New program offers alternative credentials for Catholic school teachers

New program offers alternative credentials for Catholic school teachers

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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — A Catholic education organization has launched a national teacher credentialing program that provides Catholic educators with vocation-specific training, as well as a potential alternative to a state teaching license.

The Catholic Educator Training and Credentials program was created by the Institute for Liberal Catholic Education (ICLE). Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the organization, told The Tablet that the initiative is, in part, a response to the secular philosophy of state teacher licenses that are often required and do not always align with the approach and values ​​of Catholic education.

Sullivan said the problem with modern secular teacher education is that it is based on a pragmatic philosophy of education that “undermines the wonder and mystery at the heart of faith,” while the Catholic model of education focuses on the arts. liberals.

“There is nothing in pragmatic education that understands the mysteries at the heart of faith or the need to recapture wonder in the classroom and show the integration of knowledge, and how faith and reason do not conflict,” Sullivan explained. “We believe that those men and women who are called to a vocation in Catholic education deserve a formation that is grounded in the beauty and depth of the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

This first iteration of the national credentialing program will begin August 1 and will include 40 K-8 Catholic educators from across the country. It is an 18-month hybrid program featuring five courses on content and pedagogy rooted in Catholic philosophy.

From August 1-5, ICLE educators and staff will gather at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee, for a “boot camp.” They will meet again for five days each in January and June 2023 for a total of 15 days together in person, all with the goal of “catching the spark and growing together in the art of teaching in the light of Christ.” Between the face-to-face sessions, there will be two to three online meetings per month.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Catholic Education, told The Tablet that the program is a response to a need expressed by Catholic bishops, superintendents and principals: to find well-educated Catholics. to fill leadership positions in Catholic education.

Donoghue noted that Catholic schools often require state certification to have a measurable way to ensure quality, even though those certifications sometimes contain elements that “contradict or undermine the faith.”

“This program will help bishops [ensuring quality]but in a way that is totally consistent with the church,” Donoghue said.

At the moment, there are 10 dioceses that will recognize the program as an alternative teacher license and therefore no longer require state teacher licenses, Sullivan said. However, she cautioned that the goal of the program is not for dioceses to deny state teacher licenses, and she “wouldn’t want them to.”

“I look at it as an alternative, but let’s not forget that there are a lot of great people who have state teaching licenses and we don’t want to exclude them,” Sullivan said, noting that many of the program’s applicants have state teaching licenses. and want to use the program to deepen their vocation from a Catholic perspective.

ICLE launched a pilot of the program last year with 28 educators from Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Denver. Abriana Chilelli, associate superintendent of academic renewal for archdiocese schools, told The Tablet that the model fits with the archdiocese’s efforts to “call all of our schools to be who they are” as Catholic institutions.

As a result of the program, said Chilelli, the 28 educators who participated have integrated its contents, particularly with history, literature and theology, in addition to working on the imagination and memory of the students.

“He has really achieved that goal that we set for ourselves,” Chilelli said. “They really get a good grounding in the intellectual tradition of the church, but then especially important to us was the goal of helping our teachers know how to lead children in the classroom in a way that really honors the anthropology of the student and guide the student. to the true.”

Denver is one of 10 dioceses that accepts the ICLE program as a form of teacher certification. Chilelli said that when the first 28 teachers finish the 18-month program, another 30 teachers are already in line to start it in August.

The Denver program works differently from the national program in that ICLE goes to the archdiocese. Sullivan said that next year that model will expand to other dioceses with at least 30 teachers who want to participate in the program.

Meanwhile, next year, ICLE’s national teacher accreditation program will expand to secondary school teachers and will also continue to grow in number.

“We want to reach as many people as we can,” Sullivan said. “We want to have as many people trained across the country who are spreading it to all kinds of Catholic educators.”