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Considering School Leadership? Here are 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

Friday, November 20, 2015


As admissions coordinator for the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, I spend a lot of time talking to both teachers and school leaders. I’m fortunate to get the chance to work with many of our current Remick Leaders and graduates — many of whom are principals themselves at the outset of their careers in leadership. They are passionate, energetic, and full of zeal to make God known, loved, and served. They’re doing great work and it’s part of my job to find more of them.

3 Winning Calls from the Playbooks of Exceptional Teachers

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 by Erin Wibbens, Ph.D.


In my work, I am blessed to be in and out of Catholic schools and classrooms all across this country where teachers and students are engaged in the work of teaching and learning. It is true that there are many things on a teacher’s to-do list and, truthfully, that list often feels bottomless. It is also true that the very best teachers I have known attend to a few things exceptionally well. Below is a list of three instructional ideas for more powerful and engaging classroom work:

Have Catholic Schools Missed the Bus on Blended Learning?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

img 3033Blended learning has become a buzzword (or buzz-phrase, perhaps) in education circles, praised as the next big thing in education reform, or criticized as just the next education fad. Is blended learning helpful for students, and more specifically, how can blended learning be helpful—and potentially game-changing—for the unique context of Catholic schools?

I sat down with ACE’s blended learning experts—T.J. D’Agostino, who has helped incorporate successful blended learning models into a number of Catholic schools across the country, and Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C., whose doctoral scholarship and research focused on blended learning in K-12 Catholic schools—to talk about blended learning and how well it translates to the Catholic schools context.

Three Tips to Consider Before Asking for Donations

Monday, November 09, 2015 by Mary Frances "Frankie" Jones

Start Your Donor Ask With These Two Words

December is fast approaching - ‘tis the season of annual appeals and Christmas donation requests. Those who work on the budget side of Catholic schools are usually all too familiar with “the gap.” In many of our Catholic schools, especially those serving low-income families, the tuition we charge does not cover the cost to educate. This revenue gap must often be bridged through the generous donations of benefactors because raising tuition would price out the families we serve. Given the urgency and challenges surrounding fundraising efforts, much attention and time is often devoted to disseminating best practices. As the Director of Development for Saint Ann School in Chicago I found workshops on crafting a compelling appeal letter, tips for engaging your alumni base, and strategies for perfecting “the ask” to be readily available.

Four Things Every Effective School Leader Does

Thursday, November 05, 2015

4.4.14 ace bus tour chicago 7Today’s school leaders, especially in Catholic schools, wear innumerable hats — curriculum specialist, instructional coach, advancement director, public relations officer, human resources expert, and assessment specialist, just to name a few. Central to all of this is also the crucial role of the principal as spiritual leader of their school — directing the Catholic culture and spiritual growth of the faculty and students,  while still fulfilling all of their other duties.

These tasks might seem overwhelming, and prioritizing can be a real challenge. Here are a few tips that can lend clarity to the often-muddled set of tasks for which  school leaders are responsible:

Celebrating Your School's Cultural Diversity

Tuesday, November 03, 2015 by Clare Roach, M.Ed.


If you want to know how to host a great Culture Night at your school, borrow a play from the playbook of Walt Disney Elementary in Mishawaka, Indiana. To cast a spotlight on the richness of their wonderfully diverse community, this school has hosted a Culture Night every May for the past 16 years. "Every year we try to add a new element as our school and the event evolve," says faculty coordinator and music teacher Robi Davidson. "This is the event at our school that makes me most proud to be a teacher at Walt Disney."

"It really brings our learning community together," says assistant principal Ryan Towner. "At Disney, we speak 23 languages. Most of our families live in nearby apartments and don't always get enough opportunities to interact with one another at school. But on Culture Night, our school community turns out. It's an opportunity to be unified by pride in our children and to celebrate all the richness and benefits we get from being such a diverse community."

Of Habits and Hoodies: Forming Saints for the 21st Century

Saturday, October 31, 2015

“To be a Saint is to be myself.” 
Thomas Merton (not yet a Saint)

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My favorite image of any Saint is a photograph I keep on my desk of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, taken in 1895, in a play dressed as St. Joan of Arc.

There’s a beautiful kind of symmetry to the picture. Thérèse, arguably the most popular French Saint of our era, is essentially playing “dress up” of the most popular French Saint of her own era.

It’s a rare picture of Thérèse outside of her traditional habit; and factors into her own origin story. But what I love most about it is just how different Joan and Thérèse turned out to be. One was a zealous military hero, the other was known for her “Little Way,” doing small things with great love. Joan made her mark in combat, Thérèse in the convent.

It’s a common tradition in Catholic schools this week to have some kind of “All Saints Day” celebration wherein we allow students to dress up as their favorite Saints for the day, trading in Batman for Bartholomew, Aquaman for Aquinas. Another picture in my productivity zone is one of my old 8th grade class, taken on All Saints Day, 2011. They’re all dressed up as Catholic Saints. Most of the boys are priests — wearing robes or clerics. The girls, for the most part, are dressed as religious women, in an array of habits and head coverings of different colors.

Celebrating Día de los Muertos: A Melding of Indigenous and Catholic Traditions

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 by Clare Roach, M.Ed.

BlogDiadelosMuertos 2Photo by Nathan Solis, courtesy of the Eastsider LA. Originally appeared in Students learn about love, death & Dia de los Muertos at an East L.A. cemetery, October 30, 2014. For Catholic school teachers, celebrating Día de los Muertos can be a magnificent way to encourage students to pray for and remember their deceased family and friends. It can also be an opportunity to celebrate, honor, and learn from students and families of Mexican and Central American descent and the richness of their cultural heritage.

