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Havern School alive with Loretto’s legacy

Posted on February 28, 2020, by Christina Manweller

How can we serve our Community?

Celine Marie De Smet SL teaching in 1979.

Havern School has always been on the cutting edge of educating children with learning disabilities. The Denver-area Sisters of Loretto opened the school in 1966, after Sisters Barbara Schulte and Dorothy Hurley were educated in how to teach in this newly-developing field. At the time, learning disabilities, as they were later called, went largely undiagnosed.

Havern students visit Anton Slechticky SL and Mary Charles Ward SL.

Once students graduate Havern and return to regular schools, their success rate is phenomenal. Havern students have a 95 percent high school graduation rate. These are kids who, because of their struggles, would have been at a higher-than-average risk of dropping out.

I spoke with Ellen Hall in September 2019, shortly after she began her tenure as Head of School. She has worked for the school for eight years, previously as Director of Education.

Please share a story that will help us understand how Havern School changes lives.

One recent story that comes to mind is of a student who came to Havern as a fifth grader. He was reading at a first-grade level when he came; his dyslexia was impacting his schooling, his self-esteem and his friendships. He was an extremely hard worker and came to school every day to do what was hardest for him — learn to read. At the end of eighth grade he gave a speech to 120 people about his time at Havern. In this speech he said that when he came to Havern he felt like he was broken and thought he would never learn to read. He explained that not only did he learn how to read, but he learned skills to be successful in school and he felt confidence in himself.

Now a junior at a local high school, he has made the honor roll. When I spoke with him last month, he told me that school was difficult, but that he knew he would be successful if he worked hard.

Just as we, as educators, have changed the lives of students, they have touched our hearts. We are proud of, and inspired by, their hard work, perseverance and success.

Ellen, what do you most love about Havern School?

The community is what makes our school a special place. The students, the families and the faculty all work together toward one goal — the success of our students. Our families make many sacrifices so their children can attend school here — they drive from 48 different zip codes, for instance. The students feel accepted and so do the parents. Faculty all feel a passion for their work and the students. We are truly a family.

What is the school’s biggest challenge?

Because we’re an intervention model, we always have students at every grade level joining our school while others are returning to their home schools. That is what we want; we want the kids to gain the skills and go back into the community. Although this can make admissions difficult, we celebrate attrition because it means the kids are ready to be successful in another environment.

In this area, from Texas to California, we’re one of the only schools that serves students with learning disabilities in an intervention model, with the goal of teaching the kids to go back into their community. The service that we provide is really needed.

Ellen Hall

What is your dream for Havern?

Our goal is to reach more children with learning disabilities. As a school community, we find ourselves often asking, what are ways that we can serve children who are not our students? That’s one reason that the school started the Zarlengo Foundation Learning Evaluation Center at Havern School. It serves kids across the state who need comprehensive learning assessments. We’ve even had children come from Wyoming to get assessments because parents feel it’s hard to get a high level of testing and really good data and information about their child. We are always trying to find new ways to share our knowledge and serve the greater community.

Does the school still feel a connection with Loretto?

Absolutely. We still live the legacy of our founders every day. Loretto’s mission of education, justice and service is so aligned with what we do here. We are committed to honoring our history with the Sisters as we grow into our future.

Loretto Community members and staff at Havern’s Thanksgiving dinner in 2019. Ellen Hall stands in back to the right of Cathy Mueller SL. Seated, clockwise from left: Havern librarian Mandy Piscopo, Lydia Pena SL, Regina Drey SL, Joy Gerity CoL, Joan Spero SL, Mary Nelle Gage SL, Loretto Magazine Editor Christina Manweller, Theresa Kinealy CoL and Ruth Routten CoL
Photo by Maria Cunningham
Christina Manweller

Christina Manweller

Editor of Loretto Magazine, Christina’s nonfiction and poetry has appeared in numerous publications. For many years she served as Director of Communications for a Colorado-based peace and justice organization. Her background also includes English and writing instruction at a local community college, digital and print design work, and photography. One of her joys is visiting the Loretto Motherhouse once or twice a year.
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Loretto welcomes you

Learn more or plan a visit to the Motherhouse!