Alumni, teachers celebrate Aquinas School’s anniversary

Graduates of Aquinas School in Woodbridge said they never really minded that their seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher, Louise Leardi, called them toads when they attended her classes.

Leardi’s husband, Paul, said toads are his wife’s favorite animal.

In fact, she wore a gold toad necklace to the Aquinas School campus at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church where about 150 people came to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary with a picnic.

“‘Toads’ is an affectionate name,” Louise Leardi said.

Katie Moore, 17, an Aquinas School alumna, said Leardi greeted her class as toads on the first day of school and referred to them as such for the remainder of the school year.

Moore said the initial shock quickly wore off.

“I remember thinking. ‘We’re not toads. We’re not frogs at all,'” Moore said, “But after the second time it’s like ‘OK, we’re toads.'” She’s a good teacher.”

The Aquinas School enrolls 540 students annually in prekindergarten through eighth grade. It was founded in 1977 as a mission of the Dominican Sisters of the St. Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tenn.

Sister Christine Born, the founding principal of the Aquinas School, said she was pleased to return to Woodbridge to help celebrate the anniversary and see the progress of the founders’ original vision of spiritual, intellectual and social education.

“I’ve seen groups build on the foundation that we built,” Sister Born said, “When we started the school, another group had to come along and solidify the discipline and another group still had to see to the expansion.”

The school serves three area parishes and carries full accreditation with the Virginia Catholic Education Association. It recently completed construction of a new building with 10 classrooms, a media center and computer lab.

Sister Dominic Mary, Aquinas School principal, said the school’s new building was full before construction was completed.

“We were not able to take any more kids,” she said.

Sister Dominic Mary said there are usually about 80 students waiting to attend the Aquinas School.

“We get calls every day and the hardest part is saying we have no room,” Sister Dominic Mary said.

Joshua Cole graduated from the Aquinas School in 1989 and considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Cole said his education at Aquinas was good preparation for high school, though he didn’t know it at the time.

“I went here nine years and then went to a public school. I just breezed through high school,” Cole, 29, said.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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