Earlier this year, in February, before the pandemic, The Beat went out to visit a group of 3rd-grade students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Milpitas.
With just under 200 students, St. John the Baptist Catholic School is a unique gem of an educational community, located on Milpitas’ Main Street.
The students we saw had just discovered that they came in first place in a Word Mania competition, a digital word-building challenge for children in 1st through 9th grades.
During the competition, children from all over the world created as many words as they could (from a total of 15 letters) in a span of 3 minutes. A total of 1,434,634 students from schools across 65 countries participated.
In the U.S./Canada region, St. John’s students actually won across three grade levels. Second-grade students nabbed 3rd place and 4th-grade students took 7th place in their respective categories. And teacher Renée Martin’s 3rd-grade class was the one that secured the 1st place win…
“We found out about it, and had a week to prepare for the competition,” said Martin. “We took it seriously. I explained it would be fun and we’d do our best. And we came in first place in the United States and Canada.”
Word Mania is run by Literacy Planet; on their website they state that “…Word Mania is always great fun for the students! But it’s also an activity that helps develop important literacy skills including phonics, word families, rhyming with root words, affixes, spelling, vocabulary, word recognition, and word knowledge.” The site also mentions that the challenge has led to the improvement of English literacy scores. Looking back at past competitions, Literacy Planet has seen students increase their average score by as much as 35%.
All winning classes received certificates. As well, the 3rd-grade class received a $500 voucher and the 2nd-grade class got a $200 voucher, toward a Literacy Planet subscription for the 2020-2021 school year.
At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Martin retired.
“Working at St. John School has been one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had as a classroom teacher,” shared Martin, who had been working at the school for the preceding 4.5 years.
She also added: “Its rigorous curriculum, even for a seasoned teacher, encouraged me to grow in many ways in order to provide a superior education for my students. This is due in large part to our principal, Christopher Brazil, and his kind but firm leadership. St. John will always have a special place in my heart.”
St. John’s opened for in-person instruction on October 12 for families who wished to bring their children back into the classroom. According to a recent video posted by the school, concurrent virtual learning will be provided for students who are continuing to stay at home, so that all students can receive the same quality of education.