St. Mary Catholic Schools

SMCS Aquinas Program

The SMCS Aquinas Program, located within the St. Mary Elementary Campus of St. Mary Catholic Schools, is designed to meet the educational aspirations of students in grades 3-5 who will thrive in an environment with a self-directed and inter-disciplinary model of instruction. The SMCS Aquinas Program takes place in a multi-age classroom, and is led by a teacher who is certified in gifted-and-talented education.

The program is open to students who apply, complete the assessment process, and are admitted into the program. Potential participants will have demonstrated the ability to set and work towards goals and to work independently. Invitations for admission are based upon standardized assessment results and the successful completion of prior classroom projects.


  • The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) evaluations are administered.
  • Computer-based assessments are administered by the Aquinas Program coordinator/teacher.
  • Scores will be reviewed and assessed by the evaluation team. The Aquinas Program coordinator/teacher is not part of the review process, and students’ names are removed from the tests for evaluation.
  • Assessments scores are evaluated using established criteria to determine program eligibility.
  • Applications that meet the eligibility requirements are ranked within four tiers through a process that combines achievement and ability scores.


The SMCS Aquinas Program’s curriculum meets and exceeds diocesan expectations, and focuses on specialized instruction in core areas including:

  • Language arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science (includes Project Lead the Way modules)
  • Social Studies
  • Art
  • Physical Education
  • Library

Students integrate with their age peers at St. Mary Elementary for specials and activities including:

  • Faith-building activities, liturgies, and sacraments
  • Vocal/instrumental music
  • World languages
  • Lunch and recess
  • Band (4th & 5th grade students are eligible)

Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of learning styles including:

  • Field trips
  • Independent study
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Learning contracts
  • Project-based learning
  • Service-learning projects
  • Small-group work

For more information, contact Stacy Sweetalla or Sandra Piotrowski at 725-5351.

Meet the Aquinas Program Coordinator

Stacy Sweetalla is the teacher and coordinator of the Aquinas Program. She has been teaching since 2010 and has her teaching license in elementary education, special education, and gifted and talented. Stacy joined St. Mary Catholic Schools in 2014. While here, she has taught preschool, third grade, and fourth grade language arts. Throughout her teaching career, she realized that academically high students need more than what they get in the general classroom, and after taking multiple gifted and talented classes, she gained a huge passion for helping those students go above and beyond their potential. Stacy is very excited to be working with the students in the Aquinas Program!