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Titan Torch

New Year, New Principal

by Leah Clark

Every school year comes with changes, but this year came with a big one: a new principal.

Mr. Scott Perry knew from the beginning that the school environment was his calling.

“I really liked school. I was always excited to go back. I also enjoy being a part of school athletics. I wanted to continue being around young people. It definitely was a passion for me. It gave me a place to tell stories and that’s what I love to do.”

Before coming to Holy Spirit, Mr. Perry was an assistant principal at Tuscaloosa County High School. Coming from a school with roughly 1,500 students to one with a little more than 200 had to be a big adjustment.

“There is a lot less of y’all. I keep looking down the hallways and I keep wondering where everyone is at.”

Mr. Perry, however, found the adjustment an easy one to make.

“It was not a hard adjustment. The students make it easy and make me feel welcomed.”

Although it is early in the school year, the new principal has already noticed qualities that make Holy Spirit students stand out.

“Kids here are more polite, and that says a lot about the parents. At County High it seems students got tired of being polite. The students here also take more initiative to talk to adults. They aren’t scared of authority figures.”

Having a successful school environment is an important goal for Mr. Perry.

“Number one is it’s got to be safe. After that everyone has to have the same general direction. Parents, students, and teachers have to be buying in with the same vision, and that is academic excellence.”

In his first year as Holy Spirit principal, Mr. Perry will be observing how things run. He plans to determine the factors that give Holy Spirit its reputation in the community. From there, he will look for areas of possible improvement.

“Any improvements will be simply to make life easier. For example, the lanes for pick up after school, that was one person’s idea and we tried it out, and it’s working pretty well.”

In five years, he sees the school continuing in the direction it’s going.

“We will continue focusing on college prep and continue with students winning national awards.”

One area he definitely sees room for improvement is the athletic department.

“I want to see athletics becoming more consistent and that means boosting participation. Academics is still the important thing, but I want support for athletics to grow.”

One way to make this support grow was the addition of gold cards to all students’ registration packets. This was done to remove that monetary barrier, says Mr. Perry.

Although Mr. Perry claims to not be an interesting person, he has many different interests that range from movies to outdoors.

“We are Disney people. I went to Disney World four times last year. I also live on a lake so I like to kayak, and I play golf occasionally. My favorite movies are psychological thrillers. One of my favorites is No Way Out with Kevin Costner.”

Mr. Perry will bring a new outlook to Holy Spirit and will be sure to take it to new heights.

The New Man in the Middle: Mr. Griffin

by McKenna Marino

Mr. Jamie Griffin, the new middle school literature teacher, has been teaching and coaching for thirty years and is excited for a new chapter at Holy Spirit.

Mr. Griffin believes in well-rounded students and thinks that all students should participate in extracurricular activities.

He has a wife of 33 years and two children, who also coach at high schools. His son coaches wrestling at Tuscaloosa County High School. His daughter coaches at Mountain Brook and is the head softball coach.

When asked of his favorite memory of teaching, it took him a while to come up with an answer. “Winning state championships is great and all, but the most gratifying moments were watching kids walk across the stage to get their diplomas, some that were the first in their families to graduate high school, and knowing I pushed them to stay in school.” 

Rising above the Rest, Literally

by Leah Clark

At seven in the morning, we piled into the bus and began our journey to the 4H Club in Columbiana. Luckily, Sister Ellen provided breakfast. Although half of us were asleep, there was still a sense of apprehension. None of us really knew what to expect.

“It’ll be fun to be outside, I guess. I guess we will just work to tolerate each other,” said Kiersten Schellhammer on the bus ride.

As we got closer to our destination, Mr. Loper told us what the goal of this retreat was supposed to be.

“This is the earliest we have ever done the retreat so it should set you guys up for a great year.  This is a retreat unlike others. Rather than setting aside time for reflections, you will reflect on your own. During this retreat you will learn how you as an individual fit into the big group.”

And then we arrived. We began with basic team building games then moved on to rock climbing and the clover hop. We quickly found out how many of us are scared of heights. Following the morning activities was an outdoor Mass with Father Rick.

The Gospel reading for the day told us to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order to follow Jesus. This reading provided a good summary for the purpose of the retreat, as we were to conquer our fears and come together as a class.

 After lunch we made our way to the big swing, the scariest task for most of the class.

In order for the big swing to work, we had to pull up the swinger and he or she had to trust us that we would stop when he or she felt they were high enough, but many of us encouraged each other to push our own limits, and push we did.

Caroline Sisson, who had recently confessed to her extreme fear of heights, was more nervous than ever for the big swing, but with the encouragement of her classmates, she did it.

“I was half laughing, half crying, but then I knew it was almost over.”

Even though she was referring to the big swing, I feel she, in a way, foreshadowed senior year. Definitely it will be one of the best years of our lives, but it’s also sad that soon we will go our different ways after knowing each other since we were toddlers. And then like a blink of an eye, it will be over.        

Sister Ellen commented on what she likes most about this retreat.

“I enjoy bringing seniors to this day, not for the retreat, but I get to watch eighteen year olds act like ten year olds again. Seeing eighteen year olds skipping makes me happy.”

As we watched Reagan Washington sore over our heads in the big swing, I asked Sister about what she expects the senior class to learn from the retreat.

“I expect the class to strengthen the bonds they already have and to learn to accomplish things you don’t think you can. Facing fear is what life is about. We don’t need to preach at this retreat; you will get out of it what you put into it. Even if you don’t do every activity, you still help your classmates, and this year everyone helped.”

