Catholic educators gain perspective on faith, curriculum

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

The opportunity to gain a Catholic perspective on faith and curriculum drew some Catholic school educators from the Diocese of Davenport to last month’s National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) convention in Chicago.

Contributed
Staff from Burlington-Notre Dame visited Millennium Park in Chicago during the National Catholic Education Association convention last month.

Judi Simon, assistant principal at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School in Burlington, attended the convention for the first time because she thought it would help her to evangelize the Catholic message in school. She desires to serve as a role model for the school staff. Her attendance at the convention was a benefit to her efforts.

For Simon, a highlight of the April 23-25 convention was the opening Mass. “It rejuvenated me to reinforce my Catholic faith and it was wonderful to have so much energy at the Mass. I enjoyed all of the workshops I attended and I learned a lot from the other staff that attended as well.” She especially appreciated a session on school finances, which is “a huge concern in all of our schools in the diocese.” She hopes the ideas she brought home will enhance the ability to weave Catholicism through curriculum that she purchased for the next school year.

Joshua Hopper, Notre Dame’s band instructor, also attended for the first time. “I wanted to try something new and see if I could learn more about teaching through a Catholic perspective.”

Sessions titled “There’s a Hole in My Bucket,” and “Helping Hurting Teens,” were impactful. The latter session was beneficial in identifying some of the signs of depression or other kinds of personal conflict, he said. Inspired by the conference, he hopes to try more personality types of activities with his band students and help them to enhance their interactions.

Principal Sharon Roling of St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt said NCEA always provides valuable information for teachers and administrators. She enjoys the opportunity to network with other professionals and talk with vendors about what is available to schools.
“The session that stuck with me the most was ‘Empowering and Engaging Parents in the School and the Parish.’ The most powerful thought was parents must first acknowledge their role as primary catechists for their children before they can accept it. Parents cannot teach what they do not know.”

She thanked Father Stephen Page, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, for attending. “There were not many priests present who were not principals or school administrators. Having Fr. Page present gave us an additional perspective in our school conversations. We were able to talk right away instead of saying, ‘We need to share this with Father when we get back.’”

Lola Blaser, who teaches grades 6-8 math and religion at St. Joseph, was pleased to see the number of sessions offered about the “Joy of the Gospel.” Some sessions offered basic levels of sharing the joy, she noted.

Blaser loved a session on the intersection of math and religion. “We received many examples of how to bring faith into math class to demonstrate the connectedness of the two subject areas. It was also reaffirming to see how many people in the session have a position similar to mine. I often think only in a small school would there be a combination of math and religion for one teacher.”

Since returning home, Blaser hopes to take ideas on how to make the subject of religion more exciting and memorable for the students. “The idea being that they should be able to know and understand the truths of the faith.”

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