As the school year begins, new teachers are ready to jump into gear! Ninety-four new teachers gathered together with officials from the diocesan Office of the Superintendent on Aug. 28, at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, for a two-day orientation to help prepare them for teaching in the Catholic schools and academies.
“To be a teacher is to be part of a noble profession and one that can bring untold satisfaction,” said Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., secretary of Education and Faith Formation, in her opening address. “There will be challenges, and even obstacles — but that is true of any work situation. It is well to keep the bigger picture in mind —the time some children will spend with you will be the happiest and most peaceful part of their day.”
The New Teacher Orientation was led by Anthony Biscione, deputy superintendent of schools. In addition, event speakers included Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of schools; Theodore Musco, director of the Office of Faith Formation; and Denise DeFabio, health program manager.
Maryanne S. Behan, Child Lures specialist, was present on the second day to coordinate VIRTUS Safe Environment Training for all of the new teachers.
“My hope is that new teachers will form connections to each other and with current faculty to build relationships so that they have a support system,” said Biscione. Through encouragement and support, the orientation also served the practical needs of teachers by covering topics, such as the mission and ministry of Catholic education, teachers as catechists, living and leading by faith, teacher medical insurance and benefits, personnel issues and the common core curriculum.
Dr. Chadzutko encouraged teachers by reminding them that they have something unique to offer. “Never be afraid to say that you have something to offer,” he said. “What tools do you bring? Believe in yourself. You need to believe that you will make a difference in every child.”
“I feel at ease to be with other people who are going through the same thing as I,” said Adriana Romanza, a new teacher at St. Saviour School, Park Slope. “I love the energy that each presenter has. It made me see how wonderful this profession is and how much support I have. I didn’t realize this much support was going to be given to me this whole year and so I look forward to working with everybody.”
Msgr. Michael Cantley, a former seminary professor, was the main celebrant of a Mass with the new teachers. “People will remember you with a great deal of affection. You will open their eyes to the educational world,” he said in his homily.
Msgr. Cantley left teachers with the words of St. Augustine of Hippo: “Do the very best thing yourselves. God will never be hesitant in giving you all the grace, all the help, all the aid that you will need.”
While thankful for the support and encouragement, some teachers also appreciated the practical words and tips. In fact, the highlight for many was the opportunity for breakout sessions with mentor teachers. Breaking into groups by grade and/or subject, mentors discussed practical matters with the new teachers. Physical education mentor, Greg Barron of Resurrection-Ascension School, Rego Park, spoke about matters such as the space they will have to work with, whether or not there is a gym in the school, access to keys needed for closets with sports equipment, etc.
Other mentor teachers included Theresa Maggi from St. Andrew Avellino School, Flushing; Julie Cruz from Queen of the Rosary Catholic Academy, Williamsburg; Roselle Mauceri, St. Robert Bellarmine School, Bayside; Marie Freisen and Joanne Sadelski, Bridget Murphy, all from St. Rose of Lima School, Rockaway Beach; Christina Cedrone, St. Mel, Flushing; Christopher Scharbach from Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, Douglaston; and Janet Peters from St. Francis of Assisi, Astoria.
“This workshop has given me everything that I was hoping for; it has given me a visual picture of what I can take back to my classroom and use for planning because everything is very practical,” said Julianne McConnall-Vittadello of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Academy, Sunset Park. “I was never given anything like this before in all my years of public school teaching. All the advice that was given to us by the mentors and the administrators here has been very effective and useful.”
“I agree,” said Catherine Mayne of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament School, Bayside. “It has also been a very positive experience. The people around you are very positive and upbeat. It’s a happy occasion. You get a lot of good things out of it, especially with the core curriculum and the interdisciplinary information.”
Biscione said he hopes “that those who are brand new to teaching will continue with the new teacher development program so that they continue to build on the relationships formed here,” but the new teachers are already anticipating more.
Zeniada Hallera, of St. Saviour, thanked the Office of the Superintendent for the well-planned orientation, the spiritual guidance and support of Catholic ministries. “Your teamwork works,” she told them, “and I’m looking forward to future conferences and seminars!”