By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
One of the most important jobs teachers have is to educate students on becoming responsible citizens in an ever-changing global society.
To that end, Catholic schools around the Diocese have risen to the challenge and new world language curriculum guidelines will be presented in the Diocese this year, too.
Daniel O’Connell, associate director for curriculum and instruction in the diocesan Office of Catholic Education, facilitated recent meetings of the World Language Committee and explained that the instruction of a foreign language would be expanded to include pre-K this school year.
In regards to starting language instruction at the pre-K level, O’Connell shared “that research shows the earlier you reach a child, the easier it’s going to be to teach that child a language and have them retain that language. The more languages you speak, the more connections you make to people in your neighborhood, people in your community, people in your state and people in your world.”
Most of the Diocese’s schools have French, Spanish, and Italian, while some offer German, Mandarin/Chinese and Latin as well. All high schools teach world languages; most elementary schools do, too, he said.
He also shared that learning about different languages means learning about different cultures. “It opens more doors to looking at other cultures and how they approach their faith, which may be different or similar to how we approach our faith.”
Maryanne Kain, world language department chair and teacher in St. Rose High School, Belmar, served as chairwoman of the diocesan World Language Committee.
“Curriculum is always changing and evolving. It’s never stagnant,” she said. “We need to make sure we are employing best practices and that our students are prepared for college and the future,” she said.
Doing its part to make global citizens, Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, will implement the International Baccalaureate Program this year; it’s one of only 15 schools in the state to do so. The program is a rigorous pre-university program that aligns closely with the educational philosophy at Donovan Catholic, teaching students to become both self-motivated and lifelong learners along with acquiring an international-mindedness to enhance their studies.
Kathy D’Andrea, coordinator of the program at Donovan Catholic, said it’s “the ideal curriculum to bring creative thinking and global awareness to our students. It is a unique opportunity for our students, as we are the only IB school in Ocean County.”
She explained that at the beginning of the 2017-18 academic school year, the collaboration will include 10 full diploma students and 29 students taking one or more individual International Baccalaureate courses.
It will also serve the community of international students.
“As we continue to attract international students from several countries, international-mindedness will be essential to a Donovan Catholic education,” D’Andrea explained.
In addition, schools are also answering the call to teach their students as Catholic Christians to care for all people worldwide.
“This is something that is built into our mission statement at Villa Victoria Academy,” Colleen White, director of admissions at the Ewing school, shared.
“The mission of Villa Victoria Academy, consistent with the vision of the Religious Teachers Filippini, is to educate students to a global view, to uphold the dignity of each individual and to empower students to influence the world in a truly Christian manner,” she said. “We are expanding that this year by employing a campus minister to really solidify our Christian service program and outreach to our neighbors – locally and internationally.”
White added that this year, the school will welcome international students from both China and Africa. “This will give us further opportunities to learn from each other and grow together.”
Students in Mater Dei Prep, Middletown, are also working to develop global leadership among their students.
Charlie Weiss, Mater Dei marketing associate, said members from the Emerging Global Leadership Program are partnering with organizations affiliated with the United Nations on a service project to primarily benefit refugees forced into migration.
Weiss explained that the project will implement a two-fold “Education Tool Kit” that will be sent worldwide to refugees. The first part of the Education Tool Kit will contain lesson plans that will be sent to children who have been forced to flee their homes due to war and terrorism. The second part will contain a digital donation portion, specifically in science, math and English as a Second Language. The collected lesson plans will be used to help continue the education of the refugee children and will be displayed on the www.prep4peace.org website created by Mater Dei Prep freshmen Joseph Stanton. The website will also host interactive discussion boards, mentoring programs and opportunities for all children to be assisted by their peers.
The head of the Emerging Global Leaders Program, George Anthony, said he was inspired by his students’ sudden call to action.
He told of how the project began during a discussion at the United Nations International Day of Peace Conference. After the conference, the students immediately began planning the best approach to getting the necessary educational resources to refugee children.
“It was truly inspiring to see their immediate desire to help these students and join the mission to spread the message of peace and education throughout the world,” he said.
The Emerging Global Leaders are hopeful their “Education Tool Kit” will be selected by the U.N. in September as one of the 15 student projects to be used throughout the world.
“This program has the potential to change the lives of refugee students for the better. In time, this program will be available for all students from all nations,” Weiss said.
In Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, students make an effort to learn more about and donate to their twinning school – Nativity School in Eritrea, northeastern Africa. Last spring, Christian Brother Ghebreyesus Habte visited CBA to talk about the twinning program.
“In keeping with the oath taken by all CBA students, the twinning initiative provides one more avenue for our Academy men to serve and stand for those in need,” said Vincent Ferrara, CBA’s director of marketing and communications. “Throughout the initiative, our students can better learn the importance of helping those whom they might never even meet.”
In Trenton Catholic Academy, Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, president, explained how she sees her school community as reflective of global society.
“At TCA, we are blessed to be a part of a community of learners that are culturally and academically diverse,” she said, explaining that TCA is composed of different faiths and abilities, “and yet, we are able to appreciate these differences, respect each other and get along.”
Meanwhile at Holy Cross School, Rumson, longtime teacher Maryjane Gallo has been dedicated to exposing students to worldwide needs and encouraging them to make a difference.
Her grassroots organization, the Tawawami Children’s Project, raises money to support a grade school she founded in Mwanza, Tanzania. Last year’s Penny Harvest run by Gallo’s sixth-grade students raised more than $2,000.
In June, Gallo received confirmation from Design Outreach and World Vision, a nonprofit humanitarian engineering organization, that funds raised from a cardboard arcade designed, built and run by the school’s now seventh-grade students has had direct impact on 350 people living thousands of miles away by providing a water pump in Africa. The children took on the project when they were fourth-graders.