Lower School Success Stories

Success Story: Timothy van Opstal
Written Winter 2017

Life is loaded with opportunity and that’s just what the van Opstal family of Dracut was looking to provide their sons, Timothy and Andrew, a year and a half ago when they started exploring private schools. Parents Eric and Ann were driven by the nagging feeling that their oldest son wasn’t working at his potential.

“Timothy has always been an A student and the type who does exactly what you ask, but I always thought he was capable of much more and wanted to explore other environments that might provide a greater challenge for him,” reflects Ann.

The family’s search brought them to the Academy of Notre Dame and where they ultimately enrolled their children.

 “We looked at a lot of schools,” reports Eric. “We chose the Academy because we liked the small class sizes, the down-to-earth nature of the teachers, the religious aspect of the education and most of all the possibility of advancement within classes.” Ann adds, “We thought that being in a school environment where the students were more academically focused would give Timothy the motivation to fulfill his potential.”

Social Studies teacher Katie Fratus says she sees him as a serious student who is happy to be at school. “Each day, Timothy walks into the classroom with a clear willingness to learn and absorb the information being presented to him,” reports Fratus. “He works diligently to take exceptional notes from which to study.”

Both parents were attracted to the Academy’s REACH program for math and language arts which provides students a path toward matriculating one grade level ahead during their elementary years. “We love the high caliber of normal coursework expectations here at the Academy as well as the opportunity it provides for students to participate in the REACH program to advance their studies,” asserts Eric.

Since transitioning to the Academy, Timothy has grown more confident thriving both in and out of the classroom. He even broke out of his shell to try out for sports. He played volleyball in the fall and tried out for basketball. Ann explains, “Here at the Academy, the coaches find what the kids are good at and make it work for the team. It’s all about fun and learning the sport rather than being the most competitive.”

Another opportunity that the Academy has opened up for the van Opstals is that of becoming a host family for an international student. Jecolener He, started school at the Academy last year as an 8th grader and holds the distinction of being the school’s first Lower School international student.  As a freshman in the Upper School this year, the Chinese-born 15-year-old is happily settled into the van Opstal household.

“I never had a sister and it’s good that she’s here. I get to see the different things she does,” says Timothy.

 Ann adds, “She brings a different dynamic to our lives helping us to see things in a different light and to re-discover places like Boston as we learn to see the city through her eyes. We would never have entertained the idea of hosting an international student if it hadn’t been for the Academy.”

Whether it’s the opportunity for academic challenge, the opportunity to find more comfort in stepping outside of his comfort zone, or the opportunity to learn about another culture through the international program, Timothy van Opstal is flourishing at the Academy.

“I would recommend the Academy because I think the classes aren't just reading out of the textbooks, we have conversations about the subjects,” states Timothy.  “We get to express our opinions and find out about different points of view.”

To learn more about the Academy of Notre Dame’s Lower School, families are invited to attend Tours & S’mores, a combination open house and family fun day, on Sunday, January 29th or an Open House on Saturday, February 11th. Both events will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. To RSVP for the events or to schedule a personal tour, call 978-649-7611, Ext. 327.

Success Story: Gabriel Bas
Written in Fall 2015

Four years ago when the Bas family of Tyngsboro was looking around for a private school for their son, Gabriel, they searched for a school that could provide a challenging and wholistic educational environment. And that’s just what the Academy of Notre Dame (NDA) delivered according to Christophe Bas.

“We found that the curriculum in many private schools we looked at catered to learning styles that is better suited for the way girls tend to learn,” said Bas, Gabriel’s father. “But NDA does a great job of balancing curriculum and teaching styles that embrace both boys and girls. Dr. Murphy is a godsend. He really understands how to handle both genders and is very fair in all decisions he makes.” 

Dr. Robert Murphy is the principal of the Lower School for pre-kindergarten through grade eight at the Academy. He says boys and girls learn differently, but can both benefit from exposure to a variety of teaching styles. “Gabriel participated in our REACH program for Math and Reading/Language Arts,” explains Murphy. The program aims to teach students at their own level of individual readiness and often results in students who are able to matriculate one grade level ahead.”

For the Bas family it was a major reason for choosing the Academy for Gabriel’s 6th through 8th grade years. "So far I haven't learned any new material in English,” reports Gabriel in reflecting about his first year at Central Catholic High School (CCHS). “The reason for that is because I was so well prepared by Mrs. O'Connell in the REACH program at NDA who taught me so much more in eighth grade than most kids get. I want to extend a huge thank you to her and Mr. Byrnes (former Math teacher) as well as all my other teachers at the Academy for preparing me so well and pushing me to the level I'm at now." 

Gabriel graduated from eighth grade at the Academy in the spring of 2015. He was recently selected as one of only four students in his grade at CCHS to be invited to a special breakfast to recognize the best performing and most promising students. “I am motivated by everything I haven't achieved yet. My dream is to be a pediatrician."

“The Academy exceeded beyond my expectations in terms of preparing Gabriel for high school,” says Natana DeLong-Bas, Gabriel’s mother. “NDA did more than just teach him content - the teachers really encouraged him to think critically and participate thoughtfully in class discussions and debates.”

Another reason the Bas family chose the Academy was for its solid mix of male and female teachers. DeLong-Bas worries that for all the attention given to the need for positive role models for girls that boys are being left behind. “They need strong role models, too, particularly of men who set alternative examples of what it means to be a man from what we see on TV. Gabriel needed to see in his own world that men can also be nurturing, compassionate, intelligent, and intellectually demanding. NDA provided that at many levels and I will always be grateful.”

Gabriel and his parents are thankful for every academic challenge whether it was in foreign languages, math, literature, religion or guitar. They offer advice for those considering schools now. “I would encourage parents who are looking for a serious academic program to strongly consider NDA. The foundations are solidly provided and NDA has both a strong track record and a solid future vision of what it is trying to achieve in terms of forming educated, whole persons,” says DeLong-Bas. Gabriel’s advice for other students is to explore their interests, be prepared for tests, do personal reading, and to listen to their teachers. “It’s tough, but worthwhile.”

The Academy of Notre Dame holds Shadow Days for prospective Lower School students and also has a scheduled Open House in January. To learn more about these opportunities, visit www.ndatyngsboro.org/admissions, email admissions@ndatyngsboro.org, or call 978-649-7611, Ext. 327.