Lial’s Focus On Unique Child Spurs 50 Years Of Growth

Lial principals gathered for a photo in 2007 for the 35th anniversary. Pictured are (from left) standing, Sr. Mary Jesse Thompson, Sr. Margaret Mary Faist, Sr. Kathleen Marie Knueven and Sr. Patricia Marie McClain; and seated, Sr. Mary Cyrilla Hellman and Sr. Mary Corneille. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LIAL CATHOLIC SCHOOL
Lial Catholic School teacher and graduate Lyndsey Urbaniak (left) is joined by director of advancement Jackie Flom and Sr. Cheryl Darr, a longtime teacher. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER
(Left) Lynn Cherry is the head of school for Lial Catholic School. (Right) Dr. Debbi Bloomquist, principal of Lial.

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — “Unique” is an often-heard word around the classrooms of Lial Catholic School.

“Students are taught that we are all special and unique, and to embrace that uniqueness,” said principal Dr. Debbi Bloomquist. “Students accept their God-given gifts and their classmates’ gifts as well.”

That philosophy has been behind Lial since it was founded with 12 students in the fall of 1972. Now the campus has217 K-8 students – and hundreds of alumni who share their talents and leadership throughout the world.

On Saturday, March 4, Lial will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the Toledo Club, but the community can discover what makes Lial distinctive during a Friends on Friday tour. This first tour of 2023 will be on Friday, January 27 at 9:00 a.m. at 5700 Davis Rd.

“We’re the little school in the woods,” smiled Sr. Cheryl Darr, who began teaching at Lial in 1975, when a new building replaced the original cottage.

Named after Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) founders Lisette Kheulling and Aldegonda Wolbring, the school’s focus has always been on keeping the child at the center of every decision.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all for the teacher, parent or child,” said Sr. Pat McClain, who started as a teacher and served as principal for several years. “We make the right decision for the child rather than for the whole class. As a principal, I had the privilege of walking with teachers and parents as we together found what was right for each child.”

Lyndsey Urbaniak, now a first- and second-grade teacher at Lial, said the school’s message of sharing and caring stayed with her after graduating from Lial, St. Ursula Academy and the University of Dayton. 

“I always wanted to come back here and teach. I love being here,” she said, noting that she now gets to watch her students flourish from the same philosophy and events that shaped her. 

The school annually hosts a Mission Fair, a carnival where parent-run games are still just 20 cents each but with thousands of dollars being raised to help the SND Mission in Papua New Guinea, Sr. Cheryl said.

“The Lial spirit is one of sharing and caring – to care enough to share what you have with someone else,” Sr. Pat said. “It could be as little as giving someone a pencil or as big as running a food drive. It’s a global view that happens. It’s ‘How do I become my best self and serve others?’”

As a teacher, Urbaniak uses opportunities for her second-graders to mentor the first-graders, and for the younger students to reach out to kindergartners. Each class at Lial is also paired up with a house from the Sisters of Notre Dame, who live next door, providing opportunities for intergenerational learning. 

“We empower our kids to become leaders and to focus on their own personal progress,” said Jackie Flom, whose two sons graduated from Lial. “I can see Lial in how my son parents now – encouraging his children to solve their problems and do their best.”

She notes that Lial graduates have become involved in Leadership Toledo, and that spirit of giving continues through adulthood.

Lial students work on a science project.

While focusing on each child and developing problem-solving and leadership set Lial apart, so does the curriculum. The school was launched with the Montessori method and has evolved over the years, combining the best practices of Montessori and traditional instruction, earning national and state excellence awards along the way. After an expansion in 1996, the school added a technology room, new curricula in Spanish, math and reading, as well as clubs for Scouts, chess and spelling, to name a few.

Lial School recruits and admits students ages 3 through eighth grade of any race, color, religion and ethnic origin, with the same rights, privileges, programs and activities for all. Some scholarships are available based on need, to make Lial an economically diverse school as well.

“The balance of faith and friendship found at Lial will last a lifetime,” said Lynn Cherry, Lial’s current head of school and a parent to a Lial student. “Our community is so fortunate to have such a unique learning environment where our future leaders can grow and develop.”

For more information about Lial, visit www.lialschool.org.

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