St. Michael's School in Canton has grown to become Stark County's largest K-8 Catholic School.

St. Michael's School in Canton has grown to become Stark County's largest K-8 Catholic School. It has more than 400 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and 63 preschoolers attending every day.

The school was built in 1953 in its current location on the corner of Whipple Avenue and Fulton Road. Pre-kindergarten was added in 2003 and a preschool was added a year later.  The school opened with 153 students enrolled. The growth follows the growth of St. Michael parish which started in 1952 with 225 families. Today the parish serves 2,500 families.

Students and families come from Jackson Township, Plain Township, Perry Township, North Canton, Massillon, Canton and Green. Claire Gatti has been principal at St. Michael for three years.

“Part of what makes us so successful is that we've always taught respect and responsibility,” Gatti said. “We have lots of parental involvement and our results are students with high achievement and good test scores.”

TECHNOLOGY, FAITH

St. Michael's school teaches Common Core standards based curriculum and 21st-Century skills. It also participates in the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Medical) curriculum. Part of the mission of STREAM is to incorporate computer science into classes as well providing technology in the classrooms and computer labs.

Guy Kidder is one of the teachers at St. Michael's and he teaches kids in his class a variety of computer applications including 3D modeling, Google Drive, PhotoShop and computer programming.

“We have used code.org for the past two years for grades second through eighth and the kids love it,” Kidder wrote in an email response. “There are a variety of other activities we do to make our students more competitive, including design work with the 3D modeling, graphic design and working collaboratively using Google Drive. We have 300 devices for students including desktop computers, laptops, iPads and Chrome books.”

Each classroom is also equipped with an interactive whiteboard, overhead projectors and sound amplification. Gatti said the teaching staff is going through professional development to learn how to incorporate other STEM related projects into the classroom.

“We add religion and art to the tradition STEM classes,” Gatti said. “Teaching religion and having the kids go to mass once a week is what really sets us apart from other schools in the county. It allows us to grow spiritually as well as academically.”

Some of the 21st Century skills taught at St. Michael School focus on working collaboratively in groups, using lots of communications and engaging students in their learning.

“In many cases the teacher becomes the facilitator in group work,” Gatti said. “In today's classroom the kids don't sit around and listen to the teacher all day. The kids are up and moving around the room and are engaged and working together.”

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

St. Michael's also offers a variety of extracurricular activities and programs for students including Power of the Pen, Power of the Pencil, student council, Lego club, film club, safety patrol, choir, cheerleading and a hosts of sports programs. Football, basketball, girls volleyball and track programs are all available.

Traditional programming offers a science fair, book fair, spelling bee, Veteran's Day celebration, geography bee, grandparent's day and Pass it On. A few of the annual service projects include hosting a Samaritan's table and putting together Thanksgiving baskets.

Gatti said teachers at the school have received extensive training on anti-bullying. She said the teachers make it a priority to address reports of bullying type behavior.

“Bullying happens in many different ways, including making comments or giving someone a certain kind of look,” Gatti said. “We address it immediately. We are also proactive by having weekly meetings when students sit in a circle so they can see and hear each other. We discuss kindness, patience, forgiveness, sarcasm and what's equal and fair.”

Teachers watch for students performing good deeds and send Gatti a note about the student. She then sends a note back to the student and announces his or her name on the PA system. The school also has a policy of budding up older kids with younger kids at dismissal to help get the younger students to their buses on time.