WILKES-BARRE – As a new academic year begins for the Diocese of Scranton Catholic School System, educators and administrators are focusing on student growth.
“Every single day counts,” Kristen Donohue, Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Education/Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said during the Diocesan Teachers’ Institute on Sept. 26, 2022, at Holy Redeemer High School.
Each year, hundreds of Catholic school educators and administrators from all 19 Diocesan schools gather for the Diocesan Teachers’ Institute. The day-long Institute began with the celebration of Mass led by the Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, and continued with teachers learning from one another at breakout sessions.
Donohue provided the day’s keynote presentation where she outlined growth goals that include attention to Catholic Identity, STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics), Differentiated Instruction and Social Emotional Learning.
“Every student who comes to us, every single one, can grow,” Donohue explained. “We have an incredible opportunity to promote growth for each of our students. We are their biggest cheerleaders.”
During her presentation, Donohue explained how students learn in different ways and at different paces. She also challenged each educator in the audience to have a “growth mindset” instead of a “fixed mindset.”
In a “growth mindset,” a student’s natural abilities are enhanced by a nurturing environment. Under a “fixed mindset,” it is believed that a student is born with only a certain amount of intelligence and/or talent that is unchangeable.
“It takes intentional planning and making sure that that you’re thinking about what is really going to challenge a student in order to give them that rigorous education that they need,” she explained.
Following the keynote presentation, the educators were able to choose between breakout sessions that focused on one of the identified growth goals.
Father Ryan Glenn, Assistant Pastor of Saint Matthew Parish in East Stroudsburg, presented one of the breakout sessions focused on Catholic Identity.
Father Ryan, who has served as Chaplain of Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High School for the last three years, emphasized the teachings of Popes Benedict and Francis who said we need to be people who pray, people who serve and people who proclaim Jesus.
“That happens in our classrooms, that happens when we gather for Mass, it happens on our sports teams but it is always going back to those three fundamentals,” he explained.
He also said it is vital for parishes and schools to see each other as partners in mission.
“We need our students to come to our parish and to join us for the Sunday Eucharist and to be a part of the community and likewise, we need our parishioners to support our schools, whether it is financially or whether it is in support of the values of Catholic education. I think there is just a great harmony between our parishes and our schools and hopefully that keeps going,” Father Ryan said.
Geralyn Durham, a first grade teacher at Notre Dame Elementary School focused on the Catholic School System’s STREAM initiative.
Her interactive presentation focused on how to use “3D Doodle” pens to enhance lessons.
“It’s almost like a glue gun that heats up, but doesn’t get too hot to touch and we have plastic filament sticks that go in the end and melt and they come out as a liquid and dry immediately,” Durham said.
Describing the pens as an early version of a 3D printer, she explained how she uses the pens in many different lessons, including explaining the life cycle of a butterfly.
“They love it. It takes learning to the next level. I can stand up there and talk about the life cycles of a butterfly but when they’re actually doing it, hands on, in front of them, tracing and welding the parts together, they love it,” the educator emphasized.
During her earlier remarks, Donohue emphasized the outstanding projects Catholic school educators have developed as they have embraced the STREAM initiative.
“The opportunities that you provide with STREAM are really allowing our students to think critically, use their talents differently and be creative,” Donohue said.