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Welcoming, Serving, and Celebrating all Students

Catholic schools are called to serve justly and inclusively ensuring success for all learners. We believe all are welcome, creating a vibrant, Christian community that celebrates the God-given potential of every student. 

Pope Francis calls us to “build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel welcomed and loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential." Therefore, Catholic schools must do more to embrace their calling to serve all learners, including those who struggle with physical, learning, or behavioral challenges.

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The Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) provides a spectrum of learning opportunities to foster the knowledge, skills, and dispositions for inclusive education through...

We believe

  • All students are made in the image and likeness of God. Inclusive teachers are animated by the principle of human dignity and celebrate the diverse and exceptional characteristics of each student.
  • We are called to educate all students inclusively regardless of need. Inclusive teachers imitate Christ the teacher and reach out to the margins of the classroom cultivating Christ’s love, acceptance, and knowledge everyday.
  • Inclusion is intentional. Inclusive teachers are fully invested—building a culture of inclusion encompassing attitudes, skills, and dispositions while responding justly to ensure success for all students.

Welcome, Serve, Celebrate - Program for Inclusive EducationFREE Inclusive Education Resources!

Sign up to receive more resources from the Program for Inclusive Education and get a free copy of our "17 Strategies for Inclusion", a compilation of trusted resources to help students with academics, behavior, and executive functioning.

Check out more FREE resources

A Little Slice of PIE - Program for Inclusive EducationJoin us for A Little Slice of PIE!

Every 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7 pm ET you'll meet members of the PIE Team, as well as friends of PIE, and learn practical strategies to help welcome, serve, and celebrate all students in your school community!

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The Need for Inclusion

It is estimated that over 185,000 students with physical, cognitive, or behavioral differences attend Catholic schools. Of those students, only 7% have a formal diagnosis that would qualify them for additional services. Although these numbers are smaller than the national average enrolled in public schools (13%) it can be projected that the same needs exist albeit without the qualification. Aside from these students with identifiable differences, many more students have need (e.g., those traditionally limited because of race, poverty, religion, ability) and require support to be successful in a classroom setting. Furthermore, 87% of dioceses surveyed report that schools do not have the capacity to meet the needs of students with learning differences.

The Program for Inclusive Education is here to change that reality.

Notre Dame's Program for Inclusive Education

Advancing Inclusion in Catholic Schools

Since its inception in 2016, the Program for Inclusive Education has worked tirelessly—both through the 18-credit hour formation program and professional development experiences— to form a new generation of educators equipped with the tools and frameworks to bring inclusive education into Catholic schools. 

PIE Inclusive Educators Map

PIE Professional Development Map

Become an Inclusive Educator

The Program for Inclusive Education offers an 18-credit hour educator formation program with deep expertise in educating and advocating for struggling learners. Completion of programming leads to additional certification in Exceptionalities: Mild Intervention.

The Program for Inclusive Education is a four-semester hybrid online/on campus experience delivered by a team of national experts. 

  • Summer I is 5 credits of online programing over 2 courses
    • Foundations of Inclusive Education
    • Critical Elements of Inclusive Education
  • Fall is 4 credits of online programming over 1 course
    • Literacy Methods and Assessment for Inclusion
  • Spring is 4 credits of online programing over 1 course
    • Advance Methods and Assessment for Inclusion
  • Summer II is 5 credits with 1 online course and 1 hybrid course
    • Collaboration, Communication, & Culture
    • Policy & Practice in Special Education

Participants must be an educator in a Catholic school to be considered for admission for the formation program. All educators—including those from public, charter, and non-Catholic private schools—are welcome to take individual courses or participate in our online professional development modules (please see the Professional Development section below for more details). 

Welcome, Serve, Celebrate - Program for Inclusive Education


Professional Development

(Arch)Diocesan keynote sessions possible. General professional development offerings are being restructured. Check back for more information. Online professional development is available to all educators (both in Catholic and non-Catholic schools) and offers content specific online modules for continuing education credits. These modules may be taken individually or as an entire series across each semester. Offsite consultation is available throughout the academic year. 

Professional Development with the Program for Inclusive Education is not one-size-fits-all, much like the expectation for an inclusive classroom. Educators and students alike learn in multiple ways, and our goal is to offer many options to meet your needs. Educators can select from a variety of content modules and courses to advance their practices based on their own professional journeys. Additionally, schools/(arch)dioceses can create PD packages combining several offerings at a reduced rate. PIE is very intentional about differentiating its content based on specific needs. Contact PIE for consultation to customize your experience.

The Holy Father reminds us that “our communities still have difficulties in practicing true inclusion and a full participation that finally becomes ordinary and normal. This requires not only specific techniques and programs, but first of all acknowledgement and welcoming of faces, tenacious and patient certainty that each person is unique and unrepeatable, and each excluded face is an impoverishment of the community.” Our professional development is constructed on the foundational understanding of the assets our diversity of learners presents in our schools.

Professional development establishes a theoretical framework, instills a culture of service, and provides the necessary skills to ensure success for all learners in the classroom. PD is research-based and cultivates best practice.

