Students are introduced to a variety of reading genres, from classic to contemporary, to inspire and spark learning. Analysis of reading selections is enhanced through purposeful reading and re-reading of texts and text passages. Guided classroom discussions allow students to share their thoughts and ideas about what they have read, and to explore the writer’s craft.
Developing word power in vocabulary is a daily part of the Language Arts classroom schedule. Holy Cross students in Sixth through Eighth Grades use a literature-based program called Vocabu-Lit to improve student vocabulary. Each lesson begins with an excerpt from authentic literature, including selections from classic and contemporary fiction, nonfiction, speeches, and primary sources. A variety of exercises help students access understanding of word meanings and build skills to use when encountering new words. The class enhances word power through interactive small-group games and activities, as well as using digital resources.
For English, students in Sixth through Eighth Grades develop and strengthen foundational knowledge and skills in grammar and sentence structure. A sentence of the week models the learning task and offers a model from which students can aspire. Mastery of basic skills is achieved through whole group, small group, and partner exercises, as well as digital resources. Students are also given opportunities to apply their understanding during authentic writing tasks.
Students write for a variety of different reasons, and in a range of genres. Students write narratives in which they are encouraged to flex their creativity by using vivid vocabulary, figurative language, and other literary elements that have been identified in reading. Every reading assignment also includes some form of a written response, such as short essay responses, to questions; brief summaries, as well as longer, formal summaries; compare contrast essays, or a character analysis. Expectations regarding form, content, and organization are established and modeled before every writing task begins. While engaged in the writing process, every student receives one-on-one feedback from the draft stage and through the revision process. In this way, instruction is highly detailed, and individualized.
Holy Cross Elementary School splits math classes in the middle school. The smaller class sizes make it easier to work with individual students, address problems they encounter, and have them progress at their own speed. All students are provided a progressive mathematics curriculum that builds fundamental number sense and computational competence while also introducing more advanced concepts at either an on-level or above-level pace. Concepts are taught through a combination of theory, practical application, and hands-on demonstrations.
Developing fundamental computational expertise is the foundation of the curriculum. It is understood that students will continue to advance in math as they progress through Holy Cross and beyond into high school and college. The goal is to teach the concepts so they can not only learn them, but apply them in future applications. This is done through daily warm-up activities that build concrete connections between previously taught concepts and new material, problem solving exercises that involve real-world applications of mathematics, engaging lessons taught using a variety of mediums and interactive whiteboards, and continual informal and formal assessments that provide valuable feedback to enable the teachers to modify and enrich instruction.
Holy Cross mathematics focuses on creating a strong foundation in number sense, algebraic functions, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. Teachers work closely together to ensure that the instruction builds across grades, demonstrating how the concepts support more advanced mathematics. This not only helps current comprehension, but also supports future comprehension as students understand the progression of mathematics concepts.
The above-level curriculum is designed for those students who are developmentally ready to take on more advanced mathematics. Using the same foundational and building approaches, above level students are lead through advanced classes starting in Sixth Grade, culminating in Algebra I in Eighth Grade. Since every student develops at their own pace, the school provides opportunities for students to enter the above-level courses every year as well as options to return to on-level mathematics for students who need to strengthen their mathematics foundation before working at an accelerated pace.
In Sixth Grade science, students start the year in space and explore our closest natural satellite in depth; discussing not only how our Moon affects Earth, but also what concepts were involved to explore the moon. They explore our solar system and talk about what is beyond our solar system. Students then focus efforts back on our home planet, and look at Earth from deep in the core to the outermost edges of our atmosphere. The class ends the year looking at all the diversity of life on our planet and learn how scientists classify organisms.
In Seventh Grade, students begin with all things Newton - force and motion. The class next adds energy to the equation and discusses renewable, nonrenewable, wave, sound and light energy. Moving into the spring, students focus on climate, weather and climate change.
For Eighth Grade, the year starts in the Chemistry Lab - properties of matter, chemical changes, balancing reactions, solutions and solubility and other topics of interest. Students end the year with human physiology and genetics.
Students in Sixth Grade focus on World History by examining the history of our world, especially concentrating on eastern hemisphere history. They also concentrate on the geography and culture of the areas we discover. Lastly, Sixth Grade incorporates studying and test taking skills.
Seventh Grade students continue to examine World History by taking a more in-depth look at the western hemisphere, the geography of the United States, and also beginning to explore U.S. History prior to the end of the year. Students also continue to learn studying and test taking skills.
Eighth Grade focuses on American History, with an emphasis on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Students also examine the emergence of the United States as a world power in the early 20th century. Eighth Grade places a special emphasis on study and test taking skills, as well as researching and developing critical thinking skills.
In Middle School, students explore the life of Jesus and His impact on our lives today. In Seventh Grade, students begin Confirmation preparation.
Eighth Grade concentrates on Church History, the Mystery of the Church and the 10 Commandments. Much of the students' study will focus on how we treat others and ourselves. Principle prayers will be reviewed as well.
Catholic students will also celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation in the spring.
Enrichment classes: P.E., Art, Music, Technology, and Spanish
Michael Cilano, Middle School Social Studies and Religion and Eighth Grade Homeroom
Michael Cilano earned a Bachelor of Arts from Southern University in Baton Rouge. After graduation, he accepted a teaching position at his high school alma mater in New Roads, Louisiana. Mr. Cilano has taught both middle and high school history, as well as coached several varsity and junior varsity sports, including football, track, golf, and baseball.
Mr. Cilano was honored to be the 2013 Patricia Behring Louisiana Middle School Teacher of the Year, the 2014 Catholic High of Pointe Coupee Teacher of the Year, as well as the 2015 Daughters of the American Revolution of Louisiana State History Teacher of the Year.
Mr. Cilano enjoys having an open and engaging classroom that sparks enthusiasm and passion for learning. He believes that both History and Catholicism can really come alive through examining life experiences, as well as using technology as a wonderful tool to discover, and even recreate the past.
Shari Connor, Middle School Science and Lower School Advanced Math and Sixth Grade Homeroom
Shari Connor earned her Bachelor of Science at New Mexico State University in 1986 and her Master of Science from Colorado State University in 1988, both in Chemical Engineering. Mrs. Connor worked as an engineer in the biotechnology industry for six years before deciding to shift careers. She returned to school to earn her Master in Education from University of Maryland in 1996, and began teaching First Grade in Prince George's County, until taking a break to stay home with her young children. Mrs. Connor began teaching Middle School Science at Holy Cross in 2008 and added both Middle School and Elementary Math to her duties in 2015. She has also served as an adjunct professor at Towson University. Mrs. Connor was awarded the Knights of Columbus Monsignor O’Donnell Teacher of the Year for the 2010-11 school year and that same year she was also named a Science Montgomery, Outstanding Science Teacher/Mentors. In 2014, she received a Siemen’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy Fellowship.
Lurana Hogan, M. Ed., Middle School Language Arts and Seventh Grade Homeroom
Lurana Hogan earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rosemont College and a Master of Education from Marymount University, where she was invited to join the Delta Epsilon Sigma National Scholastic Honor Society. Mrs. Hogan is a Reading Specialist and holds Maryland State Certification to teach Secondary English. Mrs. Hogan began teaching at Holy Cross in 2004, and spent the subsequent twelve years teaching Second Grade. In the fall of 2016, she made the transition to teach Middle School Language Arts. Mrs. Hogan was nominated twice for the Archdiocese of Washington’s Golden Apple teaching award, and was the 2014 recipient of the Knights of Columbus Monsignor O’Donnell Teacher of the Year Award. Mrs. Hogan believes that reading should inspire as well as inform, and that the ability to write effectively in a variety of genres allows ideas to soar.
Colleen Wilkerson, Middle School Advanced Math
Colleen Wilkerson has been teaching Middle School Mathematics at Holy Cross since November 2005. She is certified to teach Secondary Mathematics, grades 7-12 in Maryland. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Leadership (Mathematics Instructional Leadership) from Notre Dame of Maryland University.
Before coming to Holy Cross, Mrs. Wilkerson worked as a structural engineer in Nashville, Tennessee. While living in Nashville, she volunteered to tutor at Saint Henry’s Catholic School, which sparked her interest in teaching mathematics to middle school children. Mrs. Wilkerson also volunteered with Project Reflect, a program that teaches and mentors high risk students, and was named Volunteer of the Year of the organization in 1999. Mrs. Wilkerson earned her Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University.
Mrs. Wilkerson and her family are parishioners of Holy Cross, and she believes in the value of a strong Catholic education.
Colleen Wampler, Middle School Mathematics and Sixth Grade Homeroom
Mrs. Wampler graduated from the College of William and Mary with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics. Prior to teaching, she worked as an actuarial assistant in an employee benefits firm. In 2007, she accepted a long-term substitute position at Holy Cross, and became a permanent member of the middle school math team in 2008. She currently teaches Sixth Grade religion, middle school and lower school mathematics, and is co-homeroom teacher for the Sixth Grade. Mrs. Wampler is pursuing her Master of Arts in Leadership in Teaching Mathematics, which she will complete in December of 2017. Mrs. Wampler’s goal is to have all students, regardless of perceived ability, access rigorous mathematics without fear!