St Thomas of Villanova Catholic School boasts a rich history, steeped with scholarship, innovation and philanthropy.
The History of St. Thomas of Villanova
St. Thomas of Villanova: Father of the Poor
Our school’s namesake, St. Thomas of Villanova, was born Thomas Garcia in Castile, Spain in 1488, and derived his surname from Villaneuva de los Infantes, the village where he was raised. The son of a miller, he grew up middle class by today’s standards, but his parents instilled a yearning to help the poor, a characteristic that became his legacy.
At just 16 years old, he studied at the University of Alcala, where he studied Theology and Philosophy, and later served as a professor. In 1516, he joined the Augustinian Friars and in 1518, was ordained a priest.
In 1545, after being appointed Archbishop of Valencia, he traveled throughout his diocese to preach with zeal and affection, especially about charitable causes. Known as the “father of the poor,” he never ceased caring for orphans and the sick, feeding all who came to his door. His supernatural gifts, like healing the sick and multiplying food, were also recorded.
He continued almsgiving until his death in 1555, when he gifted all of his money to the poor. His canonization took place in 1658, and his feast day is celebrated September 22.
Our School: Always Moving Forward
Since its inception, St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic School has followed in the footsteps of this scholarly and charitable saint, continuously discovering ways to not only meet but exceed the academic and spiritual needs of its student body, while promoting civic and benevolent responsibility, both locally and globally.
After the Parish formed in 1961, three Sinsinawa Dominican nuns—Principal Sr. Josef Riordan, Sr. Carolus Sciase and Sr. Amatus (Susanne) Klein—opened the school in September 1963 with only grades 4, 5 and 6. After solving space constraints, the school expanded to include grades 4-8 in 1965.
In 1971, Principal Sr. Patricia Ann, who believed parents should actively participate in their children’s school life, organized the first meeting of the St. Thomas Home-School Association. Today, this group is called the Family School Association (FSA) but continues to exemplify and advocate for strong parent-school connections.
In 1972, Charles Swangren became the first lay principal, and over the next four decades, a selection of dedicated principals shared their unique gifts to shape the school into what it is today, each building on the successes of their predecessor.
In partnership with the church, who built the Fr. James Rowley Activity Center in 2003, the school utilizes a state-of-the-art gymnasium and its facilities to grow its physical education courses and its award-winning sports programming, as well as host a number of student performances, educational and social events and assemblies.
At the heart of every one of our school’s advancements since 1963—from the development of a full-day preschool and kindergarten programs to up-to-date technology tools and cutting edge collaborative desks and workstations—is innovation.
In the spirit of St. Thomas of Villanova, the school’s administrators, teachers, students and parents never cease to look for ways to grow, improve and better serve the educational, spiritual, social and emotional needs of children.
St. Thomas of Villanova Today
In 2015, Mrs. Mary Brinkman, one of the school’s beloved and longtime physical education teachers, whose own children attended St. Thomas, became principal and blessed the school with her highly professional but warm and inviting personality. Under Mrs. Brinkman’s intelligent and thoughtful direction, the school has continued to flourish. Here are a few recent examples of our school’s commitment to excellence:
- Test Scores: Based on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s analysis comparing our school’s ACT Aspire scores with the local public school’s PARCC scores, St. Thomas of Villanova students scored as much as 46% higher than some local schools in meeting and exceeding math and reading skills and about 20% higher than the local school district as a whole.
- Science/STEM: Thanks to monies raised by FSA, the school purchased a cutting-edge, K-8 science and STEM curriculum developed by the Smithsonian Science Education Center, which will be implemented the 2018-2019 school year.
- Technology: All students have access to state-of-the-art technology tools, from Chromebooks to Ipads to desktop computers, and receive computer lab instruction for both Apple and Microsoft operating systems.
- Foreign Language: Spanish is now taught in all grades, from preschool through 8th grade, expanding on our already successful foreign language program that began in the upper grades.
- Preschool: Additional sections of full day preschool needed to be opened to accommodate the growing educational needs of today’s children and the professional schedules of their working parents.
- Student Workspaces: With the generous money raised by Friends of St. Thomas of Villanova (FOSTOVS), new desks and collaborative work stations have been updated in all classrooms
- Newsworthy Philanthropy: In the spirit of our namesake, STV students collect food and raises funds for charity through days like “Two Can Tuesday” and “Greens for Jeans.” Last year, over 1,000 cans of food were donated, a charitable feat that was featured in the Daily Herald. Other classroom initiatives helped raise money to provide clean water for people in third world countries.
The St. Thomas of Villanova Advantage:
Despite its continued growth, St. Thomas has always maintained a low student-teacher ratio and a warm and “homey “ feel that makes parents and students feel truly connected as a community. At St. Thomas of Villanova, every child, every family, matters. This close-knit community, paired with our dedication to growth and development, is our advantage.
“Our school is a happy place, a safe place,” said Father Ray Yadron, Pastor Emeritus, who although retired, still stops in to chat with students from time to time.
“When I go in there, the kids are inquisitive, knowledgeable, happy and excited. The dedication of the teachers and principals is second to none. Like I’ve always said…We’re small, but we’re mighty.”