Robyn Barberry is the doting wife of her high school sweetheart, the mother of three precocious boys, and the art teacher at St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen.


April 2017
March 2017

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Thank you Robyn for so eloquently stating some of the obvious reasons this proposed ordinance makes no sense. I intend to be present at the council meeting on the 10th to publicly state my opposition.


Your words are always so inspiring. I also spent 12 years in Catholic school and chose to give my children a Catholic school education. It is the best decision we have ever made!


Guest blog: 5 reasons why I send my child to a Catholic school

I have asked several friends, co-workers, and family members to write about what a Catholic education means to them. Previously, Gina Sabo, the Technology Integration Specialist, at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, wrote about why she chooses to teach in a Catholic school. Today, she reveals 5 reasons why she and her husband, Jon, have decided to send their 7-year-old son, Danny, to St. Joan of Arc. I'm blessed to have the Sabo family in my life at home and at school.

Why do I send my son to a Catholic School? by Gina Sabo

My husband and I have been happily married for almost 10 years.  We have a beautiful, rambunctious, 7-year old boy, and two years ago, we had to make an important decision.  We had to consider serious, life-altering decisions (I was in the middle of changing jobs) on where we would want our young impressionable child to start his formal education.  

Now, my husband and I were both part of the “hybrid” Catholic School and public school upbringing.  We had attended both types of environments at some point in our educational career, so we knew what each type of school brought to the table.

The public school our son would be attending had several amazing teachers, great after school opportunities he could participate in, and many of his friends would attend the same school. Their test scores were high, and they had access to the public library programs right next door.  The before and after school program would allow for us to not make any major changes to our work schedules, however, it would cost as much for the Catholic School tuition.  With that being said, it was a serious contender in our discussions.

The Catholic School we were considering had students who performed well on standardized test scores, and the student-teacher ratio was something public school teachers dream about.  It offered Spanish, art, and music much like the public school, and SMART Boards, and iPads in every classroom.  But the most important difference we saw in the Catholic School that was lacking in the public school was the spirit you felt walking through the front door.

So here are just a few reasons why we choose to send our son to Catholic School:


Like many families, we pray together as a family.  We say grace at mealtimes and we ask our guardian angels to watch over us when things get tough.  But we also try to pray throughout the day.  When we encounter an accident while we are traveling anywhere (the store, long trips to see family, etc.) we always say a quick prayer for whoever was involved. We thank God for all the beautiful things we encounter in nature.  At our school, we say morning prayers, Grace, a short prayer before classes start.  Sometimes we even pray the rosary together as a school.  My son is able to freely ask questions about his faith, and discuss how much he enjoys learning about God and praying with his friends.  It is my husband’s and my hope that through our guidance and the continued support from the school, that our son turns to God in times of need.


Okay, so this may seem like an odd reason to send my child to Catholic School, but hear me out.  Although uniforms can be expensive, most Catholic Schools participate in a uniform exchange program.  This helps keeping the cost down for many families.  Uniforms are also a timesaver in the morning.  Although I have to remember if it is a P.E. day or regular uniform, I don’t have to argue over whether or not a certain shirt is clean.  This allows for more family time in the morning before we trek to work and school.  While in school, it is clear that it is time to focus on the learning, and not who has the best label or newest shoes.  Everyone was created equal in the eyes of God, so why not extend that into the learning environment as well.

Wanting to Serve Others

In school, each grade level participates in outreach and service projects.  Students make sandwiches for the hungry, collect money for the poor.  This year, they participated in the Water Project to raise awareness and money for those who do not have access to clean water.  At Christmas time, the school rallies together and sponsors a family.  The students and their families gather gifts for those who are less fortunate.  In our own families, we volunteer for Faith Formation Classes, take food to those less fortunate for Thanksgiving, and help out with other church-sponsored activities.

Danny paints a bowl for the Empty Bowls program

It is my hope, that through my husband’s and my example, as well as through his experience in the Catholic School, that our son sees that we don’t do these things just to give back to the community (though this too is noble) but, that we are following in Jesus’s footsteps, and he will continue to do so as he gets older.

It’s Academic …. But Not the Most Important Thing

Yes, learning is an important aspect of any school.  However, it wouldn’t matter if the school had a state of the art Science lab, a robotics club, or drama.  I am more concerned that my child becomes a kind, selfless person.  The Catholic School practices the same values that we as parents “preach” at home.

Can’t Do It Alone

Jon and Danny Sabo on the first day of school.

Although I would like to believe that my husband and I would be able to provide all our son needs to have a personal relationship with God.  That he will grow up to value his Catholic faith and upbringing.  But I would be naive to believe that we could do that alone.  Children learn from example; not only from their parents/guardians, but also from other children and adults.  We do what we can at home, but in this day and age, we can use all the help we can get.  I am so thankful for the community of our Catholic School.

