To Teach as Jesus Did:
Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
"Catholic Schools: Distinguished by Excellence"
As we approach the end of autumn and the traditional time of sharing student progress reports in many schools, we’re mindful of our commitment as Catholic school educators to be accountable in our pursuit of excellence.
For over 175 years, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have been known for their rigor, discipline, and high standards. Ask any graduate from an archdiocesan Catholic elementary or secondary school, from any point in history, what he or she remembers most vividly from past personal experiences in Catholic education, and the answer is almost inevitably the same: “I was very well prepared for the next step in my life.” Whatever that might have been.
Distinguished by Excellence, another of the Defining Characteristics of Catholic Schools, https://catholicschoolstandards.org, is foundational to our roles as Catholic school leaders, teachers, and staff members. No matter what we do or what populations we serve, we are impelled by the conviction that “good enough” cannot be “good enough” for those entrusted to our care.
The challenge to strive for excellence and to stay on the cutting edge of meaningful educational research, knowledge, and pedagogy is not new or arbitrary for Catholic schools. The Code of Canon Law has long prescribed that “those who are in charge of Catholic schools are to ensure, under the supervision of the local Ordinary, that the formation given in them is, in its academic standards, at least as outstanding as that in other schools in the area (Canon 806 #2) Similarly, educators themselves are to be “very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world (Gravissimum Educationis 8).
As we reflect together on this first season of the school year and look ahead to the opportunities for growth in educational excellence that remain in 2019 – 2020, let’s consider the following:
- What structures are in place in our school for regularly evaluating the content areas of our curriculum, the quality of our co-curricular programming, and the effectiveness of our instruction in light of student performance? How do we systematically integrate such evaluation into the cycle of our year?
- On a personal level and as a school community, what practical changes can we identify that would increase our competence and strengthen our impact? In what areas might we need to move beyond “good enough?”
- Who are the formal and informal leaders in our school community who urge us never to “settle” and who push us toward the ideal? What support and gratitude do they receive for the ways in which they inspire excellence?
- As we reflect on the privileges and blessings we enjoy as Catholic educators, what aspects of our ministry most clearly manifest the presence and the power of God?
Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!
Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools