“Catholic schools are good for America!”
This is a message I not only see on flags, stickers, and posters around my school, but also at work every day in my classroom. As a second-year ACE teacher at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Phoenix, Arizona, I’ve witnessed first-hand just how truly great Catholic schools are for the self-esteem, spirituality, and achievement of our students. I’ve witnessed how presenting middle schoolers with a semester-long science fair project can foster persistence, accountability, and professionalism. I’ve seen how students can take ownership of a project when the theme is how we can best serve others—perhaps through optimal human health, efficient energy usage, or responsible crop management.
The middle school classes at our school recently exhibited their ideas for a better world by presenting in several science fairs in front of professional judges. The first science fair occurred at our own school, and all 179 middle school students completed a project to present. It was obvious that our students approached the science fair with a truly Catholic mindset; a remarkable number of projects featured elements of Catholic Social Teaching, including conscious stewardship of God’s creation and mindfulness of the world community. Of these projects, I was blessed to accompany three students to both the Diocesan and State Science Fairs for the first time in St. Vincent de Paul history. All three students presented on topics that highlighted a concern for the environment, ranging from quality of drinking water to the corrosion of natural resources. I am truly humbled by these students’ willingness to seek solutions to the world’s problems at such a young age; this is how Catholic schools challenge students to think beyond their own personal achievement. Teaching middle school science in a Catholic school has given me hope for my students’ future and shown me that Catholic schools like St. Vincent de Paul truly are good for America.