Catholic magazine recognizes Howell, Toms River schools as innovations finalists

Two schools in the Diocese were recently selected by Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine as finalists in its Innovations in Catholic Education Awards. In all, 12 awards were presented across four categories for innovative projects in: promoting Catholic identity, curriculum and instruction, technology integration and total community involvement.

St. Veronica School, Howell, and Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, were selected as finalists in the Innovations in Catholic Education Awards by Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine.

St. Veronica School, Howell, is a finalist in promoting Catholic identity, and Donovan Catholic, Toms River, is a finalist in curriculum and instruction. Both schools are invited to the National Catholic Educational Association convention to be held in April in Chicago, where they will receive trophies. Award-winning schools will be featured in the 2019-2020 issues of Today’s Catholic Teacher.

St. Veronica School submitted its “Rejoice and Be Glad” project, which encourages students to live the Beatitudes while incorporating science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics, said Resurrection Sister Cherree Power, principal.

“The theme inspires us … to know that Jesus is sending us to participate in his mission in the world,” said Sister Cherree. “As we began our new school year, we wanted to expand our STEAM program by incorporating religion. We believed this was the perfect opportunity to integrate evangelization as our students learn that all of our lives may be transformed as we live the message of the Beatitudes.”

To accomplish the project, Sister Cherree explained that each class will complete a project that incorporates their Catholic faith with the STEAM lessons. For the past seven months in their professional learning communities, the teachers have been studying Pope Francis’ exhortation “Rejoice and Be Glad” while the students have been learning the meaning of Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount.

The school community will complete grade level, hands-on-learning STEAM projects centered around one of the Beatitudes on March 26, Sister Cherree said. She noted that she will be accompanied to Chicago for the NCEA convention by Father Vincent Euk, St. Veronica Parish pastor, as well as school staff members.

In describing Donovan Catholic’s project, vice principal Kathleen D’Andrea, said, “Innovative curriculum does not just take place in the classroom.”

D’Andrea explained that several years ago, the school wrote a plan called Blueprint 2020, with the knowledge that education in the 21st century would be “different and far-reaching.” One issue the school concentrated on was the importance of intercultural understanding and, “we decided to broaden our educational experiences to include opportunities for global awareness,” she said.

D’Andrea spoke of how one of Donovan Catholic’s Blueprint 2020 goals was to apply to be an International Baccalaureate school.

“In February 2017, we received the anticipated letter announcing that Donovan Catholic was now authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to its students, bringing international mindedness to the forefront of curriculum,” she said. “But even before this exciting news, Donovan Catholic had realized that our graduates needed to be prepared to live and work in a world that would demand awareness and tolerance of other cultures.

“We explored ways to add an international element to our everyday school atmosphere,” she said, referring to how countries around the world are polarized and violence dominates the news.

“We believe that respect for one another and belief in individual dignity is paramount,” D’Andrea said. “We need to communicate across borders. It is our responsibility to develop and nurture a global awareness in our students, and Donovan Catholic has always believed in experiential learning.”

D’Andrea added that it is rewarding for the school to be recognized for its learning that happens outside the classroom and for offering students the program that stresses international mindedness.

D’Andrea is expected to join Donovan Catholic principal Dr. Edward Gere at the NCEA convention.

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