By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
East Grand Forks, Minn. – In preparation for the start of school, 150 teachers, staff and priests from the eight diocesan Catholic schools gathered for a biannual Diocesan School In-service Day at Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks, on Aug. 28. A new feature this year was the naming of Teacher of the Year. Tamara Kraft, a sixth grade teacher from Cathedral School, Crookston, won the award. She and Cathedral School Principal Patricia Jones will be sent to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Conference in April.
Tina Stanger, Superintendent of diocesan Catholic schools said attending the Catholic Leadership Summit last October led to the inception of the Teacher of the Year award. According to Stanger, they emphasized celebrating excellence in schools as a way to encourage it to grow.
“We want to celebrate the positive, celebrate the excellent and we have so much,” Stanger said before announcing the nominees.
The nominations were based on standards set by the NCEA’s Lead, Learn, Proclaim award.
Four other teachers were nominated for the award: Gary Johnson from St. Philip’s School, Bemidji; Geneva Even and Jane Johnson from St. Joseph’s School, Moorhead; and Deb Hammond from Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks.
“The nominees are all strong teachers with great relationships with students and families, active in their local parishes, and helpful in school leadership and planning,” said Stanger. “Kraft stood out as a nominee thanks to a couple items: she’s active in Cathedral parish and also her summer parishes, she has been on more than one accreditation team visit to other schools, bringing back information to help with strategic planning in Cathedral school. She shows strength of character as well as adaptability to changes in her school.”
“We have some wonderful teachers in the Diocese of Crookston and I’m very humbled to be placed in that category,” Kraft said in an interview after winning the award. “I have been very fortunate all these years to be able to teach where Jesus is master teacher and to be able to use Jesus and God as the basis of everything I do in my classroom.”
Kraft is entering her 33rd year of teaching at Cathedral School and plans to retire at the conclusion of the school year.
“I have loved every minute of teaching. I have loved every minute at Cathedral School,” she said. “I’m very fortunate because I am teaching the second generation. I’m teaching my students’ kids.”
The school in-service day is held every other year. The theme selected for this year was “Catholic Schools Light the Way.”
The day began with Mass with Bishop Hoeppner. Stanger said he spoke about the role of Catholic educators in bringing children to the light of Jesus.
Two large-group presentations were held in the morning. The first speaker was Timothy Denney of Crookston’s Level 5 Services who presented about suicide prevention. Principal Andrew Hilliker from St. Joseph’s, Moorhead, shared information about the establishment of a diocese-wide curriculum review cycle. Schools will still have their own curriculum, but individuals from each school will form subject-driven committees which will regularly meet in a seven-year cycle to review best practices, data and standards in each subject area.
In the afternoon, two breakout sessions were held. They focused on topics including: curriculum mapping, reading strategies, differentiated instruction, social media and student behaviors, multiple intelligences, classroom management strategies and building student self-esteem. Presenters included Level 5 Services, University of Mary staff, Northwest Services Cooperative and a few teachers and staff members from the diocese.
“The purpose of the day is to build our schools and for the teachers to build on their strengths in the classroom,” Stanger said. “Building fellowship every other year is a part of this too – we get to see each other as a group and celebrate that.” She added that an additional purpose of this year’s gathering was to pull into focus the skills that will be needed as the curriculum review cycle begins.