Conference guides teachers to help ‘exceptional learners’

| June 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

From left, Diane Morri, principal of St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Anoka, Matt Robinson, fifth-grade teacher at St. Stephen’s, and Christine Deutsch, a second-grade teacher at St. Maximilian Kolbe School in Delano, react during a presentation June 21at a conference put on by the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence at St. Hubert in Chanhassen called “A Place at the Table: Serving Exceptional Learners in our Catholic Schools.” Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Teachers and principals from almost every Catholic grade school in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis gathered June 20-21 to explore educating learners on both ends of the learning spectrum.

“They wanted help and training to be able to address those needs,” said Gail Dorn, CEO of Minneapolis-based nonprofit Catholic Schools Center of Excellence, which hosted the event. “We really listened to the schools and what their needs were.”

Dorn explained that exceptional learners means both students who are learning above their grade level and students who have learning disabilities.

“Many of our Catholic grade schools have had positive experiences with serving children of all abilities, and this conference helped expand the discussion around access and inclusion for students with special needs,” said Emily Dahdah, associate director of the Office for the Mission of Catholic Education for archdiocese, who attended the conference.

More than 300 teachers and principals from 75 of the 79 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese attended the conference, “A Place at the Table: Serving Exceptional Learners in our Catholic Schools,” at St. Hubert in Chanhassen. They heard from speakers primarily from the Diocese of Phoenix explain how they’re educating different learners.

“We actually benefited from not only their teaching training materials, but we brought in one of their principals for her to be able to share how she rolled out this out in her school,” Dorn said. “It was very pragmatic advice, so it was very helpful.”

Speakers included Colleen McCoy-Cejka, assistant superintendent of schools for the Phoenix diocese, and Kelly Shewbridge, principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe. Michael Boyle, director of the Andrew M. Greeley Center for Catholic Education at Loyola University Chicago, also presented.

Teachers received learning kits to use in their schools next year. Dorn said CSCOE will continue to work with the schools in this area and develop a plan going forward to help students on each end of the spectrum.

“It was like Christmas morning for me when I opened up that toolkit,” said Heidi Price, a learning specialist at Faithful Shepherd Catholic School in Eagan who attended the conference. “They just provided a wealth of material and resources to accommodate many different types of learning needs.”

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