January 28, 2005

2005 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic School Educator Program gets students ready to teach in Catholic schools

By Brandon A. Evans

The Catholic School Educator Program at Marian College is now in its second year forming Catholic school teachers who want to nourish a student’s soul as well as his or her mind.

The program, made possible by funds from the “Rebuild My Church” program, a project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., is offered as a special track for students who are getting education degrees, but intend to teach in a Catholic school.

Susan Blackwell, chair of the education department at Marian, said that freshmen in the program begin with a few exploratory activities and get together occasionally—but the sophomore year is when things really get rolling.

Each student is paired with a coach at one of five local participating schools: St. Susanna School in Plainfield, St. Malachy School in Brownsburg, and St. Lawrence, St. Christopher and Holy Cross Central schools, all in Indianapolis.

The students are mentored by their coach, and work with them—or another teacher—in the classroom.

On top of that, the students in the Catholic School Educator Program also take a series of theology courses. Part of that training is to show them how to infuse religion into their teaching, Blackwell said.

There are currently 12 freshmen in the program this year, and four sophomores (who were the first to be in the program).

Andrea Beyke, a sophomore in the program, is paired with Lisa Hannon, a ­first-grade teacher at St. Malachy School, as her coach.

Beyke is spending her time once a week observing and teaching math classes to students at the school.

“Any kind of practicum, or classroom teaching, that is required by Marian I will do at this school,” Beyke said. “I will even student-teach at St. Malachy [during] my senior year.”

She will also help to plan prayer services and liturgies for the students.

“I have learned how to incorporate religion into everyday teaching through lesson plans and by living it out as a model for the students,” Beyke said. “I like the program because I’ve always wanted to be involved in the Church through Catholic schools.

“It has helped me build connections, and I know I will be much more prepared to teach in a Catholic setting.”

Beyke said that she would like to teach second grade.

“Younger students are fun to discuss religion with because they have such an open mind,” she said.

Hannon said that her responsibility as a coach requires her to coordinate visits, field experiences and student teaching, along with helping Blackwell to develop a brochure and program guide.

All the coaches also meet on a monthly basis during the school year and once in the summer, she said.

“There’s a lot of ownership on the part of the participating schools for the program because they helped develop it,” Blackwell said.

“I think the biggest challenge of the program has been the fact that, to some extent, we are developing it as we go along,” Hannon said. “We set goals in place, make plans for school visitations and field experiences, and if something doesn’t work, we change it.

“We all work very well together. Since I like a challenge, I think this has also been my favorite thing.”

Hannon has been impressed with the young people in the program, and said that “the students I have met so far demonstrate the importance of their faith through their work.

“Through these young, fresh faces, I see a lot of excitement and enthusiasm,” she said. “I enjoy the opportunity to share my love of teaching and children with another soon-to-be-professional.

“This program has helped me to be a better teacher by reminding me how scary it was to be a teacher-in-training, and makes me more aware of the importance of having good role models in my profession.” †


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