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And Just Like That...There Were 2!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019 by Christine Bonfiglio, Ph.D.

PIE 2 Group Photo

I’m not sure how it happened...but it is fall in South Bend, and the University of Notre Dame has renewed energy. People are walking to and from class and events, instruction and research are underway, the reverence of spiritual formation is powerful, and Irish football posted a “W” against Louisville in the season opener. Campus is alive and well after a short-lived summer break.

In the blink of an eye, the 2018-19 academic year has come and gone and the Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) has completed its second full year with much to show in advancing the mission of inclusion in Catholic schools. PIE has extended professional development across the country, impacting the lives of thousands of students and families. We now have two completed cohorts of inclusive educators who welcome, serve, and celebrate ALL students.

"This mission requires us all to unite, advocate, and assist, ensuring all are welcome in our schools."

As I reflect on the many experiences of the last year, I would be remiss if I did not express my gratitude for the many amazing educators who serve and sacrifice each day to impact the lives of students with diverse learning needs. This year, PIE experienced the joys and struggles of educators from all across the country. Our professional development travels have confirmed both the need and the passion to open our doors to students on the margins.

PIE has been blessed to collaborate with other inclusion warriors on research, writing, and presentations at state, regional, and national conferences. Moreover, we are partnering with boards and foundations to support the planning and implementation of inclusive practices. This mission requires us all to unite, advocate, and assist, ensuring all are welcome in our schools.

This year, 16 devoted educators across nine states said “Yes!” and completed PIE 2. These general educators (both elementary and secondary), resource teachers, principals, and directors of inclusive practice completed three semesters of online instruction, making their way to the second summer capstone on Our Lady’s campus. PIE 2 spent two weeks in a culminating experience exploring best practice, building community, and affirming our call to serve. It was a time of spiritual reflection, intense instruction, and many tears and laughter. The running joke was whether we needed tissue for class!

Here are a few highlights of our time together...

Opening Dinner

PIE welcomed its 2nd cohort to campus with an opening dinner. It was the first time they had met one another face-to-face. However, the online community building made it feel more like a reunion than a first time gathering.

Spiritual Retreat in the Log Chapel

Customary to our online academic instruction, PIE led with its spiritual pillar. Our two weeks began with Spiritual Retreat in Notre Dame’s Log Chapel. Notre Dame is blessed to have so many amazing spiritual places on campus. 

Engaging Classroom Instruction

Class time was not a series of all day lectures. Rather, PIE educators experienced theory and skills in a unique way ensuring implementation in the classroom.

National Experts on Special Education Law/Policy, Sensory Integration, and Advocacy

Leading national experts delivered valuable instruction on specialized topics of special education law/policy, sensory integration, and advocacy. They brought a unique perspective unparalleled to textbook learning.

Dr. David Bateman - Professor, Shippensburg University
National Expert in Special Education Law/Policy

Dr. Tim Davis - Professor, Cortland SUNY
National Expert in Sensory Integration/Regulation & Adaptive PE

Beth Foraker - Founder of National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion
Patrick Foraker - Sophomore at George Mason University

Presentations from Students with Disabilities

Patrick Foraker, Dr. Christie Bonfiglio, Nolan Smith, & Chris Freeby
Guest presenters on the Impacts of Inclusion: A Personal Story

Engaging Capstone Presentations

PIE’s capstone was not a research paper or a poster session. Rather PIE educators participated in Inclusion Shark Tank wherein they “pitched” inclusion in Catholic schools for an “inclusion grant.”

Community Building

Community building and engaging one another and people on Notre Dame’s campus was a gift throughout the two weeks.


PIE 2 had the privilege of baking cookies with ACE Chaplain Fr. Joe Carey, CSC in his apartment...a long-lived tradition on campus. Thank you, Fr. Joe!

We also had the pleasure of a night away from campus. A great meal at Rocco’s-a staple of South Bend followed by a night at the S.B. Cubs ballpark. It was a fun time for all!

A visit to Notre Dame would not be complete without touring Notre Dame Stadium--the House that Rockne built. It was a great privilege to run out of the tunnel and onto the field (minus the smoke and gold helmets!).

Inclusion Colleagues and Life-Long Friends

Despite the crazy schedule, there was plenty of down time together. It was during these special moments that beautiful friendships were formed. 

It was a crazy, whirlwind of “blessing!” That is the only way to describe the experience… “blessing!” PIE 2 entered the program as a diverse group of educators scattered across the country with one thing in common–a heart for serving ALL students. They progressed through the program as collaborators and colleagues. They completed the on campus experience as kindred spirits and life-long friends. 

And just like that...there were 2!

Would you like to join our next cohort of inclusive educators? Applications open October 1st! Visit ace.nd.edu/inclusion for more details!

About the Author

Christine Bonfiglio, Ph.D.

Christine Bonfiglio, Ph.D.

Dr. Christie Bonfiglio serves as the Director for both the Office of Professional Standards and Graduate Studies and the Program for Inclusive Education in the Alliance for Catholic Education. She is a faculty member with the Program for Inclusive Education and the ACE Teaching Fellows program, and a teaching professor within the Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Dr. Bonfiglio is a school psychologist by training, a researcher, and a national presenter. With a background in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) and academic and behavioral interventions, she works to collaborate with Catholic schools in supporting all students inclusively.

Prior to joining ACE in July of 2014, Dr. Bonfiglio served as the Department Chair and Director of Special Education for the Teacher Education Department at Goshen College. At Goshen College, her responsibilities included teacher training in the field of mild to moderate disabilities and the accreditation of academic programming in teacher education. Dr. Bonfiglio has practical experience in collaborating with teachers, professional, and families; supporting students with academic and behavioral variability; and facilitating the child study team. She is passionate about meaningful inclusion of all learners in Catholic schools and how each student’s gifts create a vibrant community.