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Learning Commons

The Learning Commons is a bright and open space providing students a place for individual study, collaborative work, tutoring, and research that fosters inquiry, critical thinking, and analysis.

The St. Thomas High School Library supports and participates in the educational mission of St. Thomas by providing access to information resources, teaching students to be independent users of information, and encouraging familiarity with academic library settings. The librarian provides information literacy instruction and database research assistance to individuals and classes. The library’s holdings of print books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as almost fifty online subscription databases, provide the St. Thomas community access to thousands of books, primary sources and newspaper articles on a wide range of subjects that support curricular needs and encourage leisure reading.
The St. Thomas High School Archives collect and preserve the rich history of St. Thomas to ensure its accessibility to future generations. Material in the Archives includes school publications, photographs, scrapbooks, annual records, memorabilia, architectural blueprints, audio-visual items, and collections donated by alumni. The archivist curates rotating exhibits of materials throughout the campus and provides reference services to members of the St. Thomas community.

Joanie Shelley (M.S., Library and Information Science, University of North Texas; M.A. History, University of Houston) has been with St. Thomas since January 2012, when she was hired as the archivist. In June 2012 she accepted the position of librarian. Before coming to St. Thomas, she worked as librarian-manager at Houston Public Library and as an archival processor in Special Collections at the University of Houston.

Caroline Becker (B.A. English, Trinity University, M.A.T. Secondary Education, Trinity University) is the new Director of the St. Thomas Learning Enrichment Center. She started her career in Education in HISD ten years ago, and worked as a teacher, English department chair, curriculum writer, and instructional coach.

Ray Davis (B.S. Mathematics, Central Methodist University) Joined the St. Thomas staff in 2017 as a member of the LEC, Algebra 1 teacher, Defensive Coordinator on the Eagle’s football team, and Assistant Golf coach. Ray has been coaching and teaching for over ten years.

Jay DeWitt ’09 (B.S. University of Texas in Austin) is a 2009 graduate of St. Thomas. He joined the staff in 2014. As the Help Desk Specialist, he works to resolve technical issues for faculty and students regarding tablets and computers and is part of the Learning Commons team. Jay also supervises the Open Computer Lab and is an Assistant Baseball Coach.

Mitchell G. Dowalgo, CSB (B.A., St. John Fisher College, M.Div., University of St. Michael’s College, M.A., University of Notre Dame, plus post graduate studies at several universities) is a Basilian priest who joined the faculty in 2015. He teaches Spanish I and works with individuals in the Learning Center. Prior teaching assignments include: Assumption College School in Windsor, Ontario, Andrean High School in Merriville IN and the Aquinas Institute in Rochester NY. Fr. Mitch has extensive experience in university ministry serving at The University of Alberta, St. John Fisher College, and New Mexico State University where he was pastor.

Cindy Gautschy (B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin; M.S. Accounting, University of Houston Clear Lake; M.A. Math, University of Houston) is a native Houstonian. Cindy worked in the Oil Industry for 11 years before staying at home as full time mother. She has fourteen years of teaching experience in math from Algebra 1 to Pre-calculus.

Krysta Post (B.A in Psychology with a Minor in English, Texas Tech University) serves as the Administrative Assistant for both the Learning Enrichment Center and Student Activities. As an alumna of Incarnate Word Academy (’09), Krysta is happy to be working in a Catholic school again.

Laura Speck (B.A. English with Special Honors, University of Texas-Austin; graduate studies in Education, Rice University) began teaching at St. Thomas in 2012. In order to support STH students as they develop as writers, she draws on her experience as a writing consultant at the Undergraduate Writing Center while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Her graduate education at Rice University focused on Reading and Writing methodology in the High School classroom.

The mission of the Learning Enrichment Center (LEC) is to support all St. Thomas students in their efforts to grow as independent, thoughtful, and responsible learners so that every student reaches his potential. Free to all students and open throughout the school day as well as before and after school, the LEC includes an executive functioning program, a Writing Lab, a Math Lab, a Language Lab, and a Student-Athlete Academic Mentor, all devoted to reinforcing the work of our faculty and counselors.
St. Thomas High School Provides students with documented learning differences three accommodations:
  • Assisted note-taking
  • Extended time
  • Preferential seating
For more information about accommodations, please contact Caroline Becker, Director of the LEC or Laura Speck, Writing Specialist.
The LEC's Executive Functioning Program seeks to improve students’ planning, prioritizing, organization, and time management skills through the individual and small group practice of research-based strategies. Students also explore strategies to increase their ability to focus, efficiently prepare and complete tests, and reduce test anxiety.
The Math Lab provides one-on-one assistance for all levels of math, from Algebra to Calculus. By focusing on understanding rather than rote routines, students not only learn the material but also how to learn and that they can learn. Students help each other, and some come to do more math, since – who wouldn’t?
The Writing Lab provides support for student writers of all skill levels with one-on-one and small group conferences. No matter what the assignment or subject, the writing specialist neither writes nor merely edits the student’s work, but instead, through the Socratic Method, helps him internalize the writing process and strengthen his skills.

As the writing specialist at STH, Laura Speck (B.A. English with Special Honors, University of Texas-Austin; M.A. Rice University) assists students of all levels with writing assignments in any subject and at any stage of the writing process. In order to support STH students as they develop as writers, she draws on her experience as a writing consultant at the Undergraduate Writing Center while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Her graduate education at Rice University focused on Reading and Writing methodology in the High School classroom. She began working at St. Thomas as a Freshman English teacher in 2012.
The Language Lab offers individualized tutoring in Spanish, focusing on the first- and second-year courses, which are especially challenging for many students. As he currently teaches two sections of Spanish I, the Spanish-language specialist is especially well placed to tailor his help to each student's needs.

Fr. Mitchell G. Dowalgo, CSB (B.A., St. John Fisher College, M.Div., University of St. Michael’s College, M.A., University of Notre Dame, plus post graduate studies at several universities.) Fr. Mitch is a Basilian priest who joined the faculty in 2015. He teaches Spanish I and works with students in the Learning Center. Prior teaching assignments include: Assumption College School in Windsor, Ontario; Andrean High School in Merriville IN and the Aquinas Institute in Rochester, NY. Fr. Mitch has extensive experience in university ministry, serving at the University of Alberta, St. John Fisher College, and New Mexico State University where he was pastor.
The Student-Athlete Academic Mentor offers specialized support for our student athletes by developing individualized, structured plans for student athletes who are struggling academically and/or recovering from a concussion. He also assists in identifying colleges and universities that will provide individual student-athletes the best experience for the next stage of their educational journey.

AIM is our weekly, student-to-student peer tutoring program led by the National Honor Society. If you have questions or would like more information on this program, please contact Dr. Pete Nordloh