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Full “STEAM” Ahead

Katie Guilbault Decker ’89 Wins Big as Principal in Las Vegas

Katie Guilbault Decker ’89 has made learning fun again for stu-dents, teachers and parents at the Walter Bracken STEAM Academy in urban Las Vegas. As the recipient of the 2013 Magnet Schools of America Principal of the Year Award, Decker has transformed an underperforming, underprivileged school into one of the best in the state of Nevada.

But it wasn’t easy.

“It was a mess,” said Decker, who was assigned as its principal in 2001. “(Bracken) was one of the scariest schools in the district. Substitute (teachers) didn’t like to come here because SWAT used to practice here.”

Decker, who spent the previous 11 years as a teacher and an assistant principal in the Las Vegas area, saw an opportunity to improve the failing school. But not many shared her vision.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Decker said of the early resistance she encountered from teachers and parents.

“The staff that was here, their idea of instruction and my idea of instruction were very different.”

Almost immediately, Decker decided that Bracken would become a “magnet” school—one that remains a free public school but has a focused theme and aligned curriculum. Magnet schools use an approach to learning that is inquiry- or performance/project-based, and do not have entrance criteria; students are chosen from a blind lottery-based system.

Because of the shift to more of a science, technology, arts, engineering and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum, she required all of her existing teachers to re-apply for their jobs.

“Everyone interviewed for their positions,” Decker said. “I looked for teachers with science backgrounds. Those were my first picks for interviewing.”

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2013 Alumni Award Winners

Taking the Mission to Heart, and Out Into the World

Award Winners Honored at Homecoming Ceremony

The Acapelicans began the ceremony with a rousing version of “Hall of Fame” and the Siena Heights Cheerleaders brought down the house with a surprise tribute cheer at the end. In between, this year’s Alumni Award winners shared inspiring stories of service, challenge and accomplishment. Central to each person’s journey? The commitment to becoming more competent, purposeful and ethical—to teaching and learning through life—and to respecting the dignity of all. What a great kickoff for Homecoming!

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Walk right in. Sit right down!

Campus Benches Commemorate Alumni, Friends

By Jennifer Hamlin Church

Outside the main entrance to the McLaughlin University Center, Alice Robie Resnick ’61 on one side waves to her faculty mentor, Sr. Ann Joachim, OP, on the other. At the opposite entrance, the 2012-13 Alumni Board sits for a spell.

And in Trinity Garden, Marjorie (Mickey) Gable Reagan ’44 tosses her red curls and laughs, inviting classmates to stop for a visit as they pass by.

OK, so those people are not here, not in body anyway; but they—and others—are back at Siena in spirit, engaged in today’s University thanks to the new commemorative benches all around campus. Ten benches, each with its own plaque, invite students, faculty and visitors to rest for a moment and—perhaps—remember or imagine the people named there.

When the bench project reached mailboxes a year ago, Jim Reagan, Mickey Reagan’s eldest son, was one of the first responders. His mother had died recently. He and his four brothers—Bill, Dan, Chris and Shawn—thought a bench on campus would be “a wonderful tribute to our mother who had great memories of her days at Siena Heights.” The daughter of a St. Joseph Academy alumna, Mickey Gable came from Lorain, OH, to enroll in Siena’s two-year secretarial program. Pictures from 1943 and ’44 show her smiling—always—with friends: laughing at the top of a flagpole pyramid in front of Sacred Heart Hall, perched on the railing overlooking Trinity Garden, posed in front of the archangel sculpture on a spring day as the snow melts. Mickey’s bench now sits under the Trinity Garden gingko tree, just outside Benincasa, a welcome resting spot for students between classes.

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