Urban Catholic Teacher Corps Hits Classroom

BC-Archdiocese initiative

By Patricia Delaney
Director of Media Relations

The first wave of participants in the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps of Boston College and the Archdiocese of Boston will begin two-year, volunteer teaching terms in Boston's Catholic elementary schools this month.
The young teachers are at the forefront of a new, joint program of the School of Education and the Archdiocese of Boston. The Urban Catholic Teacher Corps is designed to provide teachers interested in Catholic education and volunteerism with opportunities for both professional and spiritual development - while giving the archdiocese a source of trained teachers committed to working in urban Catholic schools.

"The Urban Catholic Teacher Corps represents our strong commitment to prepare educators for Catholic schools, particularly in urban contexts, to address the critical need that will result from a nationwide shortage of teachers," said SOE Dean Mary Brabeck. "It also reflects our mission to develop in SOE graduates the knowledge, abilities and values that will enable them to work collaboratively to achieve social justice through service to others."

Urban Catholic Teacher Corps Program Director Madeleine Gervais, left, helps teachers Maria DeCataldo, Monica Weingarten and John Seelke (from left) with dinner preparation at their residence in Dorchester. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Jointly funded by Boston College Trustee Associate Peter S. Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Management & Research Co., and Trustee Thomas J. Flatley, president of The Flatley Co., and by the archdiocese, the program will provide members of the corps with teaching placements, a stipend, health benefits and room and board within a faith community.

"This program has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of both the inner-city schoolchildren and the young teachers," said Lynch, a 1965 graduate of Boston College. "The children will get the benefit of having well-trained teachers, and the teachers will have a fabulous living and working experience. It's a win-win situation, one that I hope will be replicated in other cities."

"Boston's Catholic schools play a critical role in the development of the city's children," added Flatley. "The Urban Catholic Teacher Corps offers young teachers a unique opportunity to undertake some very important work in the service of others - helping these schools to continue to provide a fine education to their students - while advancing their own careers at the same time."

The program is the first of its kind to allow only certified graduates of an education program to participate. The program recruits from a pool of newly certified teachers - primarily BC graduates, but also graduates of other colleges and universities.

The program participants on board for September include Monica Weingarten and Maria DeCataldo, both SOE graduates, who will teach fourth grade at St. Kevin's School in Dorchester and second grade at Cathedral Elementary School in Boston, respectively. John Seelke, a graduate of Duke University, will take over a sixth grade homeroom at Blessed Sacrament School in Jamaica Plain, while also teaching math and science to sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

Recruitment is ongoing and organizers ultimately hope to have 10-12 participants in each cohort.

"The Catholic School Office is pleased to collaborate with Boston College on this exciting new endeavor," said Sr. Ann Dominic Roach, OP, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. "We feel the program is beneficial for Boston College and the Catholic schools in the inner city. We hope that this first year generates a spirit of enthusiasm among Boston College student teachers for the Catholic school ministry and anticipate that more of our schools will benefit from this program in the years ahead. We are very pleased with the development of the program and the opportunity to have these young teachers willing to commit themselves to a program of service through teaching and the development of a faith community among themselves."

"We see this program as a real sign of hope for the Catholic schools in Boston," agreed Mary Jude Waters, OP, the archdiocese's director of school planning. "It will clearly be a shot in the arm for the schools to have the young people from Boston College join their faculty."

The program will give the graduates strong foundations for teaching careers during their two-year commitments. In addition to fulfilling their desire to perform some sort of volunteer work before launching their careers, program participants will be mentored by veteran teachers in Catholic schools and may have their certification raised from "advanced professional" to "standard certification," making them more attractive to employers. Cooperating teachers from the site schools also will be eligible for re-certification.

A key component of the collaborative is the provision of housing by the archdiocese at a former convent in Dorchester, which has been fully renovated under Flatley's direction. Various departments at Boston College also have been involved in helping to outfit the residence with furnishings and technological services that will enable the BC graduates to have BC phone numbers, voice mailboxes and dial-up access to the University's computer network.

"We want them to see this as their home, and each other as members of an extended family," said program Director Madeleine Gervais, who will live with, and provide spiritual and professional development for, the teacher corps members. Opportunities for exploring faith commitments, such as monthly days of reflection, will take place in the residence, added Gervais.

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