8th Grader Wins Essay Contest

SMS Student Caleb Beauchamp takes 1st place in the regional Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest

St. Mary’s School Congratulates Caleb Beauchamp for taking 1st place in the regional Patriot’s Pen Youth Essay Contest conducted annually by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW website describes the essay as an opportunity for students in grades 6 – 8 to “examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.”

Each year more than 138,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen Youth Essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $900,000 in state and national awards. Each first place state winner receives a minimum of $500 at the national level, and the national first place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Caleb’s essay was chosen from among all of those submitted to VFW Post 12051. In addition to his essay being chosen and winning $100, Caleb’s essay will advance to the state level.

Students Place High in Regional Science Fair at UTK

Article from the East Tennessee Catholic

Students at St. Mary School in Oak Ridge continued their tradition of success at the Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair (SASEF), this year held virtually due to Covid-19 on March 30th, 2020.

The annual St. Mary School middle school science fair was held Feb. 6th. Projects were divided into two categories, biological and physical sciences. Awards were determined by an expert panel of judges representing local civic organizations, industry, and educational entities. Fourteen St. Mary students received awards, making them eligible to compete at the regional SASEF at the University of Tennessee on March 30th.

The SASEF is sponsored by UT and numerous local companies and agencies and draws students from 23 counties in East Tennessee. The goal of the fair is to promote teaching the scientific method in science, engineering, and math. Over the past 20 years, 13 St. Mary students have been named grand champion or reserve champion at SASEF.  This year, St. Mary’s had 6 students, representing 5 projects entered into the Fair and those 5 projects won a total of 7 awards.  The following awards were received this year by St. Mary’s Students:

  • THE SASEF LOCAL AWARD-Southern Appalachian Science and Science and Engineering Fair staff presents $50 cash awards and certificates and to our favorite projects:
    • Music to My Ears By: Maverick Queern
  •  Junior Division Honorable Mention –SASEF awards the distinction of honorable mention to those students whose projects were determined by the judges to be of exceptional merit.
    • Dropping Like Flies By: Tennison Barnes and Isabella Zolnierczuk
    • Music to My Ears By: Maverick Queern
    • Is it Worth Dying For? By: Sarah Duhamel
    • Set Them Up and Knock Them Down By: Jonas Tilson
  • Junior Division Certificate of Excellence Awards-The Certificate of Excellence Award is given to those students whose project was determined by the judges to be of exceptional merit and deserving of higher honors. Each Certificate of Excellence winner will receive at least $50.
    • There MITE BEE a Problem By: Victoria Corbett
  • Overall Junior Division Award Winners: $75 Award
    • 4th There MITE BEE a Problem By: Victoria Corbet



St. Mary’s School Science Fair Winners Advance to Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair

The St. Mary’s Middle School Science Fair was held on Thursday, February 6th, 2020.  A total of forty-four projects were entered for judging.  The projects were divided into two categories, physical and biological sciences, and the judges awarded a first through 3rd place in each category.  Additionally, four honorable mentions were awarded in each area.

In Biological Sciences:

1st Place:  Dropping Like Flies-Tennison Barnes and Isa Zolnierczuk

2nd Place:  There Mite Bee a Problem-Victoria Corbett

3rd Place:  Hidden in Plain Sight-Alyssa Shedlock

Honorable Mentions:  Best Bread Keeper-Xavier Miller, To Fertilize or Not to Fertilize-Fernanda Solis, Which Gender Has Better Memory-Dylan Umansky, Concentrating CO2-Trey Phillips


In Physical Sciences:

1st Place:  Pointing the Finger at Crime-Ilse Dale

2nd Place:  Goodbye Pesticide-Caleb Beauchamp

3rd Place:  Music to My Ears-Maverick Queern

Honorable Mentions: Bounce-Griffin Welch, Worth Dyeing For-Sarah Duhamel, Brawny Vs Bounty-Maria Barnes, Set ‘em up, Knock ‘em down-Jonas Tilson


These students qualify to participate in the Southern Appalachian Science and Engineering Fair (SASEF) to be held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on Tuesday, March 31st 2020.


The 2020 St. Mary’s Science Fair panel of judges included representatives from local business and industry who volunteered to serve in this capacity: Saint Mary’s School is grateful to each of them for lending their time and talents to our school; In Biological Sciences: Sig Christensen, Fred Sloop, Cheryl Kress, Reid Kress and Ana Gonzalez. In Physical Sciences: Andrew Hughes, Rick Lowden, John Iacovino, Gary Sega, Glenn Romanski and Harold Ketterer.

Teaching Through Coronavirus: One School Leads the Way

While many schools are looking for ways to move forward with educational learning, St. Mary’s School in Oak Ridge has a plan. After extensive training and preparation, SMS has moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the students, administration, teachers, staff, and families know that “the journey matters” and are keeping the school community alive by staying connected and working together to continue the student body learning experience.  In the spirit of true community, the St. Mary’s faculty members have rallied to encourage one another and build one another up in order to further the school’s mission to provide the highest quality STREAM education-even during these unprecedented times.

