Cindy Noelke, a middle school science teacher at St. Anastasia School in Fort Pierce, gives her students a lesson outside of the classroom and in the school's Greenhouse of Blessings. She focused on teaching students how to grow vegetables hydroponically and without pesticides and other chemicals.

Diocese’s oldest school opens with goals, plans

FORT PIERCE | The oldest diocesan educational institute and the sole Catholic elementary school in St. Lucie County is getting off to a good start and announcing an exciting initiative that will begin next month.

Dr. Kevin Hoeffner, principal of St. Anastasia, said the school will launch a joint capital campaign in October to make necessary improvements to “this beautiful campus.” Hoeffner regards St. Anastasia as his second home. He grew up in the parish and attended the school, fondly referred to by locals as “St. A.”

The campaign joining the families of the parish and school will take place over the next three years, and the vision is to raise $2.5 million to assist with paying for “needed capital improvements” to the school and parish facilities, Hoeffner said.

The theme of the campaign is “‘Together, sharing our faith, achieving our dreams.” Hoeffner said organizers have great faith that the project will be a success.

“The people involved in this flourishing Catholic community are hopeful, optimistic and filled with the Holy Spirit,” he said about the enthusiasm setting the tone as the campaign is set to begin.

St. Anastasia Parish was established in 1910. The school was founded in 1914 and has continued to serve families of the parish community, as well as families of other parishes in Fort Pierce and in Port St. Lucie, Jensen Beach, Stuart, Vero Beach and Sebastian.

Hoeffner has served St. Anastasia School in a leadership role for the past 12 years. He remains on course and steadfast in mission over the years. He describes the school community as a “safe and nurturing environment rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Catholic doctrine and values are “integrated with a challenging academic curriculum” at the school, and the members of the parish and school community are a team united in efforts to help young people be the person God meant for them to be academically and spiritually, equipped for the future.

“The faculty, staff, parents and priests all work together with families to develop graduates who are disciples of Christ, reflective and critical thinkers, responsible citizens and healthy and balanced children,” he said.

St. Anastasia opened with 52 students and the help of religious of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Adrian community. This year the school, which is celebrating more than a century of service to the Catholic community and community at large, opened doors with more than 525 students and nearly 40 educators. Growing enrollment and technological advances spurred the necessity of expanded facilities and more modern classrooms.

This year, the school features a new baby grand piano and vibraphone in its music department. The campus has new landscaping and a student-created mosaic wall in the central courtyard. New equipment and updates have been added in the school’s science and technology lab. The school’s recently built “Greenhouse of Blessings” that features container environments, a hydroponic system that allows plants to grow with only water and nutrients, and an aquaponic system that uses fish waste to feed plants, has new fans and lighting. This year, St. Anastasia is equipped with new information technology networks throughout the school, including 70 new iPads, 60 new personal computers and a modern new phone system throughout the facilities.

Over the summer, the stairwell was resurfaced, furniture was added to some of the classrooms, a fresh coat paint is adorning the walls of the media center and the middle school, and additions and improvements have beefed up security throughout the school to make facilities more safe, even after the school received high marks this summer by Life Safety Solutions, an organization which evaluates school security and safety.

The school is emphasizing ecology with its new modern greenhouse and leading students in making health and wellness goals. St. Anastasia is using educational technology in the growth of its foreign language program, and partnering with neighboring John Carroll High School “on the continued development of fine arts and music, strengthening its focus on grade-specific service commitments and working with middle school students on developing digital portfolios that help create and showcase the completion of challenging academic and personal goals,” Hoeffner said.

The school community continues to wear the familiar school colors of blue, gold and white, and the Golden Ram remains the symbol of the school mascot. According to research, the ram has long been a representation of determination, action, initiative and leadership. St. Anastasia is an example of a fine leader here among the excellent diocesan Catholic schools determined and in action to provide the best initiatives in Catholic education, helping future leaders grow strong in faith and knowledge.

There is a large rock at the entrance of the school featuring powerful words. The stone’s inscription is a reminder of what St. Anastasia and Catholic schools here in the diocese are all about: “Jesus is our cornerstone.”