"Wonder is the desire for knowledge." St. Thomas Aquinas. At Aquinas Classical Academy we foster an environment of life-long learning among our faculty that overflows into the classroom. Students and faculty journey together on a common quest for knowledge by reading from the same primary sources and gleaning insights from the fundamental teachers of our school: the authors themselves.
MICHAEL PRATO, PRESIDENT & INTERIM HEADMASTER
Michael Prato joins Aquinas Classical Academy with 44 years of educational leadership as a teacher, coach, and principal/president in the public and private sectors. He holds an MA in Education from Central Washington University in both Leadership and Program Administration. Mr. Prato and his wife, Laura, have been married for 44 years and have five children, all graduates of Catholic high schools. When asked what Scripture verse has been both foundational to his platform, while motivating throughout his career, Mr. Prato offered: "A zeal for your house consumes me," (Psalm 69:9). He believes this verse encapsulates what must underpin all leadership in Catholic education. "I am excited to move this shared vision to reality. Zeal for our Catholic faith within a classical, liberal arts environment will characterize an ACA education." Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Pray for Us. St. Thomas Aquinas, Pray for Us.
Sarah Jarosik joins the Aquinas Classical Academy staff as the ninth and tenth grade Literature teacher. She grew up in a big Catholic family in Nebraska and relocated to Washington after marrying her husband who is enlisted in the US Navy. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska in Secondary English Education with Inclusive Practices, as well as an additional minor in English. After being heavily involved in her campus’s JPII Newman Center, she is excited to have found a faith-filled home at Our Lady Star of the Sea parish. Sarah is thrilled to begin teaching at ACA after working as a guest teacher at OLSOS School as well as the South Kitsap school district. In her free time she enjoys reading, trying new recipes, and exploring the Washington scenery with her husband and their chihuahua, Peewee. Sarah has a special devotion to Our Lady, St. Faustina, and Divine Mercy.
Shae Ryalls will be teaching History and Latin this coming school year. She joins Aquinas Classical Academy after having recently finished her master’s degree in Maritime Civilizations from the University of Haifa. Prior to that, Shae received a double major in History and Catholic Studies along with two minors in Classical Studies and Biology from the University of Mary. Having a travel bug, she has periodically studied or traveled in such far-flung places as Switzerland, Poland, Italy, France, Israel, and England. She hopes to take students on her next trip so that she can share the delights of traveling with them. In addition to traveling, Shae enjoys reading, writing, and martial arts. “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, ” is her favorite bible verse. (Matthew 10:16) She has a special devotion to her Guardian Angel and asks for his guidance on this new high school adventure!
Mikaela Hertel is very excited to join Aquinas Classical Academy after six years of teaching at a private school. She holds a Bachelors in Mathematics from the University of Washington and earned her Masters in Teaching from the University of Portland through the Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education. She has taught many mathematics courses, though her favorite is Precalculus. Mikaela will also be teaching one of the Theology classes. She has found that the more she follows where the Lord leads, whether it be teaching in Alaska, hiking the Camino de Santiago, or becoming a Third Order Dominican, the more deeply she experiences his grace and love. One of Mikaela's favorite bible passages is from I Kings 19, where Elijah hears the Lord coming as a whisper. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, sewing, gardening, and making or listening to music.
Deacon Mikhail Alnajjar brings a wealth of experience to the classroom as a retired Senior Research Scientist and Chemical Hygiene Officer. He has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, as well as a Master of Science in Inorganic Chemistry. Deacon Mikhail has amassed a prodigious amount of publications, research studies, conference lectures, and patents spanning his 30 plus year career. His many church activities and the Holy Spirit led him to pursue the Diaconate Ministry. He was ordained in September of 2010, and his ordination motto is “Do whatever he tells you.” Deacon Mikhail has a special interest in the early church fathers, especially St. Thomas Aquinas. His favorite saint quote comes from St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” One of his favorite pastimes is watching sports. At one time, he even officiated soccer games at the national level! He is married with three children and five grandchildren.
Matthew J. Meloche was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He studied secular Philosophy (BA) at the University of Windsor, Ontario before moving to the United States to work full-time in church music. He became Director of Sacred Music at the Cathedral of SS. Simon and Jude in Phoenix, Arizona. From 2012-2017 and in 2019 he was on the faculty of the Church Music Association of America's Colloquium, which is recognized as "the largest and most in-depth teaching conference and retreat on sacred music in the world." In 2018 he spent several weeks in France studying Gregorian chant at Solesmes Monastery and taking intense organ lessons in improvisation. He believes firmly that the future of Catholicism is dependent upon young people really learning their Faith, including the authentic music of the Faith, especially Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony. As an organist, Matthew's style is primarily focused on the modes of Gregorian chant and improvisation, but he's also been lauded for his exciting interpretations of Italian Baroque music. In his personal life he enjoys cooking, travel, the literature of Ancient Greece, deduction strategy games, and performing stand-up comedy.
Elisabeth Gates will be teaching art and art history. She was born and raised in Western Washington and attended elementary school at Our Lady Star of the Sea. She is an extremely talented artist and has spent the past five years studying drawing and painting, working in mediums such as watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, digital painting, and more. Miss Gates’ love of art extends also to photography, creative writing, and calligraphy. Every illustration and painting tells a story, and woven throughout Miss Gates' art is the expression of her faith. The theme of light runs strongly through her work. “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Miss Gates looks forward to being able to give students at Aquinas Classical Academy the tools to depict the reality and beauty around them, visually express their ideas, and analyze other works of art.
Michael Holland joins Aquinas Classical Academy as the Fitness & Health teacher as well as one of the two theology teachers. He was immersed in an abundance of fitness and health during his undergraduate years at St. Martin’s University where he ran, threw, and jumped as a decathlete! During this time, he also fell in love with monastic life in the Benedictine tradition and had the incredible privilege of being fully welcomed by the monastic community for the liturgy of the hours, Mass, meals and regular participation in the monastic schola. More recently, he was able to pursue a Master’s in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Michael, his wife, and their baby boy live in Port Orchard and attend their family’s long-time parish, St. Nicholas in Gig Harbor. Michael’s desire at Aquinas Classical Academy is to help students learn to keep Christ central to their daily lives, as well as to always seek God’s loving design throughout their lives.
~Photos courtesy of Milrose Basco Photography ~
TEACHER APPLICANTS: We are accepting applications for the 2022-2023 school year. Please email your resume along with a cover letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cover letter should answer the following questions: Why do you want to work at Aquinas Classical Academy? Why would you be a good fit?
MAILING ADDRESS: 11010 HARBOR HILL DR, STE B203, GIG HARBOR, WA 98332