Back to School: Students and Educators Ready to Soar to Head of the Class


By Tony DeGol

The start of a new school year always brings new beginnings.

For Mary Frances Truscello, it is the beginning of the end of a glorious career in Catholic education.

Truscello, a seventh grade teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Cresson, will retire at the conclusion of the upcoming academic year.

As she spends these August days preparing her classroom and organizing lesson plans for the final time, she is reflecting on the past 20 years at All Saints as one of the greatest blessings in her life.

“We are a family there – students, teachers, staff, and parents support each other with kindness and respect day in and day out,” she said. “In those 20 years, not only have I helped prepare my students with the knowledge they must have for higher learning, but I have been able to teach and hand on our Catholic faith.”

Truscello urged students to love others as Christ loves us. It is something she said brought joy and enthusiasm to the classroom every day.

“Seeing each of their smiling faces throughout the years tells me that God put me exactly where I was meant to be, and those faces are what I will miss the most,” she emphasized.

Truscello and other educators, along with students, parents, administrators, and pastors, are eagerly awaiting the launch of the 2019-2020 school year in just days.

The first day for some Catholic schools in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown comes as soon as August 22. Others begin the week of August 26.

The diocese is home to 13 Catholic elementary schools and four independent Catholic high schools.

“It is such an exciting time,” said Peggy Beck, Executive Program Assistant in the diocesan Education Office. “The classrooms are all brand new and fresh. The kids are all brand new and fresh. They look so much older than they did the year before. Everybody is just ready for the growth of a new school year.”

Before beginning her new career on the diocesan level, Beck was a Catholic school teacher for 30 years.

“The values of a Catholic school are like no other,” she stated. “The love of God is evident through our principals, through our staff, through our families, and it’s such a family oriented institution. Those children go through those Catholic schools not just with their own set of parents, but with every teacher, every other parent in that school.”

Danielle Michaud has much fewer years of experience than Beck and Truscello, but she is just as enthusiastic about the rewards of Catholic education.

Last year was her first year teaching at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Hollidaysburg.

“One of the things that stands out most to me is being able to add faith and spirituality to the school day,” she noted. “As a woman of faith, I believe that adding this aspect to the school day truly rounds out the students’ learning and helps teach the students responsibility and accountability. Students can learn that their faith doesn’t have to be separated from academic learning, but can be experienced throughout the school day.”

Student Joey Lehman cannot wait for the school bell to ring this coming year. The Holy Trinity Catholic School student is one of many youngsters who will make the transition from elementary to middle school.

“I am happy and excited to go to the middle school,” he stated. “I’m thinking the middle school could be more of a challenge. The classes will be a little longer and I’m looking forward to having more time with my friends.”

Lehman loves Math, Science, Social Studies, and STREAM.

“It’s also going to be fun to pick electives by myself,” he continued. ”I will be choosing ones that have something to do with building. I feel good about picking electives that might have to do with building with my hands or with computers.”

The new school year also brings new responsibility for one of our priests.

Father Brian Warchola was recently appointed pastor of Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg, which includes a vibrant school.

“We certainly look forward to a wonderful school year that will help our students, faculty, and administration to grow in knowledge and wisdom as we continue to follow our universal call to holiness,” he commented. “It is my hope and sincere prayer that the Holy Spirit will descend upon Holy Name School and all our diocesan schools and families. We all must remain completely dependent upon our Lord Jesus Christ to sustain and nourish us in mind, body, and spirit.”

[Photo: Mary Frances Truscello, a seventh grade teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Cresson, prepares a bulletin board in her classroom for the start of the new year. Truscello is retiring at the end of the upcoming academic year after 20 years at the school.]