‘A smile goes a long way’ at Blessed Sacrament School

Charleston — Blessed Sacrament School will celebrate its 55th anniversary this year. In her nearly 15 years as  the school’s principal, Sister Linda Marie Bolinski has placed a strong emphasis on making the job about the children and their parents.

The mission of the school is to provide a high-quality academic program in a genuinely Catholic environment that affords students the opportunity to develop morally, spiritually, aesthetically, emotionally, and intellectually, according to the principal. She is a Sister of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, an order based in Danville, Pa., that has staffed the school since its founding.

The creativity of the talented Blessed Sacrament staff, both religious and lay, is getting the job done.

Sister Bolinski ensures that she establishes a personal rapport with both the parents and the students by taking on tasks such as recess duty and traffic control in the mornings and afternoons.

“I learned a long time ago that the business side of this job can’t get done during the school day,” said Sister Bolinski. “I want the children to feel comfortable with me.”

The principal even has a sense of humor about how comfortable the children are with her. At the bazaar this year, the kids put on a puppet show with hand puppets they had made of themselves, the priests, the assistant principal and Sister Bolinski.

“The one of me was holding a stop sign directing traffic,” she said. “A smile goes a long way.”

“I want the parents and children to leave each afternoon in a good state of mind,” she said. “We are all very preoccupied these days.”

But the children and parents aren’t the only place where Sister Bolinski’s emphasis lies. She also makes every effort to keep her teachers on the cutting edge professionally — a goal that she set when she arrived in 1989, and has been successful in achieving.

“The teachers need to feel that their principal is there to help, and I do that by helping them to grow in competence,” she said. “I try to keep it ever in front of them that we’re here for the children. I want the teachers to be the best prepared, best trained that they can be.”

Many of the teachers have master’s degrees, and in-service training and professional development classes are offered frequently. Sister Bolinski also visits classrooms as often as possible.

“I don’t announce my visits, and I always go back and talk to the teacher about what I saw,” she said.

With all of the special activities in place, students are afforded the opportunity to expand in areas other than academics. Once or twice a month, depending on the schedule, students perform for the entire school on what is called “performance Thursdays.”

“We do this in order to develop the students’ performance skills,” said Sister Bolinski. “This is a wonderful time for everyone to get together and have fun.”

Another activity that the students look forward to is “Buddy Day.”

“I noticed a long time ago that the younger children were intimidated by the older ones,” she said. “I wanted to ease that intimidation while at the same time fostering a caring in the older students.”

The concept of the activity is to pair younger students with older students allowing them to actually develop a relationship. One of the annual activities is a teddy bear picnic.

“At the beginning of the year our K-5 and eighth-graders sit outside with their teddy bears at lunchtime and eat,” she explained. “Overall I think the activity in general has accomplished what I hoped it would. I see the younger children getting excited when they see their buddy.”

At Blessed Sacrament, with age comes responsibility. During the final year at school, students are taught in computer class to create, design, and put together the annual yearbook. Dawn Haigler, the computer teacher, has found that many students are talented in areas that they never would have discovered.

“The students absolutely love this project,” said Haigler. “They take all the pictures, write the captions, everything. I am getting a response out of some students that I never expected to.”

Despite the strict academic standards to which Blessed Sacrament School holds its students, it is still making an effort to create a family environment where students are growing in all the areas necessary.

“I have been here for many years now, and I have enjoyed the students and their parents very much,” said Sister Bolinski. “The striking involvement of the families is what makes this school what it is.”