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Catholic Faith Formation Day for educators

Catholic schools need to be joyful, innovative places to grow and thrive, the director and superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told nearly 235 Catholic school educators and administrators at the Catholic Faith Formation Day Oct. 16 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
“Innovation does not mean iPads is every kid’s hands. You can be very innovative without technology,” Dr. Kevin Baxter said, explaining innovation is celebrating successes and improving on past performances. “Avoid staleness. We want to be a continually growing organization. We must be continually growing individuals.”
 
More than maintenance is needed, said Baxter, who is responsible for coordinating and implementing the vision for growth for Catholic schools in the archdiocese with a student population of 80,000 from preschool through grade 12. “Change is a requirement for growth.”
 
Innovation can come in such areas as technology integration, curriculum innovation and governance innovation. He encouraged his listeners to be bold and creative and not to be satisfied with always doing things the way they’ve always been done.
 
“In order to be a great school, you have to face the brutal facts of your current reality,” he said. “This is the seed of innovation.”
 
Baxter, a part-time faculty member in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, encouraged the creation of a culture in which people can be heard, not worrying about what cannot be controlled (like the economy or the increase in charter schools) and not losing faith.
 
St. Michael School in Brattleboro is poised to meet the emerging needs of 21st-century education and extend its tradition of excellence through a set of innovative changes, noted Principal Elaine Beam. At the heart of its principal initiative will be a  curriculum of classical liberal arts. "The new high school program, emphasizing academic excellence, will feature a classical  curriculum, an integrated program of instruction and  the introduction of seminar-style instruction," she said.

St. Michael's already has added a high school program.

She concurred with Baxter's remark, “We want to be a continually growing organization.” At St. Michael School, she added, "observing the need for innovation, and acting boldly to realize it, incline the school to continual growth."

Basing much of his talk on Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” (“Evangelii Gaudium”), Baxter said Catholic schools — like the Church — must operate with joy because “the real mark of a Christian is joy.”
 
Yet he acknowledged that people live and work with barriers to joy: defeatism, “sourpusses” who can sap energy, competition from a technological society, conflict.
 
Baxter encouraged constructively dealing directly with persons with whom there is conflict and forgiving. “Forgiveness is a grace for ourselves,” he added, because holding on to a wrong “burdens us.”
 
To live and work with true joy, he emphasized, “we must have constructive debate and disagree at times but always be able to forgive. … The idea of forgiveness is crucial.”
 
Baxter called upon the school personnel to uplift others and bring them joy.
 
Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, interim principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and principal of St. Therese Digital Academy, welcomed the educators to the conference, told participants at the conference they are called “to be madly in love with God.”
 
“When you are, people feel it,” she said.
 
Also presenting at the event was Ben Walther, a singer, songwriter and worship leader.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne celebrated Mass for the formation day participants in the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel.
 
The daylong event, sponsored by the Diocese, was an opportunity for the educators to deepen and focus on their faith.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

St. Michael's high school accreditation

Rodney Duteau and Catherine Mazzer, both 16-year-old sophomores at St. Michael’s School in Brattleboro, began their education there as freshmen. He had attended public school through grade eight; she was homeschooled. Both look forward to completing their high school education at the Catholic school that now has received both regional and state accreditation through grade 12.
 
She likes the family atmosphere and small class size. He appreciates the faith-based education and the confidence instilled in students.
 
Last year the New England Association of Schools and Colleges expanded St. Michael’s School’s accreditation from a pre-kindergarten through grade-eight school to one that educates students through grade 12. And in April the Vermont State Board of Education granted the school approval to include all high school grades.
 
The school currently goes to 10th grade, and plans call for one grade to be added each year until the high school section includes grades nine through 12.
 
There are currently five students in the ninth grade and seven in tenth. In the fall a dozen students are expected to be enrolled as freshmen, five as sophomores and eight as juniors. The goal is to have 10-20 students per class eventually.
 
“This is very promising,” said Principal Elaine Beam.
 
