Local

Emmanuel, Schools Office collaborate to support teachers, principals

bySpecial to The Pilot
8/1/2008

Over the past two years, the Carolyn A. Lynch Institute of Emmanuel College and the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese of Boston have worked closely together to plan and provide professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators serving students in inner-city Catholic schools.

The Carolyn A. Lynch Institute of Emmanuel College is a collaborative initiative aimed at developing and retaining teachers in urban schools. The reality-based and practical programs developed by the Institute prepare teachers for the urban environment, enable new and veteran teachers to collaborate and share knowledge, address the shortfalls of math and science education and offer professional support.

With support from the resources provided through the Title IIA (The Improving Teacher Quality program) and Title IID (Enhancing Education through Technology) grants, Emmanuel and the Catholic Schools Office have been able to maximize the benefit of professional development for teachers and principals. To date, more than 640 Catholic school teachers have participated in courses emphasizing content and instructional techniques in writing and mathematics as well as techniques of standards-based instruction and behavior management.

One of the major initiatives in advancing the principles and techniques of standards-based teaching and learning, The Catholic School Leadership Institute at Emmanuel College, involved 280 teachers and principals.

The program helps teachers identify the most essential learning outcomes for their students and provides instructional techniques and assessment tools that will help children achieve at high levels, said Sally Dias, vice president of Programs and Partnerships in Education and Director of the Carolyn A. Lynch Institute. The teachers and the principals have been very interested and enthusiastic about the recommended strategies and their applications to the classroom.

Kathleen Caulfield, Assistant Principal of Holy Name Parish School in West Roxbury, is one of the Catholic school administrators who have taken part in Emmanuels leadership programs and has encouraged her faculty to participate in training activities.

Emmanuel has filled a true need in the Catholic schools with its generous support of professional development for teachers and administrators, she said. The leadership institute, has not only provided the opportunity for administrators, as the instructional leaders of their schools, to expand their horizons in terms of curriculum development, but has also provided the opportunity to dialog with each other -- allowing for the enthusiasm generated in the meetings to be extended to each individual school.

Personally, I have enjoyed every meeting, she added. Education continues to excite me and these workshops were definitely not short on excitement. It has been so rewarding to return to school with concrete ideas and opportunities for the classroom teachers. The teachers are not only receptive to the ideas, but also anxious to implement them. Clearly, the students are the ultimate beneficiaries of the teachers enthusiasm. Providing them with the tools to own their learning is the ultimate goal. The program successfully encourages already successful schools to grow and excel.

Additional support for Boston Catholic School principals has been provided through the recently established Mentor Program, which pairs new principals with veteran principals who help the newcomers transition from the role of teacher to the role of leader. Established last fall, the program currently includes five novice principals and their mentors. The pairs meet regularly at the schools and bi-monthly on Emmanuels campus for training and the opportunity to share experiences.

This past year, Dr. Kathleen Dykstra, a 1962 graduate of Emmanuel College, served as a mentor for first-year principal Nancy Carr of St. Brigid School in South Boston. During the course of the academic year, the two met regularly at St. Brigid, discussing any challenges Carr was experiencing in her new role, with a special focus on the principals role as the supervisor and evaluator of teachers.

I look at my task as responding to needs Nancy has articulated in academic and administrative areas, said Dykstra. We have focused on one task each time I have visited her, such as looking at test scores or walking the building to assess delivery of instruction or evidence of student work exhibited in the classroom. In future meetings we will look at planning for next year to assess professional development needs.

There are many tasks and pressures brought to bear on first-year principals, she added. They need someone to go to for advice, affirmation of what they are doing, or suggestions for improving programs, morale, etc. It is very often the things one does not expect that cause problems for first-year principals...successful retired principals can give the benefit of their experience to the new principals and can encourage them in their work.

Carr expressed appreciation for the professional relationship the pair formed and the opportunity to collaborate and reflect with other novice principals.

To have the opportunity to meet not just with our mentors, but with first-year principals in the archdiocese has been an extremely beneficial experience, she said. We have come together to share successes and failures. Being a first-year principal, I am interested in being part of any group that can help me be the best principal I can be. This program has been the only forum that we have had to be able to sit and reflect on what each of us is going through for the first time on a daily basis.

This summer, Emmanuels Lynch Institute and the Catholic Schools Office continued their collaborative mission by sponsoring a series of professional development institutes for Catholic School teachers. The program, offered the week of June 23rd, provided seven courses for primary, elementary and middle school teachers in the content and pedagogy of science, mathematics and social studies and the instructional techniques of writing workshop, differentiated instruction and technology integration. The summer program served approximately 200 teachers.

We are excited about the partnership of Emmanuel with the Catholic Schools Office and the opportunity to work with such an enthusiastic and capable group of Catholic school teachers and principals, said Dias. We look forward to our continued collaboration on professional development activities.