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St. Monica-St. Michael School Christmas Craft Fair

The giving for this Christmas project began with people who like to make gifts, and it will continue into the new year helping people in need.
Teachers and parents from St. Monica-St. Michael School and parishioners of St. Monica Church in Barre contributed box loads of homemade items for the school’s annual Christmas Craft Fair Dec. 18 and 19.
This was a fair for the schoolchildren, a place they could buy gifts for family members without family members knowing.
All gifts were $1, and children could bring in $5 to buy five gifts, though children from larger families could purchase enough gifts, and any child whose family could not afford $5 could still shop like everyone else.
A Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments for sale, and other gifts were displayed on tables throughout the conference room. There were barrettes and bookmarks, hats, mittens, scarves, spices, tea, homemade soap, candies, plastic spoon lily votive lights, magnets and key chains among the choices for everyone on the children’s list from siblings to grandparents.
And once the children had selected their items, parent volunteers wrapped the gifts to ensure they would be a surprise.
“The children love this because they like to be able to shop without us with them,” said Melissa Cadorette, a parent volunteer.
“They’re really proud they’re getting these gifts and so happy,” added another parent volunteer, Krissy Lyon.
Ziva Covey, 6, a first grader, was buying for her brother, father, two grandmothers and grandfather, her shopping list tucked under her arm. She got a gift elsewhere for her mother. “I like shopping here,” Ziva said. “There’s so much awesome things.”
And while they are having fun shopping, the children are learning the importance of giving to others, said parent volunteer Shauna Wolf.
The gifts they give really are gifts that keep giving: Proceeds from the Christmas Craft Fair are donated to the St. Monica Food Pantry and the St. Augustine Soup Kitchen in nearby Montpelier.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn to think of others as well and for the volunteers and crafters to be able to give of their talents and skills,” said Principal Brenda Buzzell. “Then the churches will benefit from the donations to help people in need.”
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'Fashion Show of Ga-Baaa-Ge'

Twelve-year-old Danny Kiniry had a wardrobe malfunction before the St. Monica-St. Michael School “Fashion Show of Ga-Baaa-Ge,” an event that was supposed to sound fancy even though models were wearing outfits created from recycled materials.
The sixth grader’s stovepipe hat lost its bubble-wrap top, but he made do with the microwave dinner dish and recycled paper bottom that sufficed for a fedora. The hat complemented his bubble wrap suit jacket with straw fasteners, recycled construction paper satchel and yogurt-cup headphones.
He showed off the outfit as he walked down the “runway” lined with white plastic gallon jug “lights” and green sparkle toile cloth.
Classmates Cole Young and Alex Keane, both 12, helped created the recycled fashion statement.
“This was fun. You get to show off all the stuff you made,” Danny said.
But it was more than fun.
The fashion show was part of the Barre Catholic school’s celebration of the Year of Creation in the Diocese of Burlington.
“This is a way to show we care for the Earth,” said Mariah, 12, a seventh grader who declined to give her last name. She modeled a prom dress made of newspaper fans by her friend, Autumn Lewis, 13, another seventh grader.
“It came out pretty good,” Mariah said. “It was cool to watch her work on it. She’s very artistic.”
Autumn too reflected on the meaning of the fashion show highlighting creations made of recycled goods: “God wants us to take care of everything He created.”
Added Mariah, “The Earth a gift to us so we have to take care of it.”
Spanish teacher Edda Concessi coordinated the event for the students in preschool through grade eight. “Pope Francis asks, ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’ His answer? ‘It’s up to us.’”
She said at St. Monica-St. Michael School caring for the environment is a moral obligation and therefore part of the children’s education.
All of the children participated in the fashion show either by modeling fashions made of recyclables, designing the fashions or describing the fashions to the audience of students and family members in the school gym.
The fashion show included children wearing hats made of coffee filters and fruit cups and dresses and skirts made of newspapers and bedecked as princesses, pirates, knights, superheroes, a rapper and animals.
Other materials included cardboard, plastic grocery bags, bottle caps, fabric, old jeans and paper towel rolls.
St. Monica-St. Michael Principal Brenda Buzzell said the fashion show project was a way to show children how to look at what they discard in a different way. “We’re not just telling them to reuse, they are experiencing reuse.”
And in the Year of Creation, that is a particularly important lesson. “It’s really our job to leave the Earth better than we found it,” she said. “God gave us the Earth, and by taking care of it and making it better, we are honoring Him. It’s all about taking care of our gifts from God.”
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Principal appointed in Barre

During her first year as principal of St. Monica-St. Michael School in Barre, Brenda S. Buzzell intends to support student learning, increase enrollment and promote continued community involvement.

The school was formed by the merger of St. Monica School in Barre and St. Michael School in Montpelier.

The two schools and the former Marian High School in Barre “have been pillars in these two communities for almost 100 years,” said the fourth-generation parishioner of St. Monica Church in Barre. “Many people in Central Vermont have fond memories of attending these schools that produced strong community leaders and solid community members.”

 Today St. Monica-St. Michael School — offering preschool through grade eight — continues to offer a quality educational alternative to public schools with a mission to empower students with spiritual, intellectual and physical growth.

A Barre native, Buzzell attended St. Monica School and Marian High School and graduated from Spaulding High School in Barre. A Vermont licensed educator, she earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Union Institute and University and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Vermont; she has more than 30 years of teaching experience in both public and private schools.

She is board chair of the Barre Town Middle and Elementary School, a member of the Barre Supervisory Union Board and is active with Vermont state organizations and committees to promote quality early care and education.

She comes to the St. Monica-St. Michael principal job from The Stern Center for Language and Learning where she spent 11 years as the Building Blocks For Literacy coordinator, instructor and master trainer. 

As a national presenter and master trainer, she traveled extensively throughout the United States bringing this research-based, research-proven early literacy program that teaches developmentally appropriate practices to childcare providers and preschool teachers. 

Buzzell co-authored the online Building Blocks For Literacy course, presented webinars and developed the undergraduate and graduate courses.

She brings to the principal’s job knowledge of educational research and best practices and her experience of teaching children in public and private schools as well as teaching adults to understand language and literacy development. 

“My school board experience has given me knowledge of best practice, policy development and financial responsibility,” she said.

Declining enrollment — a challenge shared with many public and private schools — is an area she will address as principal. “I am hoping to encourage families to register their children, knowing that we offer strong foundational skills in academics,” she said.

Buzzell’s appointment was effective July 1; she replaces Denise Maurice.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
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