A student at Bl. Pope John XXIII School in Scottsdale during the first week of school (J.D. Long-García/THE CATHOLIC SUN)

Seven local Catholic schools welcomed us to their busy campuses last week during the first days of the new academic year. Younger students were busy organizing classroom supplies and learning the ropes and trying out the new prayer space for the first time. Older students often jumped right in to lessons and discussions.

Check out highlights from our photo shoots on our Back to school Facebook album.

And, for the curious, here’s some of what we learned from our mornings at school:

  • Christ the King students in Mesa appear to have a genuine respect for the American flag. Students even help raise it at the start of the day.
  • It’s a completely new era at St. Francis Xavier School. I pulled in the parking lot and said, “Where’s the school?” I forgot that the last of the school’s original buildings was torn down this summer. The new buildings are behind the old campus.
  • Schools both embrace and ward off technology. They tend to be anti-cell phone (students at St. Matthew physically turn theirs in at the beginning of each day) but love using interactive white boards and iPads to enhance the learning process.
  • Junior high students at St. Louis the King in Glendale seemed to jump right into a a heavy discussion on creation.
  • The Jesuits are still superb at educating the young. Loyola Academy and Brophy College Preparatory have eager, bright students. The Brophy freshmen, in particular I observed, were witty and creative writers using iPads to define and use 75-cent words in narratives.
  • There are amazingly talented people staffing local Catholic schools. The new altar at Xavier, which art teacher Nathan Ward hand-carved, is case in point.