Fifty-six new Catholic school teachers met for orientation at Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Blackwood Tuesday, Aug. 23.
On the heels of Labor Day, they will greet students in 28 elementary schools and six high schools, teaching across a curriculum that includes math, language arts, sciences, history, social studies, humanities, religion, foreign languages, technology, music and art. They will teach children with special needs and students earning college credit in advanced placement classes.
Many will add playground and lunch duty, school clubs and after-school support to their rosters as well.
“Our teachers really see their work as a vocation,” said Superintendent Mary Boyle. “They value the ability to teach beyond the common core, linking faith-based values with academic excellence.”
More than half the new teachers most recently served in public schools. Following an opening prayer, they were asked to write down the first three words or phrases that came to mind when they heard the term Catholic Identity. A quick tally showed the top three answers: faith, Christ-centered and service. Trailing closely were spirituality, hope and love.
Their responses were in line with Boyle’s deeper dive into Catholic Identity for diocesan schools. “We are a community in Christ,” she said. “We place a high value on service to others and expressions of thanksgiving.” Boyle reinforced the important role teachers, administrators and staff play in faith formation, in and out of the classroom.
Dr. Bill Watson, director of Curriculum and Assessment, talked about infusing Catholic Identity into the curriculum.
“Faith is intertwined in everything we do,” he said. “We’re helping students live uprightly and morally in a complex world.”
Watson also stressed the rigor of the academic curriculum, which was created in partnership with the University of Notre Dame.
“It’s your job to put the curriculum into practice in a way that meets your students’ unique needs,” Watson told teachers, adding they also have a good deal of latitude in selecting teaching resources to use in their classrooms.
Teachers compared notes over lunchtime, admitting they were pleasantly surprised by the flexibility and room for creativity.
“At [my prior] school, it was all about ‘teaching to the test’ with whatever materials the school gave you. It was restrictive. Here, we can talk about God and teach to the whole child,” said an incoming elementary school teacher.
Donna Throop, a new resource teacher at Saint Joseph Pro-Cathedral in Camden, is thrilled to add Catholic school experience to a teaching career that spans elementary through college levels. Throop is a former Catholic school parent. Following the untimely closure of her daughter’s school and the closest neighboring Catholic school, Throop’s daughter and several other displaced students graduated from their local public middle school.
“Almost every award at eighth grade graduation, the recipients were from Catholic school. It was so obvious,” said Throop, referring to the excellent foundation her daughter and others received in Catholic school. With confidence and a big smile, she summed it up by saying, “the proof’s in the pudding!”
South Jersey Catholic schools will open Sept. 6. To find a school near you, visit camdendiocese.org/schools or call the Office of Catholic Schools at 856-583-6103.
Mary Beth Peabody is Communications and Marketing Manager, Office of Catholic Schools.
For more information about Catholic schools in South Jersey visit www.camdendiocese.org/schools (856-583-6103).