You see, our school is similar to the public school in many ways.  But it is clearly more than just a school.  It is a tight knit community.  Our students, faculty, and parents come together every day in a community of faith and warmth.  Something that has grown increasingly more important in a world of harsh realities.  Our school provides an important space for our students to feel a sense of belonging and a safe haven to openly discuss their beliefs, hopes, and dreams.  Yes, our school prepares their minds, but with the help of our Catholic Faith, it prepares their souls.

February 13, 2017 12:00
By Robyn Barberry

Guest blog: 5 reasons why I teach in a Catholic school

I asked several friends, coworkers, and family members to write about what Catholic schools mean to them. Today you will hear from my dear friend and colleague, Gina Sabo, who is the Technology Integration Specialist at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen. It's been an honor to work with her over the past decade in several settings. We both agree that working at SJA has brought us tremendous happiness.

5 reasons why I teach in a Catholic school by Gina Sabo

The author and her son, Danny, on the first day of school.

Why do I teach in a Catholic School?

I have heard this question and many other as to my choice to teach in a Catholic school.  

“Aren’t you limiting yourself career wise? There’s not much room for growth!”

“Aren’t you afraid of your school closing?”

“You know you can get paid more in the public school, right?”

In reality, my school isn’t much different than that of a public school.  Our students come from all walks of life.  We have parents that email...some more than others.  We have meetings and professional development.  Behavior problems.  More meetings.  Standardized testing.  Budgets. And new standards to meet.

But the one thing that makes my school stand out - God.  My School’s Mission Statement describes a “faith community of educators, learners, and families using God’s gifts to develop 21st Century skills of innovation, collaboration, problem-solving, and reasoning to enrich the global society” (St. Joan of Arc School).  It is within this type of environment that I cannot imagine being without.  

So when I have to “defend” my decision to teach in the Catholic School, here are just five of the reasons:

Authentic Community

As I mentioned before, our school is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, and administrators.  Some could say that it is because we all have that one thing that binds us together-faith, but I tend to lean more towards the fact that we truly care about each other.  We have students who return after graduation talking of how much they loved the sense of belonging they felt while attending our school.  As teachers, we bond together over shared students we have watched grow over the years.  The administration gets to know each child on an individual level, and cheers them on by name.  Even our Pastor, Father Willie Franken, offers words of wisdom and guidance to our families at just the right time.  Faculty, students, and parents all come together and pray for those who are sick, celebrate a new baby or wedding shower, or even provide a special gift to a student whose family needs to leave mid-year.

Encourages Me to Be a Better Christian and Role Model

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you attend or teach at a public or Catholic school; all teachers are being watched daily by their students and parents.  Eyes are always watching to see how to react and how they should structure their behaviors.  Parents are personally making sure teachers are meeting their students’ needs.  In my school, however, students are also watching my devotion to the Lord.  My students can smell the difference between real and fake, so this encourages me to constantly keep myself in check and be authentic in my relationship with my students and God.

Everything is Geared Towards Christ

In the public school setting, I was constantly worried about offending someone.  I had to watch what I said and how I said it.  In the Catholic school, I am able to complement, discuss, and even explain my beliefs without worry of offending my students.  Often, I can praise a student “God has truly blessed you with the talent for drawing,” or thank a student for their help during Mass.  Students can openly discuss their love for God and our daily lessons are often linked to the Fruits of the Spirit.  

Holidays - Big and Small

In the Catholic school, the holidays - both big and small - are celebrated with a certain sort of style.  The Christmas season appears more humble throughout the school.  Giving, rather than receiving, is the moving force within the classrooms.  Students focus on service projects and the birth of Christ. In May we celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a school, we meet in the “Grotto” outside our building and place the crown of flowers atop her head and recite a shortened version of the rosary.  It is these spiritual practices that, for me, make teaching in the Catholic School special.

Someone Always Has Your Back

No matter where you work, obstacles are always encountered.  Calling for help can include a conversation with technical support, help from a co-worker, or even a meeting with your boss.  Working in a Catholic School, you can seek help from a higher authority.  Our staff begins each week in prayer.  Just before the students enter the building, we gather together in our Faculty Lounge, and thank God for our abilities and blessings, and ask for his help.  Throughout the school year, we support each other in highs and lows.  We celebrate the small victories and pray over difficult times.  We are assured through our faith that no matter what happens, God’s love for us will be there forever.

February 12, 2017 12:35
By Robyn Barberry

Catholic schools: a legacy of sanctuary


This past week, schools across the Archdiocese of Baltimore have celebrated all of the wonderful things that make Catholic Schools the gold standard for highly academic and deeply spiritual education. It was an honor to observe the occasion with my colleagues, my students, and their families at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen. We wore beautiful pins and celebrated with treats, events, and prayerful reflection. I enjoyed having parents visit my Enrichment classroom to learn about polar bear adaptations through an interactive game of dress-up, while Collin liked pajama day. The SJA spirit was in full swing and contagious.

