Last year Villa Duchesne Oak Hill added a pre-kindergarten class for the first time since the Sacred Heart academy opened its doors in 1929.
“We have the sweetest little 3-year-olds you’d ever want to see,” says Deborah Steurer, Ph.D., Oak Hill principal. “I love to be out in front every morning—it’s so fun to see the girls and boys in their beautiful little uniforms! It is truly one of the greatest joys of my job, watching children hop out of the car, big smiles on their faces, so ready to come to school. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be part of that.”
Originally founded as a day and boarding school for girls, Villa Duchesne began admitting boys in 1971, and the lower school through grade six was named Oak Hill in 1973. Today, Oak Hill serves boys and girls in junior kindergarten through sixth grade, and Villa Duchesne continues its mission of educating young women in grades seven to 12.
The junior kindergarten program offers parents the option of having their child attend only a few days per week, Steurer explains, but many parents expand the schedule after seeing a child’s progress. “They see their child change before their eyes—learning, making friends and becoming independent,” she says. “It’s a small environment where they are encouraged to be who they are, and there is so much opportunity to develop confidence at this formative age. “
The 60-acre campus features a century-old log cabin that was home to the school’s inaugural kindergarten class, but tradition morphs smoothly into technology for the class of 2013. “This year the kindergarten class is once again producing a video about the first Thanksgiving under the guidance of their teacher, who was a recent presenter at a Missouri technology conference,” says Steurer. “The kids are studying about the pilgrims and how they lived, and then they act out the parts. The video is presented as a keepsake for their parents at the Thanksgiving feast. It’s a great memory!”
Teachers at every grade level utilize the latest technology to encourage and empower students to develop their multiple strengths, notes Steurer. “We believe technology is meant to enhance, not replace, the high quality of teaching at Oak Hill. Computers, interactive whiteboards and tablet PCs instill in students not only the technical skills they need today, but prepare them for the technology of tomorrow.”
The Sacred Heart tradition is integral to a Villa Duchesne education, says Steurer, with an emphasis on the five goals, faith in God, respect for learning, a commitment to service, building of community and personal responsibility. “Our goal is to inspire children to be responsible, compassionate members of society. It’s part of who we are,” she explains. “Our students learn firsthand how their actions have a direct impact on the world around them by participating in a variety of community service projects. Students learn to act with open minds and open hearts.” After hearing that a classmate has an autistic sibling at another school, students recently organized a fundraiser, raising more than $2,200 for that school.
“We don’t just talk about our five goals,” says Steurer. “We live them. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with this school.”
On the cover: Founded by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill serves boys and girls in grades pre-kindergarten through six, and young women in grades seven to 12. The school will host an open house on Sunday, Nov. 7, from noon to 4 p.m. at 801 S. Spoede Road in Frontenac. For more information call 432-2021 or visit vdoh.org. Photo by Sapna Jos • Cover design by Sapna Jos