St. James Academy Running Club is a new program this year for students in grades second through fourth grade. Over a period of 7 weeks, students have participated in this after-school program that promotes the love of running. Led by Mrs. Baranowski, Ms. Glace, and Mrs. Markakis, students set goals each week, as well as partake in fun running activities. The program is designed to inspire each runner to recognize their strength and abilities, while focusing on teamwork, determination, and perseverance. Each practice motivates students to develop strategies and set personal goals for achievement. Read More
Participation by parents, teachers, grandparents, alumni, and alumni parents in many aspects of the school enhances each student’s sense of being part of a larger framework of life and the community. SJA parent and Patrons’ Association President, Stef O’Polka and her committee of volunteers, have been spending countless hours to ensure the success of many unique events and programs held at the school.
This week, we would like to spotlight Stef O’ Polka.
How long have you been a parent at St. James Academy?
I have been a parent at St. James Academy since 2006 when my oldest child started in kindergarten. He is now in 8th grade, and I also have a 5th grader and a 3rd grader.
Why did you join the Patrons’ Association?
I have always been involved with my children’s school, but when I volunteered for the gala in 2011, I realized how much work the Patrons’ do and how much money they raise for the Academy, it inspired me to get involved at a greater level.
What do you enjoy most about being Patrons’ President?
There are two things that give me the most pleasure being the Patrons’ President. The first is knowing that every dollar of the funds raised from our efforts go back to the Academy and our children. Last year we raised $140,000, and it went toward such things as the fabulous trips the middle school children take, new soccer uniforms, wireless microphones for the theater department, and new laptops and iPads. Seeing the students experiencing and benefiting from the fruits of our labor is very rewarding. The second is witnessing firsthand the level of volunteerism that makes St. James such a special community. Whether it’s a group of dad’s in the kitchen for days making soups for the Christmas Shoppe Cafe, a grandparent assisting in the art room, or a mom serving pizza lunch every Wednesday, I am continually amazed at how much time and energy our families dedicate to giving back. Read More
Recently I came across my old journal and realized that my dream of becoming a Child Psychologist dated back to the fourth grade. However, my journey toward that destination included a detour in the direction of earning an undergraduate degree in theology/biblical languages. I subsequently earned an M.A. in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell and then moved to Chicago to pursue doctoral studies at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. I became interested in Adlerian psychology in high school and wanted to receive more advanced training and supervision. After graduation, I moved to Maryland and did my postdoctoral fellowship at the Forbush School at Glyndon, (therapeutic private day school) which is part of the Sheppard Pratt Health System. Upon completion of the fellowship training, I was hired as a Staff Psychologist and remained at The Forbush School for almost nine years.
I enjoyed my time at the Forbush School at Glyndon. I provided individual and group psychotherapy to children. It was gratifying to see children grow and mature despite the various challenges they were facing. I was especially excited to see students learn new strategies for managing their behavior and feelings, navigating relationships and becoming more resilient. I always thought that it was important for children to develop special interests, skills, hobbies and to discover their unique “niches”. I never ceased to be amazed by children’s imagination and curiosity.
What does St. James Academy mean to you?
St. James Academy represents to me that special, safe place that sparks each student’s curiosity and inspires them to learn. It is the first place, outside the home, where you make your first friend, meet your first teacher, and read and write your first sentence. I have been impressed by the atmosphere that promotes kindness and growth. The Honor Code embodies the principles and values that govern and guide not only children but adults as well.
What do you want the students to learn from you?
I have been inspired by the work of Alfred Adler (famous Austrian psychiatrist) who emphasized the courage to be imperfect and to use your “inferiorities” as a tool for perseverance and resilience. The acceptance of failure inspires humility that in turn fosters courage and empathy. Another important Adlerian lesson is that you don’t have to like everybody, but you must respect everybody. The world is full of quirky folks who might not be your “cup of tea,” but you need to be nice and respectful and perhaps even allow yourself to learn something from them. Be open. Try something new. Learn more about yourself and the world around you and foster your special gifts and talents. Be generous and give of yourself to others. Share your gifts with others. Consider that you’ve been blessed to be a blessing to others.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I always get energized by spending time with my family. I love reading, baking, cycling, running and doing anything related to arts/crafts like making sock monkeys and sewing. Last year I started taking guitar lessons and I’m learning to play the ukulele. I’m also involved with my church where I have been teaching Jr. High Sunday School class for the past seven years. I enjoy outreach ministry, especially weekly visits to the residents of a retirement community.
Who inspired you growing up?
Of course, my parents. I was also inspired by my great-grandfather who lived during WWI and WWII in the occupied Czechoslovakia and had a courageous story of thriving and growing through adversity.
If you could meet one famous person who would it be and why?
Thank you for attending Back to School Night. It was great to see the parents’ excitement and enthusiasm supporting St. James Academy teachers and the administration, as we begin the 2015-16 school year. Please comment below about your favorite part of the evening. Also, please share our new admission video and use the hashtag SJAExperience!
Mrs. Mayo joins St. James Academy with over 30 years of teaching experience. She is a highly qualified reading and math specialist, who is extremely excited to be joining us at St. James Academy this year. Mrs. Mayo has won the Baltimore Sun’s Reading by 9 Teacher Recognition Award and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce Award of Excellence.
What does St. James mean to you?
I am looking forward to getting to know the students and families in the St. James community. St. James is a wonderful opportunity for me to serve my community in a nurturing, child-centered environment.
What do you want students to learn from you? Read More