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Office of News & Public Affairs

BC's Urban Catholic Teacher Corps fills a need

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (Summer 2010) – A Boston College program that trains teachers to work in urban Catholic schools is winning the battle to bring the best and brightest candidates to classrooms in the Archdiocese of Boston – and beyond.

Despite the economy and the sacrifice of higher pay and broader benefits offered by public schools, graduates of BC’s Urban Catholic Teacher Corps remain undeterred and are accepting permanent positions at schools in Dorchester, South Boston, Brighton, Roslindale and Roxbury, as well as schools outside of the city and in other states, according to Karen Kennedy, director of the UCTC, which graduated its first class in 1998.

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Boston College Urban Catholic Teacher Corps graduate Megan Delaney now teaches at the Mission Grammar School in Roxbury, where she was a UCTC graduate student from 2007-2009. (Contributed Photo)

During the past three years, 94 percent of program graduates have continued their careers in Catholic education – a retention rate far greater than other similar intensive teacher preparation programs.

“We’re thrilled with these results that show the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps is meeting a critical need by providing qualified, highly-trained and dedicated Catholic educators to schools in Boston and beyond,” said Joseph M. O’Keefe, S.J., dean of BC’s Lynch School of Education, which runs the UCTC. “This bodes well for our Catholic schools and toward our mission of improving the lives of children through education and counseling.”

This past year, UCTC graduate student teachers were assigned to Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy and Elizabeth Seton Academy in Dorchester, Cathedral High School in the South End, Sacred Heart School in Roslindale, St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, Mission Grammar School and St. Patrick School in Roxbury, North Cambridge Catholic High School and Trinity Catholic High School in Newton.

A highly selective program that accepts just six new graduate students each year, UCTC’s 17 graduates from the classes of 2008 through 2010 have held fast in their commitment to Catholic education, said Kennedy. Of those graduates, 14 went to work in Catholic schools and two other graduates proceeded directly to a second master’s degree program at BC for additional training.

Of those who went directly into teaching, nine stayed in their UCTC placement schools in Boston, two accepted positions in Catholic schools outside of the Boston area and three took jobs in Catholic school systems out of state.

“Our students are placed in Catholic schools that need extra support, so to see so many of these teachers remain in their schools has an even broader impact,” said Kennedy. “These schools certainly need them and they’ve chosen to stay, which helps these schools build staffs with some of the best young teachers you can find. And I think it speaks well for these schools that our students have had such positive experiences and chosen to stay.”

Formed in 1995, the UCTC pioneered building a teacher corps for Catholic schools by preparing prospective educators for the many challenges of urban parochial school teaching. The UCTC is the only Catholic teacher-training program in the country that requires participants to have prior teaching or student teaching experience, as well as a bachelor’s degree in education.

There are typically six first-year and six second-year graduate students in the UCTC each academic year and the program has produced 63 graduates. While students earn a master’s degree, they live together in a spiritual community in Dorchester, where they develop a deeper understanding of the critical elements of service and spirituality that Catholic schools hold among their primary tenets.

Kennedy says those who commit to teaching in urban schools outside of a public system typically confront the realities of lower pay and fewer benefits. But, those who commit to teaching in Catholic schools often feel that the many benefits of teaching in a faith-filled environment outweigh the financial benefits of teaching elsewhere. That is where the unique mission of Catholic education calls out to these exceptional young men and women.

"Because of financial implications, choosing where to teach when the UCTC experience ends is a major decision," said Kennedy. "Together with Archdiocesan and school staffs, we work hard to provide Corps members with positive experiences in the schools so that they want to stay.  And, we're doing a better job of educating members about the history and mission of Catholic education and the unique role Catholic schools play in the social teachings of the Church.  Seeing themselves as part of something bigger leads them to put their faith and commitment into action."

For more information about BC’s Urban Catholic Teacher Corps, please see the program website at: www.bc.edu/uctc.

--Ed Hayward is an associate director in the BC Office of News & Public Affairs; ed.hayward@bc.edu