According to Assistant Principal and Technology Teacher, Kendall Doogan, “Our teachers at St. Mary’s have risen to the challenge and are embracing this change.  In addition to drawing upon years of experience with technology integration and blended learning, they have been attending online trainings on how to use a variety of different platforms and have spent countless hours preparing lessons. Many of our teachers are extending their use of Google Classroom, a platform which our students are already familiar.  Some teachers are also using Zoom for live class session, pre-recording themselves teaching on Loom, as well as utilizing online textbooks and other available resources.” said Doogan.  “Our St. Mary’s students will remain excited and engaged, advancing their studies and coursework through utilizing a variety of online virtual education offerings and mediums.”

Online instruction ensues, assessments are given, and teachers have online office hours if students need additional help. Both parents and teachers appreciate the structure and ability to stay connected.  According to parent Dennis Snyder, “The school is doing a fantastic job of planning, communicating and soon to be executing the education plan. I have heard from other parents of children who attend other schools; the St. Mary’s staff is crushing it!”.

While working from home, Principal Sister Marie Blanchette wants to ensure that educating the whole child remains a priority.  Daily live-stream Masses are offered, and school counselors are available to students throughout the school day for both academic and emotional counseling. “We are fully committed to continuing the St. Mary’s educational experience for our students during this time,” said Principal Sister Marie Blanchette. “In addition to online learning, the health and well-being of our students is of utmost importance, and we are striving to keep our school culture and sense of community alive and strong.”

The school’s administrative offices also continue to be fully operational. The admissions, business, and development offices are fully operational although off-site. While this new platform evolves, constant feedback is sought in order to fine-tune and improve the online learning experience.

See the article that was featured in The Oak Ridger:


St. Mary Parish Timecapsule

To conclude St. Mary Parish’s 75th anniversary celebration, a time capsule has been created that will be blessed, buried, and secured with concrete, with the plan for it to be unearthed by parishioners during the parish’s 100th anniversary. Inside the capsule will be signed messages describing how life is experienced in the parish today, as well as predictions about how life is expected to be in 25 years.  The letters were written by key groups, including St. Mary’s School students, faculty and staff, parishioners and clergy, as well as groups within and connected to the parish. The notes also include joyful messages of faith, hope and love for the SMOR parishioners of 2043.
The Capsule Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, December 12, beginning at 2pm.  Students and parishioners will pass the capsule one to another until it reaches its final destination, where it will be blessed and buried for future generations to discover and enjoy.  Coffee, hot chocolate and fellowship are to follow the ceremony.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony and witness this landmark event for the parish and Oak Ridge community.

SMS Announces 2019 DUKE TIP Scholars


Congratulations to our Duke TIP scholars for 2019! These 4th-7th grade students scored at the 95th percentile or higher on qualifying testing and have been inducted into a national program for academically talented students.


Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, visits alma mater St. Mary’s School

From the Diocese of Knoxville: 
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, the former president of Google China and a leading expert on global artificial intelligence, returned to East Tennessee on Monday, May 6, to visit the Catholic school in which he once learned, St. Mary School in Oak Ridge.
Dr. Lee, the author of the recent New York Times bestselling book, “AI Powers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order”, toured classrooms during his afternoon visit to the St. Mary campus. He graduated from St. Mary School in 1975.

During an afternoon assembly attended by Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika; Father Brent Shelton, pastor of St. Mary Parish; Father Pontian Kiyimba, AJ, associate pastor of St. Mary Parish; diocesan Stewardship Director John Deinhart; Oak Ridge City Mayor Warren Gooch, Anderson County Mayor (and former SMS parent) Terry Frank, and other dignitaries, Dr. Lee was presented with the first Distinguished Alumni Visionary Service Award by Dominican Sister Marie Blanchette Cummings, O.P., principal of St. Mary Oak Ridge.

Bishop Stika commended Dr. Lee and also offered thanks to one of the Dominican sisters who taught at St. Mary’s during Dr. Lee’s time there. The Dominicans taught their students about compassion, care, and creativity, Bishop Stika said.  Through his innovations and creativity, Dr. Lee has now “brought the world together,” he added.

