Anne Marie Fischer, St. Thomas More Academy director, leads students in prayer. (LINDA REEVES|FC )

Educator celebrates first Catholic Schools Week

BOYNTON BEACH | Anne Marie Fischer loves to celebrate holidays in a big way with decorations and dressing up in colorful storybook character costumes.

The new director of St. Thomas More Academy is looking forward to kicking off and celebrating Catholic Schools Week that begins Jan. 28 simply and quietly with Mass, joining her new students ages 3 to 5, family members and the entire St. Thomas More Parish community.

“On my first day at the school, the children went to Mass. Father (Julian) Harris started the Mass with the Our Father,” explained Fischer about the Oct. 10 Mass celebrated upon her arrival as new school leader. “All the children joined in and prayed. They took over (and) Father Harris smiled. I was beyond impressed,” she said, and then confessed, “I couldn’t say the Our Father until I was in second grade.”
The Our Father will certainly be prayed at some point during the school Mass Jan. 31 in celebration of Catholic Schools Week, a national event showcasing Catholic education and schools and their students, and celebrated by all the schools here in the diocese.

This year, the theme is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” As part of celebrations, schools everywhere are planning special Masses, open houses, fun activities and events bringing the students, school families and guests from the community at large together in fun, prayer and festivities.

Fischer is settled at her new school in Boynton Beach with staff, teachers and 82 young students. The native of Long Island, New York, and a cradle Catholic who grew up at St. Joseph Parish in Garden City certainly knows a thing or two about children, families and family gatherings. She has 10 siblings, is married, has a stepson, and is always part of some big family event. “We have 59 members of our family,” she proudly said.

The resident of Greenacres is a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens, where she participates with the children’s liturgy at Masses. She also attends Masses and events at St. Thomas More, her second home now.

“I love it,” she said when asked about her new position and school. “Father Harris has everyone involved in the church. He visits the school. We have Mass once a week. Our parents give 20 hours of volunteer work. The children were involved in activities at Christmas.”

Fischer comes to St. Thomas More Academy with years of experience in the field of education. She has degrees specializing in administration and management from John A. Logan College in Illinois. She formerly headed up an early childhood learning center in Weston, where she served from 2004 to 2017 as executive director.

When asked about any aims, she explained that she hopes to continue to develop strong ties between the academy and members of the parish. “I would like to have the school and the church become more of one element; get parishioners more involved.”

She also wants to bring awareness to the small preschool academy situated on the western grounds of St. Thomas More that is dedicated to encouraging children to grow academically, emotionally and spiritually by providing a safe and nurturing environment.

Community involvement is also on her to-do list, as well as creative literacy programs, family conference nights at the parish with speakers and continuing to get the children involved in service.

She continues to organize fundraisers aimed at benefiting the academy. The St. Joseph Feast and Festival will take place March 11 after the 12:30 Mass. The event will feature Italian and other food, children’s activities including games and trackless train rides, and live entertainment. All are encouraged to come out in support of the academy and to say hello to the new leader.

As for Catholic Schools Week, Fischer, known for her great holiday costumes and decorating abilities, is certain to come up with an exciting array of events getting the parents and parishioners involved. When the Florida Catholic visited before Catholic Schools Week, she was in the planning stages.
She continues to get to know the St. Thomas More community and the parents of the children at the academy. When asked about her job so far, she said,” It has been a wonderful experience.”