Ordinary students at Holy Family do extraordinary acts

  • Holy Family Catholic Academy first grader Teaghan Croteau with some of the 400 toys she collected to share with the victims of the December tornadoes in Kentucky.

    Holy Family Catholic Academy first grader Teaghan Croteau with some of the 400 toys she collected to share with the victims of the December tornadoes in Kentucky. Courtesy of Holy Family Catholic Academy Staff

Updated 1/10/2022 11:12 AM

January is a time of reflection as we await the possibilities of a new year and ponder new goals. Sometimes inspiration for change comes from unexpected sources -- like first grade students at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Inverness.

In preparation for Christmas, HFCA's first grade team of teachers introduced the book "Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed" by Emily Pearson. The book shares how a young girl's good deed is multiplied as it is passed on by those who have been touched by the kindness of others.


True to the culture of HFCA, teachers Jen Lando and Laura Moynihan expanded the reading of the book to move their students to action. First grade student Parker Sullivan brought up the idea of sharing ornaments, which led to the two classes of first graders decorating 500 ornaments to give to fellow HFCA students.

The learning continued as students were tasked with visiting preschool through middle school classrooms to deliver the ornaments and encourage students to spread kindness.

First grader Isabella Vermie said, "We wanted to show that one deed of kindness, like our ornaments, can make a huge difference in the world if kids do something nice for someone else."

Spencer Struckmeyer added, "I was a little nervous talking to bigger kids, but I felt great when they clapped at the end. I just hope they will all do something kind for someone else."

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The first graders and their messages of kindness were well received.

"The first graders were so confident when they talked to our class. It was a great reminder that it is easy to pay kindness forward," said sixth grader Karen Salinas.

"Our first graders worked hard to prepare their presentations. They were a little anxious, but excited, and felt such a sense of accomplishment when they were done," said teacher Jen Lando.

First grader Teaghan Croteau actually took the effort to share kindness another giant step forward.

Overhearing parents Chris and Brianne Croteau discussing the devastating tornado in Kentucky, Teaghan began her own toy drive and collected more than 400 toys. Her efforts captured the attention of Michelle Gallardo, an ABC 7 Chicago reporter who interviewed Teaghan for an evening news segment.

The Croteau family spent the first day of Christmas break driving to Kentucky to personally deliver the toys.

"It was overwhelming to see the disaster but, at the same time, it was heartwarming to see ordinary people setting up places to help their neighbors and everyone pitching in to help where they could," Chris said.


Brianne added, "This is Teaghan's first year at HFCA, and empowering students to move their learning to action is one of the primary reasons we chose HFCA for our family."

"As an International Baccalaureate World School, our measure of success is seeing students apply their learning outside the classroom," Principal Kate O'Brien said. "This effort by our first graders is a great example of how our dedicated faculty develops confident global learners who understand they can make a difference in our world, no matter their age."

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