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  • October 1, 2014

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School - Ladue News: Kids & Parenting

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School

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Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 11:53 am

Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School is known for its tradition. A member of the international network of Sacred Heart Schools that was founded in France at the end of the French Revolution, Villa Duchesne was built in 1929. “We are a school with a very rich history in traditions while providing a very 21st-century education,” says Therese Hagemeister, director of enrollment management. “Much of our learning is individualized and project-based, rooted in Cognitive Learning Theory.”

At Oak Hill, children can start as young as age 3 in the coed junior kindergarten program and remain at the school through sixth grade. At Villa Duchesne, young ladies experience an all-girl setting from seventh through 12th grades. “The size of our school really sets us apart,” Hagemeister notes. “Our student-teacher ratio is nine-to-one, so we can be very individualized.”

Hagemeister explains that Sacred Heart Schools share in many traditions, like Congé and Cache Cache, for example. “Congé means ‘holiday’ in French, and it’s a day of fun that the student council plans with the help of teachers and the administration.” According to Hagemeister, students go to school expecting a typical day and are surprised with a Congé. “Everything we do is surrounded by the goals and criteria of the Sacred Heart education, and one of those ideas is the building of community as a Christian value. The Congé day is a fun way for kids to connect across grade levels.” A couple of years ago, the students planned a Harry Potter Congé. “All the kids went into our chapel, which is like cathedral inside our school,” she adds. “The entire student body from grades seven through 12 thought they were going to a prayer service. Then the student council started playing the music from Harry Potter and acceptance letters from Hogwarts started streaming down from up high. It was a really great opportunity to build on that sense of community.”

Cache Cache is another fun tradition that students enjoy. “Our high school P.E. curriculum focuses on lifelong types of sports,” Hagemeister says. “They do yoga, learn personal protection and participate in geocaching, but if it’s a particularly nice day, part of their day might be spent playing Cache Cache, which is group hide-and-seek.”

But it’s not just fun and games at Villa Duchesne, as Hagemeister describes a challenging academic rigor, as well as a strong college counseling program. “Our classrooms are highly active, engaged learning environments, and because they are small, our teachers can really take kids from where they are and elevate them,” she says. “For example, our 30-year-plus writing curriculum is pretty incredible. When students write an English paper, they turn it in, and it is graded. But then, that child will sit down with the teacher and have a conference about that paper, and its strengths and weaknesses. Writing is a process— it’s about learning how to write and learning how to write well. Time and time again, students who go on to college come back and share with us that their professors are blown away with their writing skills. It’s a piece of our curriculum that’s pretty amazing.”

On average, Villa Duchesne’s graduating class is about 80 to 85 girls. It has two full-time college counselors, so the students receive a tremendous amount of attention. “Our rigorous, college preparatory curriculum is highly individualized so students can maximize their strengths and grow. We offer 12 A.P. courses, as well as a number of honors level courses. Our graduates go to some of the most selective colleges and universities in the nation.”

Hagemeister says that service is another significant piece of the Sacred Heart tradition. “Our service program is called Service Learning, and we believe that it is an integral component,” she notes. “Several times a year, our students go out with their teachers and serve the community at organizations like crisis nurseries, early childhood centers and food pantries. Then, they come back to campus, and they share their experiences. I love hearing the upper-class girls say things like, When I first started Service Learning, I thought I was helping other people. What I realize now is they were helping me. And that’s the point, and they have internalized it. They have learned that we need to go out into the world and help other people.”

The school will host an all-school open house from noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 6, allowing parents to tour both the Oak Hill and Villa Duchesne facilities. Hagemeister notes, “We really want people to have a snap shot of who we are.”

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