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The Philosophy of St. Athanasius School

About St. Athanasius School

Since 1929, St. Athanasius School has existed for the purpose of spreading the Good News of Christ according to Catholic teaching.  We address the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of our students.  With approximately 300 students and more than 30 faculty, staff, and volunteers, St. Athanasius School is dedicated to Catholic education and desires to promote Christian values and academic excellence in our community.

St. Athanasius's School Mission

St. Athanasius School exists for the purpose of spreading the Good News of Christ according to Catholic teaching.  Our mission is to address the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of our students.  We are dedicated to empowering our students to live Christian values and to strive for academic excellence.

St. Athanasius School's Members

Our children and their parents/guardians understand that we teach Catholic doctrine and foster Catholic Christian values.  They agree to this when they register their children in our school.  The religious message is lived out each day in the way we show respect to one another, in our warm welcoming of visitors, in our prayers, and in our efforts to live as Christ’s disciples.

The members of Saint Athanasius School show a genuine spirit of caring.  They offer support and show sincere respect for one another.  Our community life extends to the entire faith community and to the neighborhoods of Germantown and West Oak Lane.  Through prayer and food collections, we reach out to neighbors in need.  

St. Athanasius School's Process

We incorporate a range of methods in the intellectual development of students at various grade levels of the school.  This development begins in the primary grades through the use of concrete operations and proceeds through the intermediate and upper grades with the gradual introduction of the logic of symbolic operations.  We believe that academic development depends on the logical presentation of organized subject matter and the cultivation of critical thinking, reading, and problem-solving skills.

In planning its program of studies, the school follows the guidelines issued by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The guidelines address the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of the students.  They stress the development and extension of basic skills in all areas of curriculum while stimulating and encouraging creativity.

To reach the intellectual needs of our students according to our theories of learning, we try to limit our class size to approximately thirty-three children.  We instruct our children through whole group instruction while addressing individual needs through cooperative learning, small group instruction, and the utilization of the Elwyn Center’s services.     

The school embraces the view that personal development is directed toward a meaningful, responsible, and self-actualizing life.  The first steps occur as the students learn to make decisions and take responsibility for them.  The students are taught to value themselves and their accomplishments while seeing themselves as part of the community. Their decisions are guided by a living faith.

The school views social development as learning to respect self and others, while accepting the obligations of citizenship in a democratic society.  The school provides students with an environment of faith and mutual respect so they will have the ability to make appropriate responses and decisions in their interactions with one another and with those in authority.

Physical education is viewed as understanding and accepting one’s body as a creation of God and learning to enjoy its capabilities without abuse.  Physical education entails appropriate health education from grades Pre- K to 8, in conjunction with activities such as free and improvised play, and through more structured physical education classes conducted once a week.  An understanding of the danger inherent in drugs, alcohol, and other controlled substances is addressed through the DARE and SHALOM programs and in science class.

The school provides for the spiritual development of the children by making God part of their daily life.  Religion is taught as a major subject in our school.  We foster a living faith in Jesus Christ who is the bond between the human and the divine.  We provide an environment characterized by the signs, symbols, manners, and customs of a community of faith, and by the witness of teachers and staff.  We accept children from various denominations and encourage them to practice their faith even though the official religious instruction is in the Catholic faith.  Our school forms values through its rules, religious instruction, and liturgical celebrations.  We strive to instill a strong moral sensibility and to be examples of our teaching.

We celebrate holy days and special times (Black History Month, Halloween, St. Nicholas’ Day, etc.) throughout the year through liturgical celebrations and individual classroom celebrations.  We acknowledge children’s birthdays and achievements publicly on the PA system.  Children are also rewarded with verbal praise, the honor system, stars, “Catch Me at My Best Awards”, student of the month, etc. In keeping with this positive approach to education, we believe that students must be accountable for all of their actions.  Consequently, inappropriate behaviors may result in the loss of certain privileges and/or the issuing of demerits or detention.

 Educational policy is determined and implemented within a collaborative framework.  Major directives regarding educational policy are sent to the school by the Archdiocesan office.  Educational policies and objectives are clearly set forth in these curriculum guidelines.  These directives are clarified for the teachers by the Principal during faculty meetings.  The curriculum coordinators are also instrumental in explaining educational policy to the faculty.

 Management policy is defined in the faculty handbook and in the student/parent handbook.  These handbooks outline the rules that are to be followed by teachers and students.  Management policy is also communicated through the teachers’ contracts.  These contracts follow the guidelines suggested by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Policy is also communicated through faculty meetings, the Home and School Association and memos from the principal.  Changes in management policy are made through dialogue between the Pastors and the Principal in consultation with the faculty.

 The basic academic skills are organized along a continuum which allows students to develop at an individual pace.  The mastery of skills is monitored by continual evaluation.  Since we have an integrated language arts program (ILA), teachers try to connect learning experiences by using the writing process.  Reinforcement of skills is provided for those students who need it.  Children in the lower grades may receive additional help from the services provided by the Elwyn Institute.  The teachers endeavor to incorporate process learning in mathematics. Teaching methods are based primarily on large group instruction in which concepts are presented to an entire group of students.  There are times, however, when cooperative learning takes place within small groups of students.  It is also necessary, on occasion, to provide individual student instruction.  Teachers try to place more emphasis on developing critical thinking skills by teaching students to use research tools, such as the computer. 

 The school achieves its purposes through the dedication and cooperation of the administration and faculty.  All faculty members hold bachelors’ degrees in education and many have a masters’ degree as well.  The teaching process is supervised by the Principal, by representatives from the Education Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and by the community supervisor of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

 Students are formally evaluated in order to determine their level of progress in each subject area.  Formal tests include Archdiocesan examinations, teacher-made tests, book tests, and the Terra Nova Test.  Testing is sometimes used as a tool to identify causes for low achievement.  Students’ academic progress and personal development are also evaluated informally.  This is accomplished through teachers’ observations of students’ work habits and behavior in the classroom.

 The teacher is a role model, reflecting by example the kind of adult the school hopes the student will become.  According to time and circumstance, the teacher takes on varying roles, including director of learning who sets up the educational environment, and supportive helper, establishing a nurturing relationship with each student.  The teacher is also a disciplinarian who sets fair rules and guidelines, and helps children act responsibly. 

 At Saint Athanasius School, each teacher is dedicated to Catholic education and desires to promote Christian values and academic excellence.  The teacher is not merely an employee of the school, but the embodiment of all the values the school espouses.  Teachers exercise responsibility for their life choices, incorporating the spiritual, civic, and academic traditions and values of the school, believing that children learn best from exam Teachers strive to meet and advance the needs of the students.  We all work together for the best interest of the school community.  Respect is evident in our relationships with one another, both professionally and personally.  We sincerely try to affirm and encourage each other.  All our teachers feel that they share in the responsibility for the well being of each child; therefore, in an environment permeated by Christian faith and morals, we strive to promote the highest academic standards for our students.

 Teachers endeavor to be honest with parents.  They confer regularly with them on all significant aspects of the development of the students.  They try to make parents aware that the academic success of their children depends on having high expectations for their academic performance and cooperating with the faculty in all aspects of the learning process.

 As a faculty, we realize that our philosophy is the ideal.  We strive daily to make it a reality for the staff and students of St. Athanasius School.


Thank you for entrusting your children to us.  It is our firm hopes that all of us - faculty,
students, and parents - enter St. Athanasius School to learn and leave to serve.



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