First Senior Class to Graduate from Faustina Academy in Irving
The Dallas Morning News / March 2006
As Thomas Weigel, an Irving high school senior, prepares to graduate from Faustina Academy in Irving and makes his move toward college, he is proud to have been a part of an independent faith-based community and school.
“The school stands behinds its mission and actually teaches us how to live according to Christ’s teachings and not how to try to get around it or change to meet societies’ pressures, ” Weigel said, president of the Faustina student council.
In May, Weigel, along with three other seniors, will be the first graduating senior class of Faustina Academy. Together, the four seniors have been offered $600,000 in university scholarships.
The school opened in August 2003 with 39 students and has grown to 98 students this year. At the school, pre-kindergarten through 12-grade students receive academics in a fostered spiritual environment. Teachers promote intellectual excellence daily within an atmosphere that respects and promotes the virtues of family and spiritual life.
For Weigel, the tie between family and spiritual life has helped contribute to his successes in education. He has been accepted at several universities and has yet to choose one.
“These families reinforce the same values and morals that my family instills in me and my brothers and sisters at home,” Weigel said of his teachers.
Faustina Academy is located at 1621 W. Grauwyler in Irving.
Irving’s new Christian academy hoping to grow
By MICHAEL GRABELL / The Dallas Morning News / Sunday, October 5, 2003
The first hint that Irving’s new Christian academy isn’t your ordinary school is that it’s not named after Mary, Paul or Peter, but Faustina Kowalska.
There are also the classrooms of plaid-clad students that stand up in unison and greet their principal with a singsong, “Good af-ter-noon, Miss Zei-ler,” whenever she enters the room.
And, there’s the fact that Christina Zeiler and her three friends who started the school are all in their early 30s.
Faustina Academy is a small, private school that opened in August in Irving’s hospital district. The prekindergarten through eighth grade school aims to teach students spirituality and discipline with a foundation on classical texts and religious faith.
The school’s 40 students learn Latin, meet daily to recite “The Chaplet of Divine Mercy” and vacuum and mop the floors at the end of every day.
“Three or four Catholic families wanted to have a curriculum that was challenging and an atmosphere that was spiritual,” said Ms. Zeiler, 34. “With today’s society, with the TV shows and movies and the music … it teaches a way of life that is contrary to our faith.”
The idea for the school was something of a family affair, which all started with Ms. Zeiler’s twin sister’s father-in-law, who had helped start similar schools in California.
Ms. Zeiler’s brother-in-law, Reev Rohter, was not satisfied with the private school his daughter was in. So he decided to start one of his own, modeled after his father’s schools.
“I didn’t reinvent any wheels here,” said Mr. Rohter, 32. “I had been around these schools … and I’ve just been very impressed. I saw that model, and I wanted that in Irving.”
In March, he called some friends. Most were either home-schooling their children or unhappy with their private schools. They agreed to help. Friends and relatives and friends of friends donated most of the equipment to get started. They leased space in a mostly empty education building on the grounds of St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church on West Grauwyler Road.
They bought old chairs and desks from the Irving school district and got free books from the Irving Public Library.
The name? That was Ms. Zeiler’s idea.
Faustina Kowalska was a Polish nun in the years before World War II and was made a saint in 2000. The Feast of St. Faustina is Sunday.
Born in 1905 to farmers, Faustina lived a troubled life – schooled only three years, frequently sick and rejected by several religious orders. She died of tuberculosis at 33.
But she is said to have experienced numerous revelations of Jesus, Mary and saints, including one in 1930s when Jesus is said to have asked her to spread a message of mercy throughout the world.
“She stayed strong even though she was the only one standing,” Ms. Zeiler said. “She never gave up, and she continued forward. I kind of admire her life. I said if I ever started a school, the name would be associated with her.”
Ms. Zeiler graduated from the University of Dallas in 1993 and taught at The Highlands School in Irving for four years before becoming dean of girls. She received her master’s degree from Franciscan University in Ohio and was an administrator at several schools, including St. Therese Academy in Irving.
Other teachers include University of Dallas graduate students, students’ parents and Ms. Zeiler’s two sisters. Denise Rohter teaches phonics, and Helene Zeiler teaches art, drama and speech.
The academy hopes to start a high school next year with the goal of eventually having 150 students in all grades.
On Friday afternoon, Christina Zeiler rang a hand bell through the hallways. The students grabbed plastic rosaries and lined up in front of a poster of the Divine Mercy image.
They recited the prayer and grabbed their schoolbags, the end of another week.