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Redefining Momentum: The Journey Continues
Posted 04/13/2018 12:17PM

By Caroline Avegno '04 and Sr. Melanie Guste, RSCJ '70

Exciting things are happening at Sacred Heart as we continue to meet the needs of our students through innovation, propelling them forward on their journey through life. Our girls are building prototypes using advanced design tools. Our average ACT score surpasses state and national averages. We now offer instruction in four world languages. We have hosted community service projects open to Sacred Heart students across the country. We have hosted several big-name speakers, such as Sheryl Sandberg, Jane Goodall, and Rick Riordan, as well as numerous events open to the community. Our girls recently took home their tenth state championship in cross country in the past 12 years. Our girls are exploring new frontiers every day, much like one of our founding mothers, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, did 200 years ago when she brought Sacred Heart education to North America.

Some have characterized it as a time of "renaissance" and a time of "metamorphosis," suggesting that there are profound shifts in the culture, strategy, and processes that are underway in the school community to move it forward in a holistic way. "And it's true," says Headmistress Sr. Melanie Guste, RSCJ. "Our school community is in a productive period of growth as we continue to renew ourselves through reflection on our mission and vision for the future!"

Times have changed, and so have we changed to reflect changing educational standards and practices. A sour pedagogy has evolved in relation to the powerful inventions, innovations, and insights of the 21st century, our educational architecture and definition of space has been altered. The environment surrounding our students inspires them to create, and we continue to fulfill St. Rose Philippine Duchesne's vision to "educate to the life and times in which we live."

"Our 150-year-old history is a long story of how we continue to update educational programs to reflect the changing needs and interests of our students and to reflect the best practices in education," Sr. Guste adds. "Together, we continue to explore what it means to be on the 'frontier of education' in New Orleans and to live up to the highest standards of excellence in education and character formation."

Through our comprehensive five-year strategic plan, which was launched in November 2016, our focus has been in the areas of curriculum, instruction, and professional development; educational technology; global education; and community partnerships. Already, our students and teachers are enjoying the benefits of newly designed, digitally connected learning spaces to the east wing of the building fronting St. Charles Avenue on the Rosary Campus. Additionally, we have made significant upgrades to our outdoor athletic facilities. These spaces enable our girls to be scholars, athletes, and artists and give them the opportunity to reach for the stars.


This school year, we opened the Katherine and Robert Boh Innovation Lab and Makerspace, which provides our girls with advanced tools that teach 21st-century skills, turning their design thinking ideas into realities.

Design thinking allows students to manage their ideas and find solutions to real-world issues by creating prototypes, and with the new equipment in the Innovation Lab, also known as the I-Lab, the possibilities are endless.

The new I-Lab features a laser cutter, four 3-D printers, two CNC milling machines, two sewing machines, a drill press, a bandsaw, a circular saw, and many other tools. Plus, there are 16 new computers with advanced design software such as Adobe Illustrator, Tinkercad, 123D Design, SketchUp, and Fusion 360. These programs teach students programming, design, and engineering skills and allow them to use the new equipment to build more sophisticated prototypes.

With the advanced equipment and technology and efficient layout of the new space, the I-Lab is inspiring more students than ever. A glass wall and door strategically connect the I-Lab to the Mother Soniat Library and Sr. Shirley Miller Courtyard, playing an important role in the fluidity of movement and sharing of 21st-century learning between the spaces. Two classes can be accommodated in the I-Lab at once, which is double the capacity than was initially envisioned. Fifth and sixth grade students attend regularly scheduled classes in the I-Lab to lay the foundation in design thinking and gain knowledge of the new tools. Beyond that, Middle and Upper School teachers of all subjects utilize the space for their classes to collaborate on projects across our STEAM curriculum. But the I-Lab isn't limited to students on the Rosary Campus—fourth graders too have begun to work on projects of their own.