Prospective content topics include the following:

  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (e.g., Response to Intervention and Positive Behavior Supports)
  • Behavior—Foundation and theory, practical applications, and accommodations
  • Instruction—Differentiation, data analysis, interventions, and accommodations
  • Student Support Teams—Collaboration and data-based decision making
  • Executive Functioning—Foundation and theory, practical applications, and accommodations
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and the interface of technological supports
  • Strategic support for students with learning differences

There is a range of learning opportunities through the Program for Inclusive Education.

  • On-site PD consists of half-, full-, or two-day workshops customized to meet your current needs.
  • Online professional development is available through the edX platform, offering content modules for continuing education credits that may be taken individually or as an entire series across each semester.
  • Off-site consultation is available across the academic year.

(Arch)dioceses have been successful in securing and allocating Title funding to underwrite these offerings for similar ACE professional development opportunities.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you meet the needs of all learners! Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D. -, 574-631-3430

Online Learning Modules

  • Includes four 3-hour units that can be completed independently or as a package. 
  • Integrates research, videos, and evidence-based practices, supporting students with disabilities and struggling learners. 
  • Allows for an interactive, self-paced experience.
  • Provides multiple opportunities to self-reflect or continue the discussion with others in your school.
  • Offers an opportunity to engage in live, virtual discussions with experts in the field.

Register Today!

  1. Inclusion in Catholic Schools: Serving ALL Learners
  2. Understanding Behavior
  3. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
  4. Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

  • Modules are delivered through the Canvas Catalog learning platform across the full calendar year.
  • Cost for each module is $100 per educator ($300 for the entire package). Contact PIE to explore school discounts: or 574-631-3430.
  • Schools may schedule 60-minute, interactive virtual conversations with member(s) of the PIE team to extend learning. These 60-minute conversations serve as great additions to faculty or professional learning community meetings. Cost is $500 per session.
  • Completion certificates will be emailed at the end of the calendar year in December. Requests for early receipt may be made.


Sign up to receive more information and resources from the Program for Inclusive Education and get a free copy of our "17 Strategies for Inclusion", a compilation of trusted resources to help students with academics, behavior, and executive functioning.

Looking for help to access Title funds for your students? Check out this free guide from the PIE team! 

Download the FREE Guide

PIE teaches evidence-based practices that are applicable for students of all ages (preschool through high school). Want to learn more about PIE and these practices?

Please check out this resource to read more about the experiences and practices PIE inclusive educators from around the country. 

Download the FREE Resource

Can't Do vs. Won't Do

Ever wonder why your student isn't completing a task? Many times it is perplexing and you don't know how to proceed. Is it that he/she can't do it or won't do it? Depending on that answer, you will intervene differently. A Skill vs. Performance Assessment or more commonly known as a Can't Do vs. Won't Do Assessment, can efficiently provide you the information you need to address the issue effectively.

1. Identify Barriers and Eliminate Them

Barriers to learning exist. They may be part of the school’s adopted curriculum or something in the physical classroom setting. Identify these barriers and then eliminate them to alter the learning experience for all students. Reflect on the barriers in your classroom. A few examples of barriers with solutions include:

  • Weekly spelling list: Provide multiple means of practice so the student is not concentrating on handwriting. Ex: type, dictate, practice with partner, tactile practice (practicing spelling with shaving cream or sand).
  • Struggling readers needing support with fluency and comprehension: Use digital books, text to speech (audio representation application), visuals representing ideas, and tools that alter reading Lexile levels.
  • Brainstorming before a writing task: Interactive graphic organizers allow learners to generate ideas through visuals, images, color, shapes, text, and other media. Favorite interactive graphic organizers include:
  • Inspiration and Kidspiration: Available as software and application; easy to create learning webs.
  • Popplet: Available as a website and application; images, text, and video are added with a “click” and the web grows.

2. Offer Students a Variety of Ways to Demonstrate Understanding

Multiple choice, vocabulary matching, and essay quizzes/exams are not meant for all students. Offer them options to demonstrate what they know. Consider assessments that allow variety while providing understanding–creating a digital story book, a brief video, an audio podcast, a poster, or a simple cartoon. While we may not be able to replace traditional assessments, we can mix and match formats for learner variability. In this way, you can gauge understanding, engage your learners, and make assessment “fun.” Unique demonstrations include:

3. Know What’s Happening at Home

Sure, we all communicate with our students’ home environments. Some of us use a weekly email, create a newsletter that offers updates, or utilize parent conferences to share needed information. Others might look to catch parents at drop-off and pick-up. Maybe you do a combination of these to ensure information on classroom events, activities, and assignments are shared with the home environment. But is this primarily a one-way street? Simply information dissemination?

