Cover Stories

Classic Focus

When The St. Austin school holds its open house April 7, prospective families will get a special peek at the unique education happening there. The independent, Catholic elementary and middle school in Town & Country, founded in 2011, has become known for combining Benedictine spirituality and classical methods that date to the 1500s, says headmistress Gerry Dolan. As of now, she notes that St. Austin is the only school in the area to do so, making it an intriguing option for families seeking a more traditional approach for their child.

“Our students are taught to seek God in everything they do and to grow closer to Him through work and especially through prayer,” Dolan explains. “But the traditions of Benedictine spirituality also are blended with more modern teaching methods to foster appreciation for great thinkers and writers like Socrates and Shakespeare.” This combined focus, she says, prepares students to be critical thinkers, active learners and problem solvers throughout their lives.

Dolan suggests the school’s integrated curriculum of subjects like art, history, literature and mathematics helps children make necessary connections and have a deeper understanding of the work they do. “The students are presented with truth, goodness and beauty in the classroom, and this naturally creates a sense of wonder,” she explains. Teaching is interdisciplinary to promote this concept, and small class sizes allow for personalized instruction when needed. Beginning in first grade, students take weekly Latin classes, and by fifth grade, they increase to three times a week. “We believe it provides excellent mental training as well as a better understanding of the English language,” Dolan says. “Latin grammar is introduced in conjunction with English grammar so students really understand the science of language.”

In keeping with the idea of a classical education, technology in the classroom is kept to a minimum. Although teachers use technology, Dolan explains that student use of smartphones, tablets or laptops in the classroom does not support the school’s ethos. “We believe using those devices regularly creates a gap between students and teachers (and students and each other),” she says. “We view technology as a way to accomplish a wide variety of discrete tasks—from finding a recipe online to searching for facts about a historical person. We do not see it as a means to increasing one’s ability to absorb textual material or learn the relationships between higher-order concepts.”

Dolan says everyone is welcome to come and see life at St. Austin for themselves at the open house. “People will be struck by the joy here—joyful teachers and joyful students engaged in joyful learning,” she says.

The St. Austin School hosts an open houses at 2 p.m. April 7. Private tours also are available daily. Pictured on the cover: Teacher Sarah O’Daniel with Form I students. For more information or to arrange a tour, call 314.580.2802 or visit
Cover design by Julie Steiler | Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured at top: Teacher Thomas Capps with Form VI students
Photo: Bill Barrett