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Voices for Inclusion

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 by Diane Freeby & Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D.

Raise Your Voice for Inclusion

“Being part of PIE has been one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences I have encountered, both personally and professionally.”

Colleen Wanner is a first-grade teacher at The Frances Xavier Warde School in Chicago and recently completed the Program for Inclusive Education (PIE)’s 18-credit hour program. As a member of the second PIE cohort, Colleen speaks for many when she touts the benefits of furthering  professional development in order to become truly inclusive. 

PIE provides educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to address diverse student needs.

As Catholic educators, we are called to celebrate the God-given talents and potential of all students, regardless of diverse learning needs. This mission begins with a willingness to learn that as educators we have the power to make change – either comprehensively in our diocese or school or individually within our own classroom.

Michael Fisher, an English teacher at John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham, Alabama, says he is thankful for the opportunity to be part of PIE 2 and complete his certification. “I am definitely proud that I am expanding my education and doing something that will ultimately benefit all my students,” he says. ”I hope I can improve as an educator and work to improve my school environment. I hope that one day my school, and other Catholic schools, will be more inclusive.”

PIE provides educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to address diverse student needs. Inclusive educator programming includes 18 credit hours across four semesters in a unique hybrid that blends online learning with real-time classroom experience. PIE’s team of national experts share evidence-based frameworks and practices that you can apply in your current classroom. The course content begins in May 2020 and culminates with an on-campus experience at the University of Notre Dame in the summer of 2021.

Inclusive education requires that we open our hearts and advocate for all students in our classrooms. We must change the culture and provide schools with the necessary resources to meet every student’s needs. As Patti O’Donnell from St. Patrick’s School in Malvern, Pennsylvania passionately implores, inclusive education begins when you effectively raise your voice for inclusion

Abby Giroux, a member of the PIE 2 cohort, is the assistant principal and science teacher at All Saints Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Abby considers her experience of PIE affirming. “When I reflect on the change I have seen in myself as an educator, and some of the students that have forced me to grow the most, I am humbled,” she says. “I also realize I have a lot to be proud of, and yet a lot of work to still do.”

Evidence-based practices are the cornerstone of PIE. These practices are strategies that are empirically validated as effective. “The Program for Inclusive Education has prepared us to effectively meet the needs of all learners,” says Julie Higgins, a member of PIE 2 and a fifth-grade teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, Arizona. “One evidence-based practice that I use on a regular basis is Collaborative Strategic Reading. It works well with all students regardless of comprehension skills as it reinforces good reading practice, especially with informational texts found in science and social studies.”

"I hope that one day my school, and other Catholic schools, will be more inclusive." - Michael Fisher

Julie discovered that this practice not only helps strong readers improve and become models of good practice with other students. Collaborative Strategic Reading also allows students who struggle with comprehension the opportunity to practice without feeling singled out. “Many times, I will strategically pair students to complete the assigned reading,” says Julie. “They enjoy being able to talk to each other about the text, make predictions about what they will be reading, challenge each other to find and define new vocabulary in the reading, and summarize what was read.” Like PIE, it’s a win-win for all learners!

We at PIE are grateful for the many educators that have a voice for inclusion! Please look for PIE’s upcoming eBook where PIE 2 educators share letters to future inclusive educators and their favorite evidence-based practices.

You too, can raise your voice for inclusion and gain the necessary skills to welcome, serve, and celebrate all of your students. Applications for PIE 4 are open and we invite you to begin your inclusive education journey in 2020-21!  

For questions regarding the application process, please contact program director Dr. Christie Bonfiglio at 574-631-3430 or