It’s Catholic Education Week in Ontario, and Renfrew County Catholic schools have risen to the distance learning challenge!
Catholic educators and administrators have rallied to develop innovative ways to ensure their distinctive curriculum permeated by Gospel values continues to be delivered, including during Catholic Education Week (CEW) 2020. This year’s theme is “Igniting Hope.”
Igniting Hope has been a constant point of reference for the Board throughout the 2019-2020 school year, remarked Jaimie Perry, RCCDSB Director of Education.
“This year’s theme invites us, as Catholic educators in Renfrew County, to stay true to our mission statement—to provide a distinctive curriculum that passes on the Good News of Jesus Christ, makes it relevant in our world today, and fosters hope for the future. Igniting Hope is what we’re all about as Catholic educators.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Arnprior has been igniting hope with a focus during this time of distance learning on ‘connection over perfection’. “We began our journey by sharing morning prayers together each day on Facebook and Twitter. This has been a powerful tool as we work to extend our school community outside of the four walls of our school. We have also held a number of virtual spirit days during the last six weeks with one focused on ‘messages of love and hope’,” shared Julie Huckabone, Principal. “Our social media feed was flooded that day with encouraging statements from staff and students and it helped to further build our sense of community and connection while we are away from each other,” she stated.
Bishop Smith Catholic High School (BSCHS) Principal Brennan Trainor noted that school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a kind of catalyst for students and staff to more actively promote what makes us unique as Catholic schools on a variety of social media platforms.
“Parents and staff are sharing new insights, resources, lessons, strategies and expressions of faith during this time of social isolation. If anything, it has enabled us to grow in appreciation for the gift of hope at the heart of our Catholic educational experience, and to find concrete ways to share it – to be hope for the future,” said Trainor.
In Petawawa, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School has been live streaming their traditional Friday morning prayer services on Facebook. They are recording and sharing Monday morning prayers for the school community, and praying the Board’s Challenge, Struggle, Grace and Hope prayer together as a staff before their weekly virtual staff meetings. One staff member shared how her class was focusing on being stewards of God’s creation, engaged in a novel study centred on love and affirming the dignity of all, and preparing to delve into Christian Meditation.
At Cathedral Catholic School staff created a video for students just after March break and a video from staff for front line and essential workers. “We have been coming together in these unique times to give others hope,” said Principal Natalie Marchment.
Staff at St. John XXIII School in Arnprior have also been igniting hope in their community. Our school has been extremely active with Teachers Against Poverty (TAP) as well as our local food bank. We have been able to service a number of families in the last while, said Principal Christina Brown-McGrath.
“Reaching out and trying to connect with our families on all levels is also an example of igniting hope,” noted Brown-McGrath. “Some the ways we’ve done this is through a staff video message to our kids, staff videotaping themselves reading storybooks and posting them on our school Facebook page and making calls, sending e-mails, etc., to offer support and/or provide encouragement.
Dave Howard, RCCDSB Board Chair, made note of the “professional expertise, personal creativity and genuine spirit of cooperation that have enabled staff to develop unique online learning experiences that address curriculum expectations in distinctive ways,” during the school closures.
Staff and students will also celebrate Catholic education and ignite the hope during Catholic Education Week, May 3-8, through unique, online experiences.
At Holy Name Catholic School, for example, staff and students are joining in for morning prayer and will create and share pictures of their worship space using symbols related to their school as well as the theme of Igniting Hope.
On Monday May 4 students were asked how the book Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah demonstrates the theme of the day, ‘Our Hope in Christ,’ even though Christ is not mentioned by name,” shared Principal Melissa Carroll-Dubeau. “We will join in song. Our staff placed the link in their Google Classroom and online and we shared it with our school parish priest Father Moses.
At Bishop Smith Catholic High School, Chaplaincy leader Angela Watson has invited staff to create Prayer & Growing in Christ folders to give students access to her weekly prayers, reflections and resources. Ms. Watson’s adult faith resources are also being used and shared by many staff: “My hope is that by creating and sharing resources for them, they will ignite a desire for Christ in their students. Albeit virtually, teachers are the direct link to their students and I pray that a relationship with Christ will still bloom in this current online format,” said Watson, Chaplaincy leader.
“The CEW activities taking place this week in schools across our Board serve to remind us of the Gospel values that continue to animate our Catholic schools, and point to a future that is full of hope,” stated Perry.