Blessed Trinity Academy is in its 4th year, after a merger of three parish schools in the northern area of Pittsburgh–St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Bonaventure, and St. Ursula. BTA combines over 300 years of preschool through 8th grade Catholic educational excellence. Part of the North Hill Regional Catholic Elementary Schools, Blessed Trinity Academy sits on 72 sprawling acres in the heart of the North Hills. Staying true to its mission since the beginning, BTA provides a nurturing environment where our students use prayer and reflection to develop their talents and abilities as they strive to become strong Catholic leaders. This is our beacon as we move through the years.
In a school, every year has a different feel, a life of its own. While I was not here in the first two years, the community has shared stories about the journey of three schools merging into one. The task at hand was complex–to combine three student bodies, three teaching staffs, parent groups, athletics teams, PTGs, and School Advisory Councils. While there are many commonalities of Catholic schools, how they are implemented, by way of policies, procedures, uniforms, celebration of holidays, and community groups to support can be very different. People need time to mourn what was, and then can slowly champion the new. Over those two years there was fine-tuning, changes, challenges to overcome, and a mobilization of commitment. Along the way trust grew, new traditions were built on the foundation of ideas from all three schools, and the new identity of a BTA began to emerge and solidify. All due to the hard work and dedication of students, faculty, staff, priests, and community members to make this new school last.
Starting its third year, I began as Principal. This was yet again another new change and feel to add to the mix of an evolving community. My experience was outside of Catholic schools and outside of Pittsburgh. And for four years before this role, I worked from home for a company based in Baltimore, as a school consultant. The questions asked, ideas shared, and way of leading was different. We did share a common purpose in our faith, fostering excellence in academics, and service to others. So the year started off with that kind of feel. I focused on listening, learning, and took a lot of notes. I set a goal to learn the students’ names by October and make connections with every family. The students and teachers got used to me being in classrooms A LOT, trust grew, and relationships developed. The BTA community, in its “third chapter”, was falling into a groove.
And then, COVID hit. This was the biggest disruption to school cultures. Ever. Talk about abruptly changing the feel to a year? Just when we were in a groove, we had to turn on a dime and facilitate learning remotely, just as every teacher pretty much in the country had to do. We gave ourselves a week to prepare, learn new tools, set expectations, and establish new norms. Not an easy task during a pandemic. Our teachers knocked it out of the park! Grounded in our commitment to our faith and our families, we did not miss a beat, a phrase I heard multiple times from parents. We continued learning and growing in our faith. A daily video was recorded and shared, where faculty, staff, and students participated in the morning prayer, pledge, and announcement. Our students learned and stayed connected on their daily google meets. They completed assignments, projects, and assessments virtually. Videos were created to sustain our sense of community, everyone participated in virtual spirit weeks, and Bulldog buddies met virtually. We all worked hard, especially the teachers. The end of the year FINALLY arrived and we were even able to celebrate with a car parade and outdoor 8th grade graduation. Not the celebration of the past, but one where we could come together to pray, honor our graduates, and wish them well. The summer was here, time for us all to reflect on the year. They year had a most unusual feel and cadence.
This school year, as we set our sails and think about what this year will bring, we do so with courage, creativity and grit, and confidence in our faith. And we do so together-faculty, staff, parents, students, alums, and the greater BTA community.
And as this unprecedented time continues and presents new challenges and hurdles, we acknowledge the feel this year may take on. This is the world for which we need to prepare our children- knowing that the future relies on creative thinkers, experimental doers and inventive makers. By nature, this is what talented teachers do every day. And our amazing BTA faculty have been pushed to the limit with creativity, adopting the now habitual need to experiment and invent or create new ways of engaging with students. This is the norm. This is the feel. Daily problem solving, collaboration, and tweaking is the perfect way we model for our students the skills that will make them successful in life.
As we think ahead, we embrace change as something continuous–where flexibility, resilience, vigilance, and innovation need to be embedded into everything we do. While change brings about a feel, the life of a year, there is one thing that does not change. It is the thing that guides the change–our mission. Everything we do is to facilitate the development of each student’s talents and abilities as they strive to become strong Catholic leaders in the 21st Century.
Mrs. Moira Regan Edmiston,
Principal, Blessed Trinity Academy