Steven Virgadamo Offers Parents Tips on Fall Semester, Lunch and Student Focus

By the time November rolls around, many parents are frustrated that an elementary school child is not eating well at school. Many have already succumbed to that ever-tempting “lunchables” and a bag of chips. Never forget that a child’s meal is a building block to their health and academic success in school.

Here are a few tips to packing a nutritious lunch that kids love:

  1. If you are packing a sandwich, use whole grain bread. The bread must have 3 or more grams of pure fiber to be“true” whole grain bread.
  2. Package the lunch to look like the popular off-the-shelf items like “lunchables.” Cut sandwiches into fun shapes like hearts and flowers.
  3. If your scholar won’t eat a sandwich, try nutrient dense muffins. You take any basic muffin recipe and use gluten free flour and coconut sugar. Add veggies like carrots, celery etc.
  4. Be sure to include fruit like grapes, apples and bananas.
  5. Make a trail mix – nut free of course – but you can include things like raisins, dried apples, berries and you can even add some dark organic chocolate chips.
  6. Ditch the juice and replace with water. Add some food coloring if you need to make a more desirable presentation.

Meals rich in fiber are proven to satisfy hunger which will allow young scholars to focus better on school work. Whole foods for scholars will instill overall well-being and lifelong healthy eating habits. Most importantly, practice what you preach. If your children see you eating well, they too will grow up eating well.

Leadership Coaching, Catholic Schools and 4 Strategies To Make It More Impactful

Currently, Catholic Schools are operating in an era where the level of competition is very high. For a private school to remain competitive, it has to implement important strategies that will help overcome competition, or to at least remain competitive enough. One of these strategies is leadership coaching, where the leader impacts his or her workers by teaching them the instructional and classroom management skills, student/parent relationship skills and the knowledge to perform their jobs well.

While many have questioned the effectiveness of leadership coaching I remain steadfast that the single factor between a school which is thriving and one which is struggling is leadership. It is for that reason that I remain committed to providing Catholic school leaders, Principals, Presidents  and Superintendents with timely and consistent leadership coaching and mentoring. Here are some strategies that can be used to make leadership coaching effective.

  1. Being Specific

One of the most important aspects of leadership coaching is specificity. As a leader, you must ensure that whatever is being told to all employees (teachers and staff) working within the school is precise and exact. A leader should not leave his or her employees in the dark or worse, confused as to what is being asked of them. Demonstrating and modeling behaviors should also be incorporated so that employees may get a visual representation of the task, making it much clearer.

  1. Provide Positive Feedback

A common mistake among a large number of leaders is concentrating on and criticizing individual flaws and weaknesses. Some have been misunderstanding elements of personal styles and confusing them for a lack of personal motivation. To enhance the effectiveness of leadership coaching, one should provide positive feedback on individual strengths. Leaders should also be cognizant of how they are describing what they want an individual to achieve, such as the desired outcomes and deliverables.

  1. Being Concise

Using too many words to describe something that could have been described with just a few can lead to ineffective coaching as well. While in a leadership position, one should make it a point to be brief and concise when providing instructions to followers. A leader should focus on being direct while at the same time providing clear, easy-to-understand instructions. Doing so will promote memorability and understanding of what it is these employees must do, lessening the chances of frequent mistakes.

  1. Establishing Trust and Goodwill

For leaders to effectively promote and enhance their coaching abilities, establishing goodwill and trust is of paramount importance. Leaders must be humble and should not assume superiority or come off as self-entitled. They should focus on being sources of assistance and leading by example. They should focus on their duties while at the same time demonstrating high levels of integrity. Other employees are likely to trust and believe in their leader if he or she demonstrates the ability to successfully manage large teams, absorb chaos and give back calm while guiding staff throughout all obstacles presented.

Education Technologies of the Future

Technology continues to be an ever growing aspect of our lives. While it is not so surprising to see how it impacts certain parts of our daily lives, most seem quite shocked when they hear how technology continues to have a major influence in the world of education.

Learning within the classroom is constantly changing as technology shapes the way that people are able to study and grow. Virtual reality and adaptive learning in general is continuing to make its presence known across the country in classrooms.

With technology steadily improving, virtual reality classrooms are now used to help with the learning process. This type of technology in the field of education is able to help draw students in, and get them involved with hands on learning. This type of virtual reality technology sometimes even has the capability to take over as the teacher itself. Many online schools and courses are able to use this type of technology where students have access to it any time of day right from their computer or mobile device. This helps to permit learning at any time of day or not right from the comfort of their home.