We all then witnessed our new principal, Mr. Perry, take his turn on the big swing. He excitedly shouted “Go Titans!” as he swung by.

On the bus ride back to Holy Spirit Lauren Neary told me of her experiences during the retreat.

“I was cautious to the idea of bonding, but after hearing everyone cheering as I did the clover hop helped me to really feel accepted. It definitely solidified my belongingness in the grade.”

This retreat brought the seniors together in a way that can’t really be explained. We accomplished fears and we did it together. In a way this retreat served as a physical representation of our senior banner which proudly proclaims “Rise above the Rest.” We physically rose as we ascended the rock climb, hopped from clover to clover twenty feet into the air, and flew through the sky on the big swing, but more importantly we rose above ourselves. We soared beyond our comfort zones and reached new heights that none of us foresaw. Without the encouragement and cheering on from the entire class, none of that would have been possible.

Mrs. Halli Returns to the Classroom

by Jackson Colburn

Ms. Halli may have stepped down as principal, but she has decided to become a teacher for one of her favorite subjects: morality.  She actually taught one of the first morality classes held at Holy Spirit. 

The former principal had taught at Holy Spirit until 2005, when she then started teaching at the University of Alabama while serving as principal of our school.  At the University, she taught a Citizenship and Service Learning class at the Honors College, where she helped her students as good citizens find ways to make the world a better place.  

Mrs. Halli plans to carry over that attitude to the ninth grade theology class (co-taught with Sr. Ellen) as well as the eleventh grade morality class.

Mrs. Halli says that she likes teaching the students at our school and she enjoys seeing how they learn.  She hopes that students will see her interest in their learning process and growing character. 

She even notes how students at Holy Spirit compare to those she teaches at the University.  She says that she sees many similarities and backgrounds between the two groups of students because most of her college students came from private or Catholic schools.

She states that she finds it even more interesting to see how their learning environments from high school transfer over to the college environment.

Mrs. Halli’s favorite aspect of being a part of the Holy Spirit community is how the students and teachers act like family, which is something that she wants the school to be forever remembered for.

 

No Theology for Dr. B?

by Haley Thompson

Students weren’t the only ones having to make an adjustment to new classes this year. Dr. Burroughs has been teaching theology to ninth and eleventh graders for several years, but now she is teaching Chemistry and Physics to the tenth and eleventh graders. She no longer has any theology classes.

She said about transitioning from theology to science, “I love learning, and this is giving me the opportunity to go back over my science background.” 

While she says she will miss teaching theology, Dr. B believes that strictly being a science teacher will make helping organize school masses so much more enjoyable.

In addition to the science classes, she also teaches science experience as an elective. The class will be conducting, “their own scientific investigation,” asking their own questions and showing their process.

Dr. Burroughs is excited about all this new year will bring and is looking forward to making connections with her students. “It will be a lot of work, but it will be so rewarding.”

 

Interview with the Spanish Teacher: Profesora Campbell

by Marian Cook

If you’ve recently peered into Ms. Horn’s old classroom, you’ve probably seen Profesora Campbell, mother to Aly and Kari Campbell in the 11th grade. She began teaching Spanish this year and already expertly manages five classes (Spanish 1-A, Spanish I, II, III, IV) and four grades; however, she’s not new to this.

Before coming to Holy Spirit, she taught Spanish at Central Alabama Community College before she moved back to Mexico.

Profesora Campbell is originally from Querétaro, Mexico. She grew up there, and went to high school and college there. By age 15, she was fluent in both English and Spanish. This was due to both her involvement in a foreign exchange student program in Huntington, Indiana, and Mexico’s education system, which required children to begin learning English in primary school. Then she fell in love with and moved to America (specifically Rockford, Alabama) in 1989.

It was an easy transition for her, not hard as most Hispanics first face when moving.

“The first time no because my husband was an American, so his lovely family and relatives were very supportive… So I think it was an easy transition in that aspect. I didn’t have to go through anything bad. In fact, I was able to become an American citizen, something that I’m very proud of,” Campbell related.

Shortly after, she enrolled in the Fifth-Year program at Auburn University and got her teaching certification and master’s degree in Spanish; but when her husband passed away, she decided to move back to Mexico. Kari and Aly had already been born and were nearly bilingual as well.

While in Mexico, Campbell taught English at an all-girls’ Catholic private school, but as her own girls advanced in age, Campbell realized how much she actually wanted her daughters to finish school in America. So, in 2013 they moved back to Alabama. This time, though, they chose to settle in Tuscaloosa, the town where her husband had gone to college—the University of Alabama—and where her in-laws resided.

On Tuscaloosa, education in America, and why they moved back, Campbell said, “I think [Tuscaloosa] is a great place to raise a family… At this point, my priority is the girls, and that’s why we’re here… I know that you can accomplish things if you do it the right way, but in Mexico it was, is, always harder. And I felt that since they’re American, they should take advantage of that. I didn’t want to take that away from them.”

Campbell is also thankful to be a part of the Holy Spirit family. 

“I think I’m fortunate in many things and this is one of them. I’m immensely happy and blessed to have this opportunity,” Campbell said with a tone of bliss.

As the new Spanish teacher, she hopes to help her students acquire skills that will help them communicate with those of the Hispanic culture.

“Hopefully, I can make them interested in all the aspects of the language, not just ‘I know my numbers.’ I want to incorporate part of the history, and, in my case, teach them about how culturally rich Mexico is. I want to make things enjoyable, with songs, music, and food.”

She also has a message for students: “Never give up. There is always tomorrow. There are always opportunities there, so go for them. Make your dreams come true. As long as you have your faith and rely on God, you have strength always.”