Schools upgrade learning methods, but remain grounded in Truth

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Loyola Academy students use iPads to share historical research. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Being prepared for class these days doesn’t always mean having a sharpened pencil or a ballpoint pen. Sometimes it means having a stylus and well-charged tablet computer.

Junior high students at Blessed Pope John XXIII School in Scottsdale and Loyola Academy as well as freshmen at nearby Brophy College Preparatory began using iPads for assignments, tests and class work when school resumed in August.

The move was a natural progression for Brophy. The all-boys Jesuit school debuted PCs starting with the freshmen class seven years ago. Every freshman after that received some type of personal computing device.

All but a handful of classes now use digital textbooks or teacher-generated resources, according to Jim Bopp, assistant principal for technology. He said being a 1-to-1 computing school increases organization and efficiency and allows teachers and students to focus more on problem solving, creative and critical thinking and fluency in artistic presentation than on memorization.

Freshmen seem to like the upgrade to iPads.

“At first I was a little skeptical because I like regular computers,” Valentine Hernandez said.

But after playing around with the iPad at home and during a summer training day, he found the applications to be pretty straightforward.

Technology affected how — not what — students learn. Teachers and school administrators are still committed to promoting academic excellence, moral values and lifelong service — all staples of diocesan schools.

Fr. Robert Bolding would add forming men and women in the Truth to that list. He’s been chaplain and theology teacher at St. Mary’s High School since 2009, but moved into the newly created role of president-rector July 1.

That means he’ll focus on Catholic identity and mission, among other administrative duties. He said his installation Mass Aug. 22 was a moving image of how Catholic education is tied to the ministry of the bishop and mission of the Church.

“He is genuinely concerned with the salvation of every student, of every staff member. He makes that the genuine focus of every decision that he makes,” said Kellie Taylor, campus minister at St. Mary’s. “He’s willing to make people angry for the sake of Truth and virtue and willing to make hard decisions.”

Fr. Bolding cited the Catechism when reminding students this year about the importance of modesty. Girls must wear skirts to the knee both in the front and back.

Students at St. Maximilian Kolbe School, a Catholic school not under diocesan guidance, are now more closely united with the life of the Church. The school moved its classrooms from 15th and Maryland avenues in Phoenix to St. Joseph Parish at 40th Street and Shea Boulevard when classes resumed Aug. 20. The move helps the school offer Mass daily, instead of only once a month.

“We are blessed to have the faculty, students and their families joining us at St. Joseph Parish,” said Fr. Greg Rice, MHM, interim parochial administrator. “St. Maximilian Kolbe School is known for its faith-filled families, joyful students and commitment to an authentically Catholic education.”

Having the physical and sacramental life of the Church present remains a focus of all Catholic schools. Fr. Raymond Ritari, pastor of St. Matthew School, leads students in daily prayer in the church. On the first day of school, he visited each classroom to bless it and the students.

While Fr. Bolding was their chaplain, St. Mary’s students regarded him as a huge role model who encouraged confession and talked them through personal issues. Fr. Matt Henry, chaplain at Bourgade Catholic High School, sees himself as a resource of Catholic teaching.

“I try to show them that our Catholic faith gives us a way of life and try to model that for them,” said Fr. Henry, who is in his third year at the school. “I show them that the faith is proposing that we can say yes to things.”

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