Use tools that promote two-way communication, allowing parents to report happenings at home. A Google doc can facilitate ongoing interaction to report important events, challenges, and successes. Perhaps it is a repository for posting completed assignments, accessing various classroom resources, asking questions, or offering suggestions. Communication tools include:

  • ClassDojo Messenger: Allows teachers to send messages, offer updates, share moments, and extend the classroom culture to a online classroom community.
  • EduBlogs: Offer an interactive web presence of posting messages, stories, video, images, and so much more. Parents and students can offer comments and ideas or archive threads for future reference.
  • Seesaw: Offers parents a window into the school day. While students document learning, teachers assess and organize it, making it available to families allowing for seamless communication.
  • Understand what families and students are experiencing with Understood–an online space developed for families of students with learning and attention issues. The site is filled with ideas and strategies for the classroom and home.

4. Learn Something New Because You Want To, Not Because You Have To

Learning is a continuous process, and professional requirements often find us enrolled in a course or workshop. Continuing education credits and courses are always helpful, but don’t forget about just-in-time learning. Consider the growing digital resources at your fingertips. Just-in-time learning sites include:

  • Autism Internet Modules: Developed for educators and parents that offer an array of learning modules for ideas and application including supports for the classroom, workplace, early learning, and general community.
  • IRIS Center: Offers case studies, downloadable resources, presentations, and more all tied to evidence-based practices for ALL learners, particularly those with disabilities.
  • Intervention Central: A plethora of resources, just-in-time lessons, professional learning, and interventions to support learning, behavior, and social emotional development.

5. Integrate Technology with Instructional Practices

The growth in technology tools, particularly applications, can be overwhelming. Don’t worry about staying on top of each and every app; instead, identify a tech tool that supports the area of instruction you are concentrating on or looking to reinforce or improve. A few ideas include:

  • Google’s Voice-to-Text Chrome App: Helps the limited typist or writer.
  • Co:Writer Universal: Facilitates sentence fluency and writing quantity with its word prediction.
  • WatchKnowLearn: Offers a library of video for all subjects, ages, and grades.
  • Digital story books: Allow the creation of modified versions of critical resources while simultaneously offering student demonstration of knowledge through a structured, organized format.
  • BrainPop and BrainPop Junior: Introduce a variety of standard-based ideas with Tim and Moby through a visual interactive introduction that formulates understanding.
  • Newsela: Provide a library of content with an adjustable reading level to differentiate for all learners.

6. Work on the Power of 2 or Maybe 10

Get further connected to access classroom information. Utilize Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to follow fellow educators, professionals, or parents who post instructional ideas and ways to further engage our learners. It’s amazing what 280 characters and periodic checks (maybe once a week) offer in strategies. Or, go old school and join a listserv to obtain daily or weekly updates.

Classroom strategies can be found on:

  • Edutopia: Provides tips and strategies flavored with technology and tools that feature ideas directly from the classroom and teachers.
  • Pinterest: Offer creative ideas for more than interactive bulletin boards. Find reading activities, ways to engage challenging students, and much more from the educational community.
  • Twiducate: Offers a safe, social media closed platform to provide teachers and students a place to extend learning outside of the classroom. It also doubles as a social networking site that is safe for students and can be monitored by school and home.
  • Did you say Quiet or QIAT? An organization seeking to facilitate the consideration and use of technology for struggling students offers a QIAT List- a virtual community to obtain answers to a range of tech related issues.

7. Look to Unplug

What? Isn’t this contrary to Resolution #6? Reconsider the social media that occupies part of your day or week looking for resources that takes you down that rabbit hole. Disconnect from resources that are overwhelming and offer too much information not applicable to your classroom. This might include the myriad of email lists you have subscribed to that clutter your In Box with lesson plan ideas, instructional strategies, and links to websites that you simply do not have time to consider, and yet, feel guilty about not reviewing. Simply unplug from these resources. They make you feel as if you are not doing enough or offer the just-in-time information/solution that you can’t apply tomorrow. Identify the social media/digital time-zappers and simply unplug.

8. Create an Active Learning Space

Explore ways to further involve your students in their own learning. Give them a voice in how they learn and options available to demonstrate understanding. Let them be decision-makers by offering a variety of options. Urge students to align learning to “real issues” relevant to their community, their future, or ideas that impact them and the broader family/community. Use instructional materials that push students while supporting them with structured “guard rails.” Encourage experiences that promote movement in the learning process, reinforcing engagement with peers, educators, and the broader community.

Successful inclusion requires the use of research-based practices. The following guide provides resources to assist educators in meeting the needs of all students.

Download the FREE Guide

Journal of Catholic Education Special Issue: Inclusion in Catholic Schools 

Journal of Catholic EducationThe Program for Inclusive Education team—Christie Bonfiglio, Michael Faggella-Luby, and Sean Smith—joined by Michael Boyle, served as guest editors for a special issue of the Journal of Catholic Education that focuses on inclusion in Catholic schools.

Read the Special Issue

Program for Inclusive Education Blog

Our team would love to hear from you!

For more information on how you can become an Inclusive Educator, contact Abby Giroux at or 574-631-7158.
If you'd like to learn more about PIE's professional development offerings, contact Dr. Christie Bonfiglio at or 574-631-3430.

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