By Michalina Grieco
I have always been happy to be a Catholic school teacher, but this year I am bursting with pride. What began as a year of trepidation has ended in triumph! Years ago, Rev. Msgr. Guy Puglisi, God rest his soul, was my teacher at Fordham University. He always said, “As a Catholic school system, we work best when we work together!” This year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn not only set the gold standard for innovation, achievement, and success, the diocese went platinum!
Preparation for the 2020/2021 COVID-encased school year began the day after June report cards were remotely sent and Google Classroom Meets concluded. Our principal at Saint Joseph Catholic Academy, Mr. Luke Nawrocki, literally worked ‘round the clock to first redesign our entire school building in compliance with CDC and city/state guidelines regarding safety, distance, and sanitary protocols. After that Herculean task, he created instructional courses in technology for our faculty. The teachers needed to learn how to simultaneously teach and live-stream for the upcoming school year. Mr. Nawrocki not only secured the requisite equipment to support our efforts, he most importantly affirmed and inspired us to succeed.
When I began teaching in 1973, my conception of technology was a purple mimeograph machine and PLAN lessons provided by Westinghouse Corp. Today, I navigate and cross-reference four devices: my iPad, the Triumph board, a Roku TV, and a nearby laptop. The amazing thing is it all works — because we work together. Students, teachers, parents, administration, and our Diocesan office work collaboratively with God as our guide and pedagogical interventions supporting us.
Father Gibino, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, and Mrs. Janet Heed walk hand-in-hand with every teacher and student. Father Gibino provided outstanding lesson plans to help us draw closer to Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother during this critical time. He also presented a webinar, “St. Joseph at the Cross” to reinforce the value of work and devotion. Dr. Chadzutko facilitated school schedules conducive to optimum remote and in-person instruction. Mrs. Janet Heed introduced individualized curricular study through an i-Ready differentiated computer program. For further professional reinforcement, she secured the services of Mr. Anthony Volforte, GenerationReady.com. The resulting panorama is a Catholic community of happy, healthy, engaged, educated, and prayerful children, who have not missed a single day of school the entire year.
My grandchildren, kindergartener Alessandra Grieco and little Leo Grieco in nursery class, attend Saint Margaret Catholic Academy in Middle Village. Their experiences learning remotely and in-person replicate the wonderful work we are accomplishing at Saint Joseph Catholic Academy. That’s the beauty, the wonder, and the point — our entire Diocesan community has succeeded because we are precisely who we say we are: educators working together to the best of our ability for God and our children.
Michalina Grieco is a fifth-grade teacher at St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Long Island City.