Educational robotics have continued to become more popular and will steadily trend upwards in the future as well. The Lego Group, which invented the first educational robotics, set the pace when they developed the Mindstorms brand in the eighties. Today, many companies have bounced off of this idea and created other aspects of educational robotics for various different subjects. Just a few examples of these include Ozobot, Cubelets, or Dash and Dot, which all allow students to tap into their creative side and learn.

Intelligent mentoring is also very accessible and will continue to grow even more popular in the future of education. These types of intelligent tutors via technology take the place of a normal teacher and are able to assist in the learning process of students. A fantastic example of this is Duolingo which is a foreign language program that helps students learn a brand new language. The mentoring system is able to pick up on any type of errors the student makes and helps to correct them so they are able to understand what they did wrong. As technology continues to thrive and become more widespread, intelligent mentoring will grow.

Not Letting Kids “Go Dark” from Faith During Summer

Originally published on NCEATalk.org

The following article is a re-posting of John Jimenez’s blog, NOT LETTING KIDS “GO DARK” FROM FAITH DURING THE SUMMER.

All around the country, the end of the school year is here. And to most children, that means only one thing: summer vacation. The normal routine is broken up for two and a half glorious months of sleeping in, summer camps, family trips, play dates with friends, or whatever unique joys summer vacation brings to a child’s life.

This regular break from regularity is a wonderful thing, but often children can see it as a break from everything they normally do, including the practice and growth of their Catholic Faith. Many parish ministries and religious education programs “go dark” for the summer, and of course, if a child is in Catholic school, that regular connection with the Faith is dormant for the summer months.

As parents, though, we don’t want our children to take a break from their Faith during the summer. We don’t want them to take nearly 25% of every year to stop praying, learning, or growing closer to God. But we may find ourselves more on our own, without as much help from the school or parish during the summer. Thankfully, Catholic Brain does not go dark for the summer; the following are some ideas of how it can help.

Building A Summer Faith Routine

The break in routine during the summer gives the opportunity for some special religious opportunities. We can take our children to visit local shrines, participate more in service projects, or even make a pilgrimage. But in order to help our children continue to make the Faith an integral part of their daily lives, many people find making some summer routine helpful.

One simple thing to do is make use of the daily Scripture presentations from Catholic Brain. Each morning children can start their day by reading a child-friendly translation of the day’s readings at Mass, followed by a simple five-question quiz. This allows them to join the mind of the Church in pondering God’s Word throughout the summer.

The saints are our constant companions throughout our journey in life. Each day children can learn about the Saint of the Day. This way, throughout the summer, they will be able to make many new heavenly friends. In the morning, at meals, and before bed, children can be encouraged to ask that day’s saint to pray for them. By incorporating the daily Scripture readings and saints, the Catholic Faith can continue to be part of the rhythm of our children’s daily lives.

“Faithful” Screen Time

One of the things that many children spend more time doing in the summer is watching television. Catholic Brain has many wonderful videos for children, about the life of Jesus or other Bible stories, about the saints or virtues. If children will have more screen time this summer, perhaps it can begin with one of the videos found on the site. Have them share with you what they learn each day.

Of course, there are all sorts of things that can be found on Catholic Brain, from games and other activities, to printables and music. The extra time this summer gives children an opportunity to search the site on their own and find things that interest them.

Summer Catechism Study Program

One of the best opportunities Catholic Brain is offering this summer is its eight-week Summer Catechism Study Program, beginning June 18, and running through August 10. This child-friendly approach to the truths of our Faith is built to become part of daily life.

The 38 videos correspond to the 38 lessons in the Baltimore Catechism, and are accompanied by activities, games and quizzes. Children can track their progress by earning badges throughout the program and each child will earn a certificate of completion when they finish. They will also take a final quiz, and those with the highest scores can win Catholic Brain store gift cards, trophies, and free Biblezon tablets. Best of all, the program allows kids to end the summer with a deeper understanding of the Faith than they began it with. Just go to the Catholic Brain site, and click on the pink “Summer Catechism Study Program” tab to sign up!

Catholic Books to Add to Your Reading List

Expanding your spirituality and knowledge of the Catholic faith is something that every individual can do regardless their level of expertise. A great way to just that is by reading any number of books focusing on Catholicism and its many ideas and foundations. Below are a few Catholic books to add to your reading for those who would like better their knowledge on the religion.

Catholic Treasury of Prayers

A collection of prayers devoted to Mass, the PSalms, and Our Blessed Mother St. Joseph, Catholic Treasury of Prayers is a very helpful volume for those who may be unfamiliar with the many prayers embodied in this religion. This book can accompany people on their journey to becoming a more faithful individual, and can serve as a resource for all.

No Greater Love

No Greater Love captures the endless wisdom of Mother Teresa, which includes all of her teachings in an autobiographical form. It sends a powerful message to its readers on the importance of living with humility and helping those in need. It also features Mother Teresa’s thoughts on the concepts of love, generosity, forgiveness, and prayer. This is a great piece of written work that celebrates the life of one of the most revered figures in human history.

The Seven Storey Mountain

Written by Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain is often regarded as one of the most influential religious works of the 20th century. It tells the story of Merton and his search for peace and faith, and gives its readers incredible wisdom and insight regarding suffering, selfishness, and the ultimate goal of spiritual perfection. Today, it is published in over 20 languages and sold around the world.

Beautiful Mercy

This work was written by Pope Francis, Matthew Kelly, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and several other Catholic authors. Beautiful Mercy is a collection of essays that are essentially a call to action for readers to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy during the Church’s Year of Mercy. Pope Francis specifically has asked that people focus their attention on this year’s mercy in an attempt to inspire more and celebrate this tradition in meaningful ways.

The Story of a Soul

Saint Therese of Lisieux was a nun in the 19th century who, sadly, died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis. The Story of a Soul is an autobiographical piece of hers that includes her childhood memories growing up Northwestern France. What started as a simple biography became a modern spiritual classic. Decades later, more manuscripts of the Saint’s were discovered, which included more in-depth takes on her spirituality, love, and devotion to God. Saint Therese is a perfect example of one that has devoted her life to holiness, simplicity, and faith.

Funding Within the Catholic School System

Currently, Catholic schools are facing a financial crisis, brought about by an unmet need for funding. Government funding and donations from philanthropists do help, but it’s not nearly enough to offset the costs associated with educating each school’s children. This leaves the bulk of funding to come from the only other available source: tuition. While that seems like the obvious solution, the ways in which tuition is applied may be doing more harm than good.

The Dilemma with the Current Tuition Model

Catholic schools are caught in a tough spot right now, due to their dependence upon tuition to fund the system. Currently, tuition is based on the number of children attending the school. In the per student model, a family with five students will be paying five times more than a family with just one child. The problem with this is that the family with five children is already paying a higher percentage of their earnings to provide those children with other necessities, such as food, clothing, and healthcare. Unless they’re wealthy, that family will see the burden of tuition as an added hardship.

The problem doesn’t just affect that one family. Looking for ways to cut corners, even a devout Catholic family may find themselves forced to send their children to public schools. The burden of tuition may be lifted, but the children aren’t getting the education that the family wants for them. As more families make this same choice, enrollment in Catholic schools will suffer. Ultimately, Catholic schools will become more akin to elite private schools, where only single-child families will enroll.

A New Tuition Model

While the situation seems dire, there is a solution that has been proposed and it’s one that embraces the giving nature of the Catholic faith. The idea is to switch from a per student tuition model to a per family model, which would have every family paying the same for tuition. It would lighten the burden on families with multiple children attending the school, allowing them.to pay one smaller tuition.

In general, families would be paying just a few hundred per year as opposed to the thousands of dollars they would otherwise have to pay. This also means that single-child households may be paying a little more. However, an increase of a couple hundred is still far more easily managed than tuition costs of $5,000 or more per year.

It seems obvious that the current method for funding Catholic schools isn’t sustainable as a long-term solution. By amending the way tuition is applied to each family, more children will be able to remain in their school of choice. That’s better for the children, for their families, and for the Catholic schools seeking to provide a better educational experience.

 

Source: https://catholicexchange.com/blueprint-for-change-funding-catholic-schools

NCEA Honors Associate Superintendent for Leadership Formation

Originally posted on CNY.org

COURTESY NCEA

COURTESY NCEA

NCEA Board Chair Bishop Gerald Kicanas, far left; honoree Steven Virgadamo, associate superintendent for leadership formation for the archdiocese; Msgr. John F. Meyers, the namesake of Virgadamo’s award; and NCEA President/CEO Dr. Thomas Burnford smile broadly after Virgadamo was recognized at an awards banquet April 2 at the National Catholic Educational Convention & Expo in Cincinnati.

Steven Virgadamo, associate superintendent for leadership formation of the archdiocese, received the Msgr. John F. Meyers Award from the National Catholic Educational Association at the organization’s convention last week in Cincinnati.

He was one of five recipients from across the country recognized April 2 with The President’s Awards that are given in the names of past NCEA presidents to honorees who model the characteristics that advance the mission of Catholic education.

The Msgr. John F. Meyers Award is presented to an individual “who has provided substantial support for Catholic education through contributions in the areas of development, public relations, scholarship programs, financial management or government relations.”

Steven Virgadamo, who also serves as executive director of the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy of the archdiocese, said he remains “humbled and honored” by the award.

“All I ever set out to do was to serve Him well, and to make sure that young people had opportunities to encounter the Risen Christ in our schools, and use the gifts that they have been given, by their actions and words in life, to spread the Good News of the Gospel message.”

Throughout his career in Catholic education, the NCEA calculated that, in a consulting capacity across the country, Virgadamo has worked in 120 dioceses in 6,000 Catholic schools and, as a result, was responsible for the formation of 10 board members in each school, or 60,000 lay leaders in boards of schools. He helped those 6,000 schools raise more than $500 million in new funding through philanthropic giving, ensuring those schools’ futures are secure through strategic planning, improved governance organization and effective marketing.

“The one thing I noticed in the 6,000 Catholic schools,” Virgadamo said, “is that the single biggest difference between a school that was able to not just survive, but flourish, was the leader in that school.

“I say that, knowing that a third of the Catholic schools in the country right now have a wait list. The one ingredient that those Catholic schools that have a wait list have, clearly, is a very strong leader in that school.”

Steven Virgadamo said part of the reason he came to the archdiocese four years ago at the invitation of Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools, “was to work in forming a generation of new leaders for Catholic schools because if this legacy is going to continue, it’s going to be dependent on who we have leading those schools.”

He said he was fortunate to be in a generation that was formed by men and women religious, and wants to pay that forward and continue to form the leaders who are going to be able to “rewrite this script for Catholic schools.”

In accepting his award, Virgadamo acknowledged his mother and late father who nurtured him in the Catholic faith and made the decision to send him to a Catholic school.

“That decision,” he quipped, “really was a precursor to my future because in elementary school, I spent so much time in the principal’s office that by the time I graduated from elementary school and they handed me that diploma, I had the equivalent of a master’s in school administration.” In that vein, he credits the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who taught him “how to run a successful school.”

The award, he said, also goes to all those who formed him personally in the field, particularly through their mentoring, guidance and formation from an educational or pedagogical perspective as well as spiritual formation.

Born in Brooklyn, he attended Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal School, Ridgewood, and Christ the King High School, Middle Village, both in Queens.

Before coming to the Archdiocese of New York, he worked for four years as director of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, in leadership formation both on campus and throughout the country. He cited the good example of the Congregation of Holy Cross Fathers and Brothers there and when he was dean of student life at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens, where he began his career in Catholic education.

Steven Virgadamo said his favorite Gospel message is the Tranfiguration, and it is there that he made a parallel to his work in his remarks at the awards dinner.

“This is a lifetime achievement award. There’s still a lot more work to be done. So let’s all of us get back down that hill. And my call to the people at the dinner was, let’s begin to identify, recruit and form this next generation of lay leaders.”

How to Teach Your Children Faith at Home

While Catholic schools are prime mediums for explaining religion and the importance of faith to students, doing so at home should be seen as an equally importance practice. Many parents may find it difficult or overwhelming teaching faith at home seeing as the church explains to students that their parents are their “first and foremost educators,” but the following strategies are a few simple ways families can incorporate faith into their personal lives a little bit more.

Pray as Family

Prayer nurtures the life of the family. It opens hearts, melts away resentments, fosters gratitude, and becomes a fount of grace, peace, and joy for the entire family. If parents love God, children see and learn faith. Parents who pray together teach by the way they live that God is real; that He is present, listening, and eager to be a part of our lives. A life of prayer makes us fully human because it makes us real; it brings us out of ourselves, again and again, into conversation with the Author of life Himself — the God who made and loves us, and created everything we know. (Archbishop Charles Chaput)

Explain Holidays and Traditions

Very rarely do children not get excited for upcoming holidays, whether that be Christmas, Easter, or any other. Gifts and decorations adorn their homes, and family members often come together to celebrate these joyous times. While all of this is certainly beneficial to a child’s growth, explaining the reasons behind why we practice these holidays can build a greater appreciation for his or her faith.

