National standards focus of teacher in-service day
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath
WEST SPRINGFIELD – More than 350 teachers gathered at St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Springfield for the annual educators in-service day for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield.
Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, the executive director for the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College was the keynote speaker.
“Today I’m going to be talking about the national standards and benchmarks for effective Catholic schools and how teachers can use those benchmarks to prepare themselves to assess themselves, to take a look at what they’re doing, what their school is doing, so they are effective Catholic schools imbued with Catholic identity,” said Weitzel-O’Neill.
The Roche Center was established at Boston College in 2007 to develop initiatives to help sustain and renew Catholic education across the country. Prior to her post at Boston College, Weitzel-O’Neill served as superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., responsible for 29,000 students.
“One of the things we have to work on is our brand and our brand is that we are Catholic,” said Weitzel-O’Neill (pictured at right). “So that’s our value added. What’s different about that is each one of our Catholic schools has this own unique identity.
"You have the curriculum. You imbue it with Catholic identity in all subjects. You model Catholic identity," she said. "You model what Jesus would have done and you bring in a whole other dimension into the lives of these children. That really doesn’t happen in other schools because it’s simply not permitted.”
Tricia DeSantis, a teacher at St. Mary School in Lee, said that being allowed to talk about Christ with her grade six students is a great gift. She said she considered working at a public school, but added she’s glad she chose a parochial school.
“When you walk into the building, it’s a very warm feeling and there’s a lot of support. The kids are very sweet and you’re able to incorporate a lot of spirituality into lessons, where you can’t in public schools,” DeSantis explained. “It makes us a closer community.”
Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph Andrea Ciszewski, the superintendent of schools for the diocese, said the annual in-service day helps teachers return to school inspired and energized.
“So I hope from this day, I hope the administrators and teachers take the knowledge they’ve gleaned and go back to their schools and actually implement what they learned today,” said Sister Ciszewski. She added that the more than 400 Catholic schoolteachers in the diocese are part of a crucial ministry.
“We are able to teach the entire child. That means we have the mind, body and spirit," Sister Ciszewski said. "We really make sure the academics are kept high, that we follow the standards. But also we have the opportunity to teach the child and help form them with their relationship with God. And that is key. That is why we exist. Christ is the reason for the existence of our schools.”
For more on this story, tune into an upcoming edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.