Advancement Director Lauren Hayden and her student ambassadors
rolled out the red carpet for visitors at St. Joan of Arc's Open House.

Catholic Schools Week is always a homecoming of sorts for those of us who have spent a part of our lives surrounded by God’s love in the classrooms where we learned and played. It’s a chance to pause and remember our experiences as young people, searching for answers to riddles, algebra problems, or metaphysical questions and being led to them by caring teachers and good friends in a place where God was welcomed; in a place where God welcomed us.

My brother, Greg, and I on our first day of St. Margaret School in Bel Air, 1993.

I got my start in Catholic Schools 30 years ago as a member of the “God’s Little People” preschool program at St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea. It was the same school my dad and many of my cousins had attended. In fact, most members of my enormous family attended Catholic schools at some point in their lives. My ancestors saw Catholic schools as a perennial garden where their values would reach subsequent generations. Those values were instilled in my dad and his siblings by my grandparents’ decision to send my dad and his siblings to St. Michael the Archangel, Seton High, St. Stephen’s Bradshaw, and Archbishop Curley.

My dad, Bob Chrest, on his First Communion Day, 1963.

My dad, Archbishop Curley High School, Class of 1974

It’s a tradition some of us are passing along to our next generation. I currently have five cousins at Archbishop Curley (two teachers and three students) and one cousin (whose brother attends St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea) attending Catholic High. Collin is, of course, at St. Joan of Arc, and my three little ones are right on his heels!

Collin dressed as St. Patrick for St. Joan of Arc's All Saints' Day Mass, 2016

I didn’t always appreciate the strict rules and unfashionable uniforms I wore at St. Margaret’s School in the 1990s, but when I look at the skills, talents, and depth of faith I’ve gained, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for my parents and teachers. Now that I’m standing in their shoes as a mom and Catholic school teacher, I recognize the motives for their passion, and every nail and beam and angle of the architecture they built to raise me up in the way that God imagined. I see the framework now and try to structure for my own children and students a sanctuary of learning where the Holy Spirit can enlighten and inspire them – and me.

"St. Joan of Arc School: Grounded in Faith, Focused on the Future" 

St. Joan of Arc School has become that place of sanctuary for me. I can see my faith represented in the crucifixes on every classroom wall, in the photograph of Pope Francis smiling above our stairwell, and in our gorgeous St. Joan of Arc mural.  I can hear my faith in the prayers said on the morning and afternoon announcements, at the beginning of class, during lunch, before a test. I can feel God’s presence as we celebrate Mass as a school on Thursdays. God is everywhere I go and in every face I encounter. Whether we are Catholic or not, we, the community of St. Joan of Arc School, are a like-minded people who believe in the power of love and all things good.

My kindergarten Enrichment students locate the Arctic as part of their unit on saving the Polar Bear 

Being a part of a Catholic school offers an unprecedented opportunity to gain both intellect and faith in a nurturing community that is safe, warm, and full of life. I consider my Catholic education to be one of the greatest gifts my parents have ever given me. I attribute my creativity, language arts abilities, problem solving and analysis skills, commitment to my community, respect for all people, reverence for life and all living things, and strong Catholic faith to the nine years I spent at St. Margaret School. These are aspects which are often overlooked in public education due to the pressures of testing, compliance to ever-changing standards, and discipline. As a public school high school student and teacher, I witnessed those struggles firsthand. As a Catholic school teacher, I have found myself able to set those concerns aside and focus on teaching engaging material, at a steady pace, using advanced technology, with Catholic values infused into every lesson. Every one of my students is encouraged to share their gifts with our class. Every one of my student is a gift to our class.

Members from the Class of 2023 work as teams to create art from recycled electronic junk

I have chosen to send my children to Catholic school because I'm carrying on the faith that has sustained my family for countless generations. Like them, I want my children to be challenged academically and nurtured spiritually. I want my children to experience God's presence in the things they see and hear and in the people they meet throughout their school day. I want my sons and daughter to be seen as unique individuals with one shared identity: children of God. And like my parents did for me, I am willing to make sacrifices to provide for them a future full of possibilities beyond their imaginations, with God by their sides.  

I encourage parents who are considering sending their children to a parochial school to take the time to visit a Catholic school to witness for themselves the future of our faith and our world; young people growing in mind and spirit, by His most radiant light.

At St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, visitors are always welcome. Please make an appointment with Lauren Hayden at We look forward to seeing you!

If you would like to share an uplifting story about your Catholic school experience, please do so in the comments below!   



February 05, 2017 04:11
By Robyn Barberry