior
All nominated students will attend a year-end celebration breakfast, during which a lottery will determine ten $100 college scholarships winners.

“We are so proud of all of our students and their daily behavior and hope this program will enhance traits they already possess, encourage new behaviors, all while instilling the importance of higher education for future success,” St. Joseph principal Sara Myers said.

There are plenty of talented people in the world, but not enough people with good character. Good character enables us to use our talents to love God and our neighbors.

Our Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools cultivate good character, promising our children a bright future in this life and the life to come.

How cool is that?

Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas off the grid

"Joy is the true gift of Christmas." ~Pope Benedict XVI

Christmas Break is over, which means the parties, presents, and planning is over. No more Christmas Carols on the radio. No more Christmas movies on TV – not even on the Hallmark Channel. The kids are back in school. The grocery stores are full of slim fast and spandex.
This is my favorite part of the Christmas season.
Yes, for us Catholics it is still Christmas. I first learned the difference between the secular Christmas calendar and the Catholic Christmas calendar in Catholic school. It wasn't a specific homily or lesson, more an observation.
Santa had come, Jesus was born, our Christmas tree was on the front lawn, but when I returned to school Christmas was still happening. We prayed Christmas prayers. Father greeted us with “Merry Christmas!” at the first school Mass. We sang Christmas hymns.
Like most kids, I loved Christmas. The idea that it was still going on was wonderful.
That wonder has only grown as I became a Christmas-facilitating parent. Being slightly out of step with the world’s idea of Christmas lends me peace on earth.
Secular Christmas begins the day after Halloween and ends on Christmas Day, which is too soon on both accounts. Catholic Christmas begins on Christmas Day, ending the second Sunday in January with the Baptism of the Lord. This is perfect.
It's okay to shop slowly and decorate gradually during December, for Advent is all about preparation. I try to wake a little earlier, saying my morning prayers by the light of the Advent Wreath. For me, that’s the eye of the secular Christmas Cyclone, the place of peace.
It's okay to leave the halls decked and nibble Christmas cookies well into January, for our Lord's birthday is worth more than one night. I've noticed when the secular party train winds down, reverence comes easier and joy is more profound than on Christmas Day.
It’s my quiet little Christmas.
I make a point to make the first school Mass in January. I enjoy hearing the priest greet our children with a big “Merry Christmas!” I enjoy hearing the priest tell the children that we’re still celebrating – pointing out the songs, the decorations, the white vestments, and the Nativity Scene surrounded by poinsettias.
And I watch the younger kids’ faces to see that light switch flip and hear them call back, “Merry Christmas!”
Need to bolster you Christmas Spirit? Come to our school Mass this week.
Enjoy the children singing the seasonal songs, their young voices reading the scriptures of wonder, their hands folded in prayer before the altar decked with light. Follow them to the King's feast, celebrating the season of joy.
Merry Quiet Christmas, dear BCACS Family! Let the celebration continue. 

Comments, questions, have a few suggestions? Write us at BCACS.Blog@gmail.com.