"Using the tools in our new I-Lab, fourth grade students combined their scientific knowledge of various forms of energy with acquired engineering and technology skills. Through this process, our girls gained confidence, improved their problem-solving skills, and really began to think outside of the norm." – Jennifer Adams, Lower School Science Teacher


Connected to the Katherine and Robert Boh Innovation Lab and Makerspace, the updated Mother Soniat Library focuses on collaboration and integration with 21st-century technology.

Modeled after university libraries, the new space features new seating, shelving, lighting, and carpeting. Several booths and couches provide students a comfortable and inviting space, much like a coffee shop, to work on both group projects and individual assignments. Moveable tables and chairs allow many options for meetings and for classes to collaborate as larger groups. Students also utilize higher table seating and a laptop bar. New, shorter shelves promote easier access and more book displays, adding to the inviting feel. In short, we upped the level of collaboration and working space.

The updated library is also far more integrated with 21st-century technology. The school acquired a college-level database, JSTOR, which provides access to a wider depth of scholarly articles and enables higher-level analytical thinking that prepares students for college-level research. A new moveable A/V unit helps with demonstrations as students learn to use the new database. Plus, the librarians have launched a more efficient and streamlined self-checkout system for Middle and Upper School students, as well as increased organization of resources by genre for easy access.

"With the renovations to the Mother Soniat Library, we are better equipped to support and empower our students in their educational journey to becoming lifelong learners. Our new collaborative meeting spaces provide students with the opportunity to practice and perfect communication and cooperative skills that they'll need in their future endeavors." – Diane Aiken, Middle School Librarian


In October 2017, we officially dedicated the Richard C. Colton, Jr. Center for Performing and Fine Arts (previously known as the Assembly Room).

The new space features an art gallery for both student and traveling exhibits, as well as new seating and lighting and acoustical improvements. The gallery provides the avenue for professional artists to display not only their works of art, but also to collaborate with our students through community partnerships. The debut exhibit in the new art gallery is the "Women of the World" art collection initiated and compiled by Claudia DeMonte. In 2000, DeMonte asked female artists across the globe what it meant to be a woman, and the result is an inspiring collection of works of art from 176 nations. Similarly, this collection serves as inspiration to our students to open their minds and let their creativity flow.

"This beautiful new educational space allows our girls to share their art with others, to learn about the art inspired and created by others, and to raise the bar on their theatrical performances with better acoustics and equipment," says Sr. Guste. "Mostly, they receive the gift of learning to understand, know, and love the arts—something they will do for the rest of their lives."

"I have always thought that the addition of a comprehensive arts center, including performing and fine arts, makes an educational institution complete and whole... Art raises the quality of our lives. I am pleased to be part of all of this, which will bring many opportunities to offer the students of the Academy of the Sacred Heart for many years to come." – Richard "Dick" Colton, Jr., Donor


Over the summer, our outdoor sports area received an extensive facelift, reflecting the importance of kinesthetic learning. The new Sacred Heart Outdoor Athletic Complex is now open for all to utilize.

At the center of the integrated sports complex is the Gayle and Tom Benson Sports Field, which has a new drainage plan, updated irrigation system, and leveled sod. Surrounding the field is a two-lane running track that measures 8.75 laps per mile, with long straightaways for hurdlers and sprinters as well as a long jump pit. Additionally, the complex features a 4,000-square-foot turf putting green, reflecting our goal of maintaining a top golf program in the state. The new space enables both athletic teams and physical education classes to train safely outdoors on campus and to up their level of health and fitness. It will undoubtedly serve as a coveted green space for many years to come.

"This dynamic facility reflects the importance of sports in education and curriculum at Sacred Heart. The space inspires our athletes to achieve excellence by elevating and expanding the ways our students can safely learn and train at an elite level." – Sarah Reiss, Athletic Director

- The Bridge, Spring 2018

Rosary Campus
4521 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans LA 70115
(504) 891-1943 | Fax (504) 891-9939
Mater Campus
4301 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans LA 70115
(504) 269-1230 | Fax (504) 896-7899
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