“the celebration of Día de los Muertos is as beautiful as it is profound”

Like Halloween, Día de los Muertos is a holiday linked to the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls in the Catholic liturgical calendar. But, unlike Halloween, which has become mostly about candy and costumes for the sake of entertainment, Día de los Muertos is a holiday that celebrates the lives of loved ones who have died and the generations of ancestors who have gone before us.

From family picnics at grave sites, to lavishly decorated home altars, to the aroma of marigolds and pan de muerto, the celebration of Día de los Muertos is as beautiful as it is profound. Here are some ways to help children young and old learn about this important holiday.

Integrating Pop Culture in the Classroom

Monday, October 26, 2015


A couple weeks ago, we were lucky enough to hear from Dr. Ernest Morrell, a professor of English Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, on how we can make education socially, culturally, and digitally relevant to our students. While he was teeming with ideas for how to better walk and connect with students (everything from auto-ethnography projects to science rap battles, parent mentoring programs to new titles in multicultural literature), Morell devoted a portion of his talk to this stark reality: that “we compete with the media for students’ values.”

Don’t Think You’re a Catholic School Donor? Think Again

Friday, October 23, 2015


Like many people, I sometimes have trouble sleeping on airplanes. The best solution to this is some reading. Usually, after a few pages or so of an innocuous novel or article my eyelids will get heavy and I’ll knock my head back, mouth agape, and be out for the flight.

That was the plan as I paged through Catholic School Renaissance: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Strengthening a National Asset on a flight to Denver a few days ago.

But much to my surprise, I didn’t doze. In fact, I was riveted. For the whole two-hour flight, I sat in my middle seat, forearms pulled in close like a T-Rex, flipped through the pages, underlined, and made marginalia.

What is 3-Sector Reform - and Why Should You Care?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 by John Schoenig

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We are all to some degree familiar with the phenomenon whereby a word or term is used so often that it ceases to have real meaning. If not, you need only listen to a sports talk show immediately following a championship (regardless of the sport) and pay attention to the number of times a particular team or athlete from the game is referred to as “the greatest of all time” to get a sense for this dynamic.

In the context of K-12 education, the term “reform” often feels as if it is approaching such a point. On some level, this makes sense. In the abstract, reform is something that is quite easy to be for and very difficult to be against. The challenge, of course, is to move past abstraction and get a sense for the particular contours of the reform we’re discussing.

Go Cubs Go: What Catholic Schools Can Learn from the Rise of the Chicago Cubs

Friday, October 16, 2015


There are some things that are just distinctly October. Flannel shirts, pumpkin spiced lattes, the changing leaves . . . and the Chicago Cubs.

What’s that, you say? The Cubs haven’t been to the NLCS in twelve years? The Cubs, infamous for having not won a World Series since 1908, have long been written off by baseball fans as being “cursed.” So while Cubs fans might still associate October more with Steve Bartman than with success, there’s no question that in addition to a crisp breeze, there’s a buzz in the air. The Cubs are rolling.

And that made us think — since baseball is the mother of all metaphors, we in the Catholic school world realized there might actually be a few similarities between the Cubbies and Catholic schools. Here are some thoughts:

Why Learning Engineering is Important, Even for First Graders

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why Learning Engineering is Important, Even for First Graders

If asked to “draw an engineer,” you might, perhaps, draw a man with glasses, sitting alone at his desk. If you did, your picture would match up with those drawn by many students when asked to do the same, even in their early elementary school years.

To combat this, and to promote engineering as a profession and vocation for people from all walks of life, many new science standards incorporate engineering concepts as early as first grade. I spoke with Gina Svarovsky, Assistant Professor of Practice in Engineering Education for the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education, about the reasons for and benefits of incorporating engineering lessons into an elementary curriculum.

Many educators talk about the “engineering pipeline,” the hope that if students are introduced early to engineering, many will enter college knowing about and considering a calling to be an engineer. Svarovsky prefers to see it somewhat differently.

We Can Do Hard Things

Monday, October 12, 2015 by Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

At the end of August my Professional Learning Community conducted our first video chat. Through the wonders of the interwebs, it was delightful to see the smiling faces of our small group of Remick Leaders, now scattered across the nation. Mike Zelenka, a great principal at Incarnation Catholic School in Tampa, FL, thoughtfully led our meeting and reflected on his own experience of coming to Notre Dame for a couple days this summer. Mike spent time in classes and said the conversations about “root beliefs” got him thinking about his own root beliefs. He listed and explained some of the ones he came up with.

Lemme just tell you, they are really good.

An Awesome Week to Work for Catholic Schools

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


What an awesome week to work for American Catholic schools.

For the last decade, every story I’ve seen about Catholic schools in the mainstream media has been a tale of decline and demise, a sad story about a once vibrant system of schools that has entered a phase of decline and is heading toward certain death. Just last month The Atlantic published “The Demise of Private Schools.” In 2013, the New York Times published, “A Lifelines for Minorities, Catholic Schools Retrench.” Time, 2009: “Looking for Solutions to the Catholic-School Crisis.” Education Week, 2012: “Catholic Schools Feeling Squeeze from Charters.” Education Next, 2007: “Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?.” Philadelphia Magazine, 2013: “Will Philadelphia’s Catholic school’s Be Resurrected?.” 

You get the idea.

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