Last week, I had the opportunity to welcome over 850 of our teachers and administrators back to school at our 2017 Diocesan Convocation for Catholic School Educators. In my address to those in attendance, I talked about the interwoven nature of our Catholic Identity and Academics. There was such great excitement in the room as we looked at the direction in which our Catholic schools are heading that I thought I would share some of my reflections.
People often talk about academic excellence and Catholic identity as if they are separate and mutually exclusive ideals. In our schools, however, academic excellence cannot be discussed apart from our Catholic identity. Because we believe that every child is created in the image and likeness of God and because we believe that it is our responsibility to help each of God’s children reach their fullest potential, academic excellence is a necessity to fulfill our mission in Catholic education. This mission challenges us to create educated and articulate global citizens who use their Catholic identity as the lens through which they see the world.
When we keep that as our focus, we realize that we cannot have a “one-size fits all” education. We must begin to create opportunities for learning that are much more personal. We must move from teacher centered to student centered classrooms and we must build learning experiences rather than just lesson plans. Personalized learning opens a host of possibilities for what teachers can do for a child and allows them to meet the needs of each child no matter where he/she is, no matter what his/her strengths, and no matter what his/her ability.
As we move forward in the coming years, our goal is to create innovative and inclusive learning environments in which students acquire knowledge and skills, where they collaborate with each other, where they create together, and where they communicate their learning and discuss its relation with real world issues.
We do not want our Catholic schools to be public schools with a religion class. We can be so much more than that and because of what we believe about God and His creation, we have to be.
By: Steve Cheeseman
Superintendent, Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools