Diocesan educators’ in-service is first in 3 years

The East Tennessee Catholic

More than 350 Catholic school educators from the Diocese of Knoxville’s 10 schools gathered Feb. 21 at Knoxville Catholic High School to do something they haven’t been able to do in nearly four years — meet in person for an in-service session.

It was the first in-person in-service meeting for the diocesan schools faculty since the fall of 2019.

The theme for the day was “Be who God intends you to be and you will set the world on fire: Keeping a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age.”

Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated Mass for the educators and commissioned them in their Catholic school educational ministry.

Diocesan Schools superintendent Dr. Sedonna Prater gave opening remarks about the past three years, focusing on the Catholic school mission, the calling to be Catholic school educators, and the source of the education ministry.

The educators met for grade-level and department-level meetings. Admissions personnel and development directors, counselors, special education teachers, and all other special areas also met to discuss best practices within the grade levels or content areas, to talk about new curriculum resources, and to share ideas.

Lead teachers from across the diocese led the department-level meetings.

One of the guest presenters was Elisabeth Sullivan from the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. Mrs. Sullivan’s presentations were: “Let Them be Born in Wonder: Two Ways of Seeing,” “Cultivating the Imagination Through Picture Study,” and “On the Deeply Human Things: Seven Foundations of Pedagogy.”

Father Randy Stice, director of Liturgy and Worship for the Diocese of Knoxville, also gave a presentation called “Jesus — From the Gospels to the Mass.”

Dr. Prater said Father Stice’s session was so popular it had to be presented twice.

Diocesan educators were also called to give presentations, including Michelle Dougherty of St. John Neumann School in Farragut, Debbie Houbre of St. Joseph School in Knoxville, and Amy Evans of St. Mary School in Oak Ridge, on serving students with special needs and best practices for accomplishing that.

Valerie Hanks, academic dean at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, spoke about using Star assessment data for data-driven instruction, and Sarah Day, also of Sacred Heart Cathedral School, discussed supporting English language learners with comprehensible input.

“As Catholic school educators, we are called to be faithful Christian disciples and to accompany our students on the path to discipleship. It is my hope that the sessions in this in-service inspired and bolstered our educators in their ministry,” Dr. Prater said.

Dr. Prater thanked the Diocese of Knoxville schools personnel for choosing to be a Catholic school faculty member and for again being dedicated to “prepare scholars, leaders, and saints.”

“I hope time with colleagues provided renewal and shared understanding for our educators, and I hope they left with an increased commitment to live out their vocation as Catholic school educators,” Dr. Prater added.

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