Tradition

PRESCOTT ­ Every morning, the students, teachers and staff ­ and parents, if they can ­ at Sacred Heart School stand in a circle and pray.

That tradition has withstood time ­ even students who went to the school when it opened 50 years ago remember praying each morning.

"That just makes an incredible start to your day," said Caprice Daniels, whose husband Tommy Daniels attended the school as a youngster.

Their second graders, Thomás and Solena Daniels, attend the school now.

Sacred Heart School opened in Prescott 50 years ago Sept. 10. Since then, Catholic education has changed in some ways, but still strives to prepare children for challenges they'll face after school.

"We educate the whole child," said Brother Richard Suttle, the school's principal. "We want them to be ready to face the challenges they're going to face when they leave here."

Teresa Reeser attended Sacred Heart School as a second-grader when it opened in 1956, and went on to graduate from it.

Her mother attended St. Joseph's Academy and Teresa's son Steve attended Sacred Heart in the 1980s. Steve's daughter Delaney is now in second grade there.

The main change, Teresa said, is that the teachers aren't all nuns now as they were in 1956. The students at that time feared the nuns in their "penguin" outfits. Now, the single nun doesn't wear a habit. However, the school has remained the same in that "It's still one great big family," she said, adding that people take care of each other and everyone pitches in on projects.

Education itself has changed since the 1950s and '60s, she said, but children still gain a lot from the Catholic education.

Like Teresa, Tommy acknowledged that he was scared of the nuns when he went to Sacred Heart in the early '70s.

He said he appreciates that he learned about Catholicism and spent time in smaller classes ­ and that's what he likes about his children attending the school.

The teachers spend more time with the students, he said, and he likes that his children learn in a disciplined atmosphere.

Tommy and Caprice hope they can send Thomás and Solena to a Catholic high school in Prescott by the time the youngsters are older.

Yvonne Bartlett's three children ­ Cameron, Rachael and Shannon (who are in grades five, three and one, respectively) ­ attend Sacred Heart School now. Bartlett attended when she was in the first grade.

She acknowledges that Sacred Heart School has kept up with different kinds of advances in education, and said she appreciates the school's adherence to tradition as well. "It's a faith-based community," she said. "In everything they do, faith is around them."

Rather than bringing home books about Dick, Jane and Spot, she said, children bring home books about Samson and Delilah or Jonah and the whale.

Sister Terri Stafford has taught at Sacred Heart since1989. She said her role as ateacher is to "guide (students)into growing into responsible, loving Christian adults."

About 30 years ago, Suttle said, "To Teach as Jesus Taught" showed up on the bookshelves of Catholic educators. The book revolutionized the approach of Catholic education to center around constructive and positive discipline rather than strict and controlling discipline. "Instead of control, it's self control," Suttle said. Students "take control of their own actions."

And while discipline has changed, he said, Sacred Heart School's atmosphere has remained constant: "I've always found this school has a good, pleasant atmosphere and it is a safe place for students."

Edi Woll, whose two daughters attended Sacred Heart, worked at the school for years. Between 1983 and 1991, she was an aide and taught music. She returned as a third-grade teacher in the early 1990s and then later taught physical education, Spanish and music for a year.

"I'm Catholic, and this is our school," she said.

Parents, students and teachers all have similar expectations for the school,Woll said, because they share faith. "It's so much easier to train the kids to do what's right," she said, listing Christian charity and service as two important components of the education.

The Daniels have senttheir twins to the school since they were in kindergarten. "We were looking for what they offered today," Caprice said, referring to a small teacher-to-student ratio and a religion-based structure centering on discipline with purpose.

A celebration including special alumni events will take place Jan. 14, 50 years and one day after the school's official dedication. Also, visitors to Sacred Heart will notice its 50th anniversary bringing a fresh look, including improvements in the landscaping, new tables and a new Sacred Heart statue.