Corpus Christi offers Montessori, classics

Cecilia Downs, left, Yohari Salama, center, and Jocelyn Olvera Lira practiced playing the violin during orchestra class at Corpus Christi Classical Academy in Simpsonville, Ky. Music is part of the school’s curriculum and students enroll in the orchestra in the fifth grade. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Cecilia Downs, left, Yohari Salama, center, and Jocelyn Olvera Lira practiced playing the violin during orchestra class at Corpus Christi Classical Academy in Simpsonville, Ky. Music is part of the school’s curriculum and students enroll in the orchestra in the fifth grade. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. — Corpus Christi Classical Academy was founded by a group of parents in 1999 through the merger of Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy and Corpus Christi High School.

Corpus Christi — located in the historic former Simpsonville High School building, which dates to 1916 — is the only Catholic school in Shelby County, said Leslie Genuis, the school’s principal.

Corpus Christi is one of the three schools recognized as independent Catholic schools by the Archdiocese of Louisville in January.

The school offers a Montessori preschool and kindergarten program for children ages 3 to 6 and classical curriculum for students in first grade through high school.

The Montessori school
Preschool teacher Anna Downes said the Montessori program is a “holistic system of education that encourages the full development of the child in every aspect.”

Downes said this approach takes into account the individual, “finding where the student is and taking them where they need to be.”

Ann Bernhard, who also teaches preschool at Corpus Christi, noted that Montessori curriculum seeks to show the child how to complete a small
task, which prepares them for a bigger task.

For example, teaching the child to pour using a funnel prepares him for the bigger task of watering plants. Bernhard said this same method is used to introduce the Catholic faith to even the youngest children in the preschool.

Bernhard said preschool children take part in such activities as setting a prayer table, keeping in mind liturgical colors throughout the year. The preschool room also has an altar area with models of the items used in Mass. Young children are allowed to prepare the altar using these items. Such activities, noted Bernhard, prepare them to later “participate in the life of the church.”

Corpus Christi students attend Mass in the school’s chapel three times per week, said Genuis. Dominican Father Edward Gorman, pastor of St. Louis Bertrand Church and the school’s spiritual advisor, usually celebrates Mass.

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Students participated in class. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

The classical method
Genuis said a classical education helps students “have an appreciation of everything God has created.” At the heart of the school’s curriculum is the “trivium” — Latin for “three roads” — composed of the study of grammar, logic and rhetoric. And it’s “very important in the formation of the child,” Genuis said.

The curriculum is designed to train each student to be a critical thinker, she said. This is accomplished, she explained, by studying ancient cultures, as well as studying Latin. The study of Latin begins in the second-grade at Corpus Christi.

The students also study music, starting with the recorder in the third grade. Starting in the fifth-grade, students enroll in the orchestra class, where they learn to play instruments. The goal, Genuis noted, is to “inspire the child with everything that’s good, true and beautiful.”

Receiving recognition
The school currently serves 35 students, but is on a path for growth, said Genuis. She noted that recognition by the archdiocese has been “tremendous” to the school’s visibility.

More families are coming by to inquire about the school’s curriculum and how to enroll their children, said Genuis.

Before the recognition, Genuis said, there was always the question of “Who are we?”

Now, she said, the school’s connection to the “Catholic family” feels “much more real.”

“The same thing that holds other schools accountable holds us accountable,” said Genuis noting that Corpus Christi has always been committed to high standards, such as doing background checks and ensuring proper formation for teachers.

One of the benefits of being recognized as an independent Catholic school is access to tuition assistance from the archdiocese and the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF).

Genuis said that several new families, as well as families who already have children enrolled, have applied for tuition assistance.

“Richard Lechleiter (president of the CEF) has come out and spoken to parents at our open house and at the local parish,” said Genuis. “I was so moved. They are so committed to turning the tides. They truly believe in what they’re doing.”

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