Nearly 100 new teachers, who have joined the Diocese of Venice for the 2022-2023 Academic Year, were warmly welcomed during an orientation session on July 29, 2022, at Epiphany Cathedral Parish Hall in Venice. Much of this increase is due to new enrollment.
Jesuit Father John Belmonte, Superintendent of Catholic Education, opened the meeting with morning prayer. Father explained how starting all days centered on God is part of our Faith tradition, and this will strengthen the teacher each day and throughout the school year.
“By praying the morning offering, a very simple prayer which captures who we are as Catholic educators – dedicating our entire day to God,” Father Belmonte said.
To accomplish this, Father Belmonte said their work will reinforce the building of a “Catholic School Culture,” wherever they, as teachers, are assigned. A “Catholic School Culture” is the vision, values, systems, language, expectations, behaviors, and beliefs that increase a school’s and Diocese’s chances of accomplishing the strategy of fulfilling its mission: to introduce the world to its Savior.
During a midday Mass, Father Belmonte told the new teachers how the Lord wants them to set aside their worries, with the classroom and teaching as their chance to focus.
“Focus, not on yourselves or on your worries; instead focus always on the Lord to challenge your priorities. Focus on Christ always in your classrooms, this allows you to focus on your students and on their needs,” Father continued. “Do not be afraid or preoccupied by unfamiliar curriculum. The message is to make the Lord our priority.”
Throughout the day, the new teachers, learned about the Diocese and the crucial role they will play in helping to build up the faith-life of the students and families with whom they will interact. The group comes to their new positions with a wide variety of personal and professional experiences and skills. A few in the group are new to teaching and were joyfully welcomed. Still others have years of experience. It was also revealed that many moved to the Diocese in the past three years.
Being a Catholic educator is no easy task in a culture where there are countless external influences as people are bombarded by messages that are contrary to the Faith. This, Father continued, makes it increasingly difficult to get out the message of our Catholic traditions, values and faith into the world.
“We are facing huge headwinds as a Church and as a culture,” Father Belmonte continued. “That just places, in my opinion, even more importance on what we do. In a sense it has never been more important to have you do what you do because of all the things our children and families face.”
Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Curriculum Specialist, explained that the Diocese of Venice Catholic schools “do things better than other school systems. We have lots of programs and procedures in place that might seem overwhelming but is actually great and you will get it eventually.”
Falestiny explained how the Diocese has actively incorporated Catholic values and virtues through the Diocesan curriculum called, “The Gifts of Christ: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Affability, Fortitude, Humility, and Prudence.”
Throughout the day, the new teachers participated in a variety of fun tasks. Falestiny explained that the Diocese uses project-based learning to make learning visible and intentional. She offered a variety of pointers on how to incorporate such learning into the classroom with ease.
Each new teacher was provided with a comprehensive packet of information, as well as links to access numerous online exercises which will help augment their coming classroom work and make any new procedures easier to follow.
The new teachers also learned about the ongoing expansion of a project-based learning effort that is increasing the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) model.
Falestiny described the new partnership with FIRST® (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a company that facilitates a focus on education in robotics and organize the leading robotics competition in the world. This project places students ahead of the curve in primary technology fields while continuing to promote core Catholic virtues. This approach helps students develop cognitive thought processes and gain skills such as leadership, communication, complex problem solving, teamwork and creativity. The FIRST® program began in the fall of 2021 and is in the process of being fully incorporated into the entire Diocesan school system.
This effort, along with other endeavors, was made possible through the generosity of Bishop Frank J. Dewane who made a major investment in student success through his pledge to provide all Diocesan Catholic schools with age-appropriate kits and robots using LEGO products to eventually compete at the highest levels of competition through FIRST®. This is done while incorporating Catholic values and virtues.”
The 15 Diocesan Catholic schools work conscientiously to provide Christ-centered learning experiences that are transportable to the real world and provide the opportunity for children to develop life-long learning skills and to be successful beyond the classroom.
During the orientation, the new teachers also took part in Diocesan Safe Environment training, and learned about their employee benefits from a representative of the Diocesan Human Resources Department, risk management, workplace safety, certifications process, as well as about standard and ethical conduct.
All Diocesan Catholic schools will open the week of Aug. 8. For more information about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/offices/offices-departments/education/.