From WVLT:
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) – A leading researcher and author on artificial intelligence took time to visit the school where he says a principal once gave up her lunch breaks for him.
Artificial intelligence expert, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, visits his boyhood school in Oak Ridge, Saint Mary’s School.
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee said, “At St. Mary’s, the principal at the time, Sister Mary David saw that I didn’t speak a word of English and took every lunch period off to teach me English at grade one, even though I was in grade seven.”
St. Mary’s honored Lee Monday as the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Visionary Leadership Award. Mayor Warren Gooch declared on behalf of the city of Oak Ridge that May 6 was Dr. Kai-Fu Lee Day.
Lee took questions from St. Mary’s students on technology and education. He also credited another teacher in Oak Ridge for giving him an early start. “At Oak Ridge High School, I had the best math teacher in the whole world, Mrs. Benita Albert.”
Lee said of he writes about the artificial intelligence in his best-selling book titled AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order.
“The future will be exciting, but at the same time, there are challenges.”, said Lee. Lee is the former president of Google China. He currently is CEO of an AI investment firm called Sinovation.
Lee said AI can be useful in education, for simply taking over tasks for teachers and saving time.
“Artificial intelligence can learn what each student is maybe stuck on so that we don’t leave anyone behind. So if someone is stuck on multiplication, you don’t go into teaching division.”
Some advice for students and others interested in the changing workforce included, “Some jobs won’t be as exciting or even displaced by AI. Other jobs will be enhanced by AI. So it’s important to think about what career plans one makes and also to be thinking of what kind of skills and what kind of ways of learning are most important to be ready when artificial intelligence becomes a great tool that everybody uses.”
Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.

SMS Golf Team Excels in Regional Tournament

The St. Mary’s School golf team competed in the Regional Tournament at Avalon Country Club on Monday, May 14th, concluding an exceptional year.
The Boys team tied for 1st during the District 1 Tournament at The Greens of Deerfield in LaFollette. They ultimately took 2nd place after losing on the third hole of a team playoff. The Girls team took 1st place overall – a first for any St. Mary’s Team. Wesley Alig took 1st place individually and Emmaline Estep took 3rd place individually.
The SMS girls team took 2nd in the Region 1 Tournament at Oak Ridge Country Club and advanced to State as a team – yet another first for any St. Mary’s team. Wes Alig and Hunter Hinton were in the top 5 boys for the tournament and qualified for State.
The St. Mary’s School Community continues to be grateful for the Oak Ridge Country Club and their staff for allowing the school to use the course as the SMS golf team home course for practices and matches as well as hosting the regional tournament.
The attached photo is of our boys and girls team who competed in post season play as follows: 1st Row (L-R): Hunter Hinton, Wesley Alig, Luke Cheadle, Emily Corbett, Emmaline Estep, and Mia Wiest; 2nd Row (L-R): Brock Schoenthaler, Joshua Luttrell, and Michael Waltman; 3rd Row (L-R): Scott Dempsey (Coach) and Sean Parton (Assistant Coach) Not pictured: Parker Sorah, Sarah Duhamel, and Isabella Zolnierczuk

St. Mary’s Takes 4 out of 5 Top Places in Algebra Competition

Left to Right: Mrs. Marsha Sega (middle school math teacher), Sinclair Cunningham, Ryan Rearden, Elliot Barnes, Miko Zolnierczuk.

The 62nd annual statewide High School Mathematics Contest was held on April 10, 2018, at various testing centers across the state. The Tennessee Mathematics Teachers’ Association sponsors the annual contest in six divisions: Algebra I/Integrated I, Geometry/Integrated II, Algebra II/Integrated III, Statistics, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus/Advanced Topics. Four St. Mary’s 8th grade students completed the Algebra I test at Roane State Community College in Harriman. We are pleased to share the news that all four placed in the top five!
Miko Zolnierczuk placed 1st, Ryan Rearden placed 2nd, Elliot Barnes placed 3rd, and Sinclair Cunningham placed 5th.
Congratulations to our students!

Another Great Year for SMS at Regional Science Fair!

SMS Science Fair winnersTwelve of the St. Mary’s Science Fair winners participated in this year’s regional Southern Appalachian Science & Engineering Fair (SASEF).  Of the sixty-four projects in this year’s middle school science fair at St. Mary’s on February 22, fifteen received awards, making them eligible to enter SASEF at the University of Tennessee on March 27-29, 2018. Projects were divided into two categories, biological and physical sciences.
St. Mary’s is pleased to announce that our students received the following overall awards, certificates of excellence, honorable mentions, and special awards:

Overall SASEF Awards:

4th Place: Mateo Gorrondona – Solarly Tublar
5th Place: Amelia Van Berkel  Boiling Away Toxic Fracking Chemicals; Elizabeth Brands: Power My Life
Certificates of Excellence: Alyssa Shedlock: Mouse Meals Affect Wheels; Trey Phillips: Green and Clean: the Science of Filtering; Amelia Van Berkel; Elizabeth Brands; Ryan Rearden: Can Green Roofs Take the Heat; and Mateo Gorrondona
Honorable Mentions: Alex Eshleman: How to Maximize Root Growth; Charlie Goodwyn – How Far; Luca Filigenzi: 3-2-1 Launch

Special Awards:

Navy’s Office of Naval Research AwardMateo Gorrondona
Society of Automation Award: Mateo Gorrondona
Society of Women Engineers – Smoky Mountain Section AwardElizabeth Brands
Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers AwardElizabeth Brands
The SASEF is sponsored by the University of Tennessee and numerous local companies and agencies and draws students from 23 counties in East Tennessee.  The goal of the fair is to promote teaching the scientific method in science, engineering and math.  St. Mary’s students are recognized for multiple honors each year.