BRIDGEPORT—A buzz of excitement for the new school year filled the Klein Auditorium at the annual convocation for Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools on Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of teachers, principals and administrators gathered for Mass, a reception and to hear from keynote speaker Thomas Thibodeau.
“That, my friends, is the pearl of Catholic education,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his homily, “to not only know the truths of life but to know the one who is the way, the truth and the life.”
The bishop explained to the educators gathered that they are to act as spiritual mothers and fathers to their students, saying, “It will be by your own striving for holiness that you will come to bring your students to Jesus.”
“That, my friends, is what makes your vocation as Catholic educators so unique, so special and in many ways so divine,” the bishop said.
The Mass was accompanied by beautiful music provided by the Kolbe Cathedral High School Choir directed by Joe Elbertson.
The bishop urged the educators to persevere, thanking them for all they do and acknowledging that it is not easy work, but that it is most important work.
Executive Director of Foundations in Education Holly Doherty-Lemoine, CFRE, provided an update on the 2019 Innovation and Leadership grants through Foundations in Education, for which applications will be open from September 15-October 31. Doherty-Lemoine also announced the availability of a grant writing workshop in the coming month for those who may need assistance.
Dr. Steven Cheeseman, superintendent of schools addressed the gathered, saying, “Just as you were made in God’s image and likeness, so were your students.” Dr. Cheeseman spoke about the importance of recognizing the dignity and uniqueness of each student and how the implementation of personalized learning is allowing and will allow for the focus to be on each student in an individualized, experiential approach.
The personalized learning program, which was implemented in six schools this past academic year, creates a seamless kindergarten to eighth grade blended learning experience that effectively marries the traditional excellence of Catholic schools with the wealth of technology resources available to challenge, inspire and motivate students.
“As you enter your classroom,” said Dr. Cheeseman, “you do so as living witnesses to the faith…you belong to something special.”
Keynote speaker Thomas Thibodeau, a distinguished professor of servant leadership at Viterbo University and the only master’s degree holder of servant leadership in the country, spoke about the importance of compassion. “Perhaps this is who we truly are,” he said, “this deep capacity to care for each other.”
He instructed educators to think of all the children and all the lives that reap the benefit of their goodness.
Thibodeau posed the question, “What do you see in the eyes of your students?” Reminding them that “the secret to the curriculum is in the eyes of the teacher.”
He also encouraged the educators to strengthen relationships among each other, explaining that “the strength of your relationships is correlative to the your relationships with your students.”
Thibodeau also stressed the importance of appreciation and the power of one’s words. “Service is love made visible,” he said, reminding each person present the importance of remembering “the good stuff” when things get tough. “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s love,” he said, complimenting the Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools on their ability to laugh and talk with one another—because that, he said, is the “good stuff.”
(To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport visit: dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com.)