St. Thomas More School in Southwest Portland launches the school year with a theme decided by this year’s eighth-grade class: “Inspire Positive Energy.” Each year, rising eighth-graders pick a theme that reflects a legacy they hope to leave.

“This is a terrific theme for this class and this year,” said Amy Jefferis, principal. “This group of students is ready to be a role model for positive energy for our school community and beyond. They believe the actions of one person can have a bigger impact, an exponential one, and affect things globally. We are ready to support that vision and are excited for the positive change we can create.”

St. Thomas More welcomes four new members to the staff: Melissa Conlan joins as eighth-grade homeroom teacher and sixth- through seventh-grade math specialist. Mirna Diaz is the new Spanish teacher for the kindergarten through eighth-grade classes. Gabe Molnar is the seventh- and eighth-grade language arts and social studies specialist, as well as seventh-grade homeroom teacher.

Kathy Schumacher is the new language intervention specialist and will work collaboratively with the learning specialist and all of the teachers to meet the diverse learning needs of students. Schumacher is a certified speech pathologist and is the third member of the school staff who is Orton-Gillingham trained. The Orton-Gillingham approach is multisensory, sequential and language-based.

Katy Smith, the vice principal of St. Thomas More, said she’s excited for the A Beka grammar curriculum that the school is adopting this year. “We are thrilled to be using a program that not only uses creative writing to teach grammar skills, but also incorporates Christian teaching in its lessons and examples,” said Smith. “It’s a strong program that will allow us to balance our high academic standards with our commitment to the Catholic faith. It’s perfect.”