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Faith-enveloped, pace-setting Catholic education

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In the schools of the Archdiocese of Miami, students bring innovation, the gift of creation, and service to God’s people to new, unexpected levels. We are accomplishing great things every day. Learning is discovery, and through discovery, each day’s experiences in the classroom, lab or chapel become extraordinary events. Students’ Community Service Learning Projects (mandated in each school) pave the way for future innovation and breathe life into STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), transforming the acronym into STREAMS (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics and service).

Daniela Rodriguez from Blessed Trinity School in Miami Springs provided us with a mind-blowing example. This eighth grade student’s faith, knowledge of science, and her desire to serve others inspired her to create a robot named Steve. Steve captures brain activity and nerve impulses to produce movement. “Using this technology, I was motivated by the fact that maybe one day, my research could affect the lives of many who have prosthetics or use wheelchairs, such as wounded veterans or people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other diseases that affect the neurological system,” she said. This is a service project that will affect many people’s lives in a positive way.

Academically, students have become more engaged in learning tasks that integrate self-selected activities, differentiated tasks, flipped instruction, problem solving, research and analysis. The educational system of our archdiocese is driven by technology and innovation and enveloped by faith and inspiration.

Technology? Not that anyone is counting, but 100 percent of the schools in the archdiocese have embraced new-century technology, educational strategies and techniques. In the high schools, students are fully engaged. Each student has a school-required electronic device. In most cases, this is an iPad. Many of the elementary schools have also implemented 1:1 (a device for each student) programs at specific grade levels, technology carts at some grade levels and interactive boards, display panels and projection systems in others.

The virtual school, which was formerly housed in a parish elementary school, has been transformed into the ADOM-VCS (Archdiocese of Miami Virtual Catholic School) and is now located at Msgr. Edward Pace High School with a new operating platform and a new, national presence in education. Incidentally, it is the first archdiocesan virtual school in the country.

Safety continues to be a high priority in all of our schools. Each site has undergone an in-depth safety assessment. This has resulted in the development of updated safety plans for each school. These plans reflect current research and integrate numerous tactics for increasing security and safety for the students, employees and families that we serve. One special area where this is evident is in new guidelines for morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up.

Finally, marketing continues to be a major focus in all of our schools. Look for the new bumper sticker campaign in January.

Faith, technology, and innovation drive the schools in the archdiocese not only to strive for excellence, but to set the pace for Catholic education and provide new models nationally.

Comments from readers

Gaby - 08/30/2013 04:50 PM
Thank you Dr. Pryzbylski for your post. I too agree that safety in our Catholic schools is of upmost importance. However, I am discouraged by such measures like the new drop-off and pick up procedures at our schools. For me, a main reason for investing in a Catholic education (aside from religious formation) is the close-nit community environment Catholic schools are able to create. A place reminiscent of the "old days" where friendly "Good Mornings" were exchanged by neighbors and good Catholic values were evident to our children through our interactions with each other.

I agree that the new guidelines are well researched and present in various school systems. But in the 'cost-benefit' analysis did we consider the effect on the school communities in PK-8?

For me, the ten-minute walk at the start of my day, to drop of my Kindergartener, was a pause from the hustle and bustle, where she and I could walk together, chat about making the most of this new day God had afforded us and greet parents and friends. It was the time where I reminded my daughter that it was proper to give friendly 'hellos' and when she could witness what care and concern for others looks like. It's sad to admit, but today a friendly greeting to others is often met with skepticism and distain; Our Catholic school was a safe place where we could practice civility in a safe environment.

I am not naive to the horrid things that happen in the world today and understand the need to take precautions. But I am disappointed that the only solution we as a Catholic community have come up with is sterilizing OUR education system.

My morning reflections with my Kindergartener will now be replaced with "make sure you're ready to get out of the car, we can't hold up the line." I will no longer be able to wish her teacher a blessed day or offer a fellow parent a funny story about our kids.

I suppose this is the price my children will have to pay for growing up in a time where people have forgotten how to love one another and respect the gift of life. I just wonder if this is the best way for us to respond to these societal challenges and what we may be conceding in the process.

May God continue to bless and protect our children

Susy Del Riego - 08/27/2013 11:00 AM
Catholic Education has been and continues to be of the utmost importance not only in preparing young people to make a difference in their communities, but in educating us on how to live well now so that we may live with God for all eternity. Congratulations to the Department of Schools and to all the pastors, principals and teachers on their fine work.
Antonio R. Cejas, M.Ed.,Pprincipal - 08/27/2013 09:09 AM

"Community is at the heart of all Catholic education, not simply as a concept to be taught, but as a reality to be lived . . . Your students will learn to understand and appreciate the value of community as they experience love, trust, and loyalty in your school and educational programs, and as they learn to trust all persons as brothers and sisters created by God and redeemed by Christ."
Pope John Paul II

Antonio R. Cejas
Principal
St. Hugh Catholic School
Carlota E. Morales, Ed. D. - 08/26/2013 04:02 PM
Catholic Education: Yesterday, today and tomorrow!

Carlota E.Morales, Ed. D.
Principal
Sts. Peter amd Paul Catholic School

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