| By Carla Smith | Correspondent

St. Theresa in Austin is a Blue Ribbon School

St. Theresa Catholic School in Austin was recently named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School, a highly esteemed designation bestowed by the U.S. Department of Education and a prestigious honor for private and public schools alike. St. Theresa was one of only 40 non-public schools in the U.S. to receive this year’s award and is also the only school in Austin to do so.

“We are proud to have achieved this accomplishment, which is an honor and shows the tremendous effort from our whole school community,” said Principal Brian Wheeler. “It also serves as a reminder for us to continually meet the raised bar we’ve set and stay focused on maintaining excellence.”

That whole school community he speaks of includes 375 students, teachers and staff, as well as families and parents. One of those parents, Alice Bolander, said she enrolled her children at St. Theresa when their highly rated neighborhood public school went to virtual learning during the pandemic. The family has never looked back; the children have remained at St. Theresa’s and the entire family converted to Catholicism.

“The decision to send our kids there was the best thing we could have ever done and changed our lives in so many ways. We not only found our school home, but our spiritual one as well,” Bolander said. “Because the school is tied to a parish, the focus on religious and spiritual development is emphasized as much as a strong academic curriculum. St. Theresa’s focuses on whole person development, which means children are prepared both academically and morally.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only a few select schools are chosen annually as Exemplary High Performing Schools. Wheeler said the application process is very thorough and lengthy. A deep dive into the school’s culture, community and curriculum was required.

First grade teacher Erin Reeves said St. Theresa sets itself apart from other schools through its strong sense of Catholic community, academic excellence, and a commitment to fostering both the intellectual and moral development of our students.

“The values and principles upon which the school is built, rooted in our Catholic identity, truly distinguish it from others,” she said.

St. Theresa students are immersed in a challenging academic environment and also have the opportunity to reflect on Scripture, learn the rich meaning of each part of the Mass, and grow in their personal relationship with God through prayer and service. The school is also committed to the arts as students attend art, music and theater classes multiple times a week. In addition, the school’s namesake and patron’s “Little Way” is woven into every aspect of school life.

“Our children are taught their little actions are valuable and there is holiness in that service,” Bolander said. “They are reminded that nothing is small in the eyes of God.”

Everyone interviewed attributed the national recognition to the school’s amazing community and ministry and many profess that St. Theresa’s has been providing Blue Ribbon quality education for years with the only difference now being that they have been formally recognized. Still, the honor is felt in every hallway, every classroom, and throughout the school.

“We couldn’t be any prouder yet are humbled in that this is the realization of all the hard work that’s been going on for years,” Wheeler said. “I’m thrilled for our families, teachers, students and the entire St. Teresa’s community.”

As they celebrate, St. Theresa Catholic School also acknowledges that the remarkable achievement comes with the responsibility to continue delivering an exceptional education. Faculty and staff remain dedicated to fostering a nurturing and inclusive learning environment that empowers students to become responsible citizens, critical thinkers and compassionate individuals.

“The pillars of success for our school are academic excellence driven by faith and for our students to be inspired to be the best versions of themselves,” Wheeler said. “This all stems from the root of our faith and mission: to love and serve God. We are doing something special at St. Theresa’s in that we’re teaching children they have special gifts to share with the world and that God loves them.”

For more information on St. Theresa’s Catholic School, go to st-theresa.org or call (512) 451-7105.

Carla Smith has written for the Catholic Spirit since 2016. A long-time Austinite, she and her husband are members of Santa Rosa Parish in Andice. They enjoy spending time with their daughter and their three dogs, as well as fellowship, golf and football.