The Walnut Street school building used to house both elementary and high school grades, but the high school closed in 1968. The high school reopened in 2015, and the first class is expected to graduate in 2019.
 
The high school is filling a need in the tri-state area for not only a solid academic education addressing individual learners and a religious-based education but for a secondary education that prepares young people to become “invested citizens,” said Bethany Thies, the school’s development/admissions director.
 
The community aspect of the school is also important to parents, Beam said. “We are a Catholic school for all children not a school for Catholic children.”
 
Numerous families have joined or returned to the Church through the children’s experience at St. Michael’s School. “The New Evangelization is Catholic schools bringing people into a loving, respectful, caring community and presenting them with opportunities to feel God’s grace in a safe environment,” Thies said.
 
And if parents want a St. Michael’s education for their children but have difficulty affording tuition, scholarships are available. “If you desire to be here, we do everything we can to make it happen,” Thies said, noting St. Michael Parish has been generous with aid.
 
Beam hopes that during the next academic year, when more courses are added, St. Michael’s School will participate with the Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy with a sharing of staff.
 
The Brattleboro school also is connecting with local educational resources and community leaders to offer additional hands-on learning experiences that support classroom learning and get students “invested in being community citizens,” Thies said.
 
“I love the education here,” said Rodney, one of the sophomores. “I feel confident to go out into the world from here.”
 
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Advent projects at St. Michael School in Brattleboro deliver joy

O what charitable works the students at St. Michael School in Brattleboro are doing for Advent!
 
They are not just learning about the holy season of preparation for Christmas, they are reaching out to others with messages of compassion, hope and love.
 
Students in second, third, fourth and fifth grades, for example, are involved in projects to benefit residents of elder care homes. The younger children are making Jesse Tree ornaments with residents of Bradley House, a residential care facility. The older students are making Advent cards with O Antiphon and Advent wreath themes to be delivered by eighth, ninth and tenth graders when they visit nursing homes to assist Father Justin Baker, pastor of St. Michael Parish, with weekly Masses.
 
“Advent brings joy, and the joy our students bring to the nursing homes is twofold – joy for our students and joy for the senior members of our community,” said Elaine Beam, principal. “Advent is a season, not one event. This is an opportunity for students to prepare with senior members of our community for Christmas.”
 
The projects are among the ways students connect with members of the wider community through service.
 
Third graders Brendan Rose-Fish and John Mazzer explained the Jesse Tree project taking place in their classroom. “It’s something we do in Advent to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus,” John said. “The ornaments that hang on the (Jesse) tree tell stories that are in the Bible about the promise that God made to His people that He would send a savior,” Brendan added.
 
Among the symbols are an apple for the story of Adam and Eve and a rainbow to represent the story of Noah and the flood.
 
Every other Thursday the second and third graders visit residents of Bradley House as part of the Catholic school’s community service.
 
Brendan and John like to go there and hear residents’ stories and play games. “Jesus teaches us to do this,” John said. “He wants us to be nice to other people and love your neighbor as yourself,” Brendan added.
 
The fourth and fifth graders talked about their Advent card project as they colored, cut and glued their cards. “Advent is getting ready for Jesus to come, and we want people to feel Jesus is also coming for them,” said fifth grader Annabelle Thies.
 
“We’re doing this to lift up their spirits,” contributed Bobby Ellis, a fourth grader.
 
“They should know God is still with them even if they are lonely or sick,” fifth grader Emma Gragen said of the seniors who will receive the Advent cards.
 
O Antiphons accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from Dec. 17-23, using ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament and present hopes.
 
Among the O Antiphons are O Wisdom, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn and O Emmanuel.
 
“Jesus inspires us to believe in Him…and to treat other people the same way you’d treat yourself,” fifth grader Kateri Laflamme said.
 
These are lessons students at St. Michael School learn and live there daily, not just during Advent.
 
“I hope it inspires people to believe in Jesus and to be kind to other people,” fourth grader Jayke Glidden concluded.
 
 
  • Published in Schools
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