Divine Redeemer marks golden jubilee with 1950s theme

Pictured are seventh- and eighth-graders in Louise Pease’s class at Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan. The school is celebrating its 50th Anniversary Gala this month

Pictured are seventh- and eighth-graders in Louise Pease’s class at Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan. The school is celebrating its 50th Anniversary Gala this monthHANAHAN—Divine Redeemer School will celebrate its 50th Anniversary Gala with a host of alumni, parents, parishioners and special guests.

Father Edward W. Fitzgerald, pastor of Divine Redeemer Church, said the event will be held at the school’s Caddell Hall on Feb. 20 following Mass. It is expected to run from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

The catered affair will provide heavy hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast offered by Father Fitzgerald, said Donna McDonald, administrative assistant at the school.

Also, a disc jockey will provide music and tempting items will be available at the silent auction table, all for the low price of $10, she said.

Things have changed tremendously for the Hanahan school since it was first founded in 1960, two years after the parish church was dedicated by Bishop John J. Russell.

At that time, Hanahan was still an unincorporated area, not becoming a city until 1972.

Jean Steinhoff, principal, said she remembers when most of the teaching staff was comprised of religious sisters.

Connor Cartledge, Sebastian Cohen and Andrew Woodlief, fourth-grade students in Susanne King’s class at Divine Redeemer, line up in their 1950s garb as part of the school’s anniversary celebrationsOver the years, Divine Redeemer was guided by four congregations: the Sisters of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, the Sisters of St. Francis, and the Religious Teachers Filippini, according to the school history. The last group of religious left in 1993.

Of the current staff, Steinhoff has been there longer than anyone. She estimated that her first year of teaching was around 1978. She is retiring at the end of the school year.

“We were a small school, but we had huge classes, especially in the younger grades,” she said.

At that time, the classroom teachers were also in charge of art, music, P.E., recess, lunch and anything else the students did.

Steinhoff recalls having about 10 children in a class of 30 who could not read. In order to help them, she stayed after school each day to teach them reading, and is happy to say that each of those children is successful today. She added that teachers at Catholic schools have always gone the extra mile to help.

“I think that’s what Catholic schools do well,” she said. “We educate the whole person to give them the self-esteem and confidence they need.”

Some of those alumni still drop by to visit today, and Father Fitzgerald said he hopes many of them will attend the gala and help celebrate the school’s success.

Divine Redeemer also rejoiced with its current students during a week of activities that combined their 50th anniversary with the national celebration of Catholic schools.

The youth, in grades K-4 through eighth, enjoyed a variety of events including an ice cream social and an appearance by the S.C. Wildlife Department. Officials have been to the school before, and each time they bring an assortment of animals.

“I’m never really sure what they’re going to bring,” Steinhoff said. “They just turn up with critters. The kids really like it.”

Another annual hit is the book fair, which was decorated this year to represent a diner from the 1950s. Keeping with that theme, the students went all-out on dress-down day, when they were allowed to wear ’50s era clothing.

In fact, Paul Provost, a sixth-grader, said dress down day is one of the best aspects of school. His classmates said they like that Divine Redeemer is a small school, is free of bullies, and teaches Spanish in all grades.

“I like the fact that each teacher specializes in certain subjects and they teach us on our level and how we learn,” said Lizzie Nealon, 12. Spanish is her favorite subject because her teacher is “interactive with the vocabulary and the culture.”