Celebrating Students in Catholic Education Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

The following article was contributed by Adam Cottos, 5th/6th grade Social Studies and Religion teacher at St. Michael School in Independence, Ohio and NCEA Social Media Influencer.

When I was growing up and attending St. Rocco School on Cleveland’s near west side, I was always excited for the week after the last Sunday in January. Why was that? Why did I get all excited for a week at the end of January and early February in cold, blustery, Cleveland, Ohio? Was it the hope for the possibility of a snow day? No. Was it because I could maybe go sled riding? No. Was it because it was Catholic Schools Week? YES!

Catholic Schools Week for me was a week of fun, excitement, activities we wouldn’t normally do, community building, and celebrating the fact that I was in a Catholic school. I was at a school where I could grow my faith socially, academically, and spiritually. One event that I remember during Catholic Schools Week at St. Rocco School was the annual Olympics. Our Olympics was a series of competitive events by grade levels. There were 3-legged race competitions, shoe lace tying, free throw shooting. These events were not meant to be very challenging, but they were meant to draw the school closer together through building excitement for learning and for our faith. Not to brag though, I was the free throw shooting champion for my class!

This is why I love Catholic Schools Week. It brings the school community closer and in return we draw closer to the community that surrounds our school. Our internal strength of Catholic education allows us to become stronger members of our overall community. I still find myself getting excited for Catholic Schools Week. I still get excited to tell the great stories of the school community that I am in now, St. Michael School in Independence, Ohio. Our school community does and will be showing our strong Catholicism within our community.

How will we show our faith? How will we grow our faith? How will we share our faith? We will do this together as one faith community. I find this very important. As a teacher at St. Michael School, I also find it important that we celebrate what our students are doing to become future leaders of our Catholic faith. I know that we have to share the experiences that allow our students to draw closer in their love for Jesus. Catholic Schools Week is the week we need to do this with the greatest joy possible.

So, how will I be celebrating my students today and throughout Catholic Schools Week? First, I must greet my students at the door. This is done with true care. I greet them with a smile. I remind myself each day that the reason I am here is because of my students. You truly don’t know how far that greeting will go. Second, take an interest in what they tell you. Listen to your students. I have found that learning a little fact about each student has made me connect with them. Celebrate their success within that interest, whether it be within the school or outside. Recognize their gifts and talents, wherever they may be.

As a teacher at St. Michael School, I also find it important that we celebrate what our students are doing to become future leaders of our Catholic faith.

Third, I find ways to share the successes to parents. I do this through social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. I attempt to connect to parents where they are. They want to see what their child is doing, so I share what they are doing. This is what Catholic Schools Week is about. It’s about building a relationship in faith and academics with supporters of Catholic education.

Fourth, I promote the importance of service. I explain to students how service to one another and to our community is an element of our faith. St. Michael School holds an annual canned food drive during Catholic Schools Week. Our school makes sure that students have an opportunity to serve those in our area. Students need to see ways that make a difference to those in our own neighborhoods.

Fifth, I always like to take time during Catholic Schools Week to teach students about the saints and other important figures who have made Catholic education possible. Having students learn about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John Bosco, St. Gemma Galgani, and St. Therese of Lisieux can lead them to be more like saints in ways they never thought possible. Students need to know that there are support and faith leaders while being educated in a Catholic school.

Sixth, students need opportunities to lead. I want students to be able to show their gifts and talents by any means that they can. As an educator, students need to lead in ways that benefit their growth socially, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. At St. Michael School, students are leaders for our weekly all-school mass. Students will share their talents of music, reading scripture, and planning out the mass. I know students have many talents and passions that have to be utilized to strengthen our faith community.

For me, Catholic Schools Week is a week to have students grow in their faith and passion for their school. I want students to go home each day excited about what they learned and did in their classrooms. As a Catholic educator, I know that I need to show my students what makes Catholic education different than other educational options. I need to celebrate their achievements not only academically, but achievements in their faith as well. When a student is caught doing a kind act for another student…celebrate it. When a student does better than they expect on a paper or test…celebrate it. If a student has an “a-ha” moment on a difficult subject…celebrate it.

I’m excited for this Catholic Schools Week! I’m excited to feel the joy and energy that will be flowing through the hallways of St. Michael School. Catholic education is my passion. I’m eager to share and celebrate my students. Catholic Schools Week is the week to show off what our school does. Catholic Schools Week is a week to have our students Learn, Serve, Lead, and Succeed!

Schools celebrate students during National Catholic Schools Week by planning enjoyable and meaningful activities for them and recognizing their accomplishments.