It is frequently said that practicing faith keeps us faithful. Lent, for example, is a great way to practice discipline through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Whether you as a family are giving up junk food, video games, or any unhealthy habits, it makes time for more beneficial acts, such as taking part in local charities.

Even so much as detailing the history of these practices can give a child a deeper appreciation for their faith. For example, explaining that Easter is a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ could familiarize them with the New Testament a little more.

Hold Open Discussions

Do not be afraid to answer any difficult questions your children may ask. Being so young, this topic can be confusing to them and difficult to understand. The concepts of Heaven and an afterlife in general may drum up various concerns. Rather than avoiding answering these questions, ask your children how they feel about these topics. Answer every moral question as truthfully as you can. Being open and transparent about the faith is the best way for children to better understand it.

Similarly, the reasoning behind why you don’t want your children taking part in certain activities should be clearly outlined as well. Say your child was recently given a computer, on which they have the entire internet at their fingertips. Instead of simply telling them, “You are not allowed to visit these sites,” explain why. They may disrespect your beliefs or promote violent, aggressive behavior. Telling them no will only lead to them searching for other ways to access those sites. Be open and honest at all times.

Helping Students Develop a Unique Mindset and the Ability to Think Critically is the Calling of Every Teacher

Effectively motivating your students and providing them with engaging educational programs and activities is at the forefront of every teacher’s mind. However, it would not be beneficial to teach them so that they are unable to learn on their own. Teachers should obviously aid in a student’s learning, but also help in the development of a unique mindset and the ability to think for oneself, thus being able to learn outside of just a classroom setting.

Doing this can be somewhat challenging, as you’ll essentially have to “fool” them into taking part in activities that almost force education. This, however, sounds much harsher than what you can actually do. Inspire unique thought by asking open ended questions and encouraging all to take part in a discussion. Assign projects that require students to combine their current sets of skills with new ones learned over time. Develop a framework within your regular teaching schedule that does not take away from current methods, but adds a twist to them every now and then.

One great way to develop unique mindsets in the classroom is to ask your students to theorize something. This can be done over a short or long period of time in which their theories may prove true, or false. Have them test and modify these stances as things progress. This is a great activity to expand one’s knowledge and learn that a theory is just that; something that can be proven false no matter how passionate one feels about it.

Encourage reading, but do not demand it. Younger students are often forced to read, whether it be sections of a science book, or a certain number of chapters in a fictional work. This poses the risk of creating disdain towards the idea, making children and young adults unwilling to read during their own time. While certain activities and classwork will require reading to some extent, explain the benefits of doing so on your own. Allowing your students to read without any external pressure can do wonders for their classroom engagement in addition to improving brain power.

Create activities in which your students must work together to achieve an end goal. Collaboration is a great way to learn one’s own value in any given situation. Rather than creating some type of hierarchy, assign equal roles and allow your students to enjoy their unique value applied to the task at hand; another great strategy in building confidence as well.

Teach them to embrace any mistakes made. Almost no task will be done perfectly throughout their education, and that is perfectly acceptable. It’s an age-old saying that holds true merit: “Everybody makes mistakes.” To discredit yourself because of any type of mistake is to demean your own worth. Teach your students to make these mistakes without pointing any fingers, and explain the benefits of allowing oneself to stride through missed opportunities. To dwell on a mistake provides no value, but they should learn from any made.

Though these are just a few strategies you can introduce to your students to help them develop unique mindsets, they can be extremely valuable both in, and outside of the classroom. As Alice Wellington Rollins once said, “The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.”

Education Research: What to Know for the New Year

Educators and those within the education industry are well aware of the constant changes and innovations that occur on a yearly basis. New studies may be released promoting certain teaching strategies as opposed to others, or detailing the types of environments children seem to thrive in that contradict a traditional setting. Regardless, professionals with years of experience under their belts understand the most important aspects, and those that are the most truthful. Below are a few findings Chalkbeat has compiled that all educators should take with them heading into 2018.

 

Teacher Certifications Come with Ramifications

 

Vetting teachers before hiring is obviously a crucial aspect of the employment process in education. However, overly strict rules often limit adequate, trustworthy teachers from joining, and thus benefiting the school they wish to work at. Similarly, certifications exclude teachers of color, which is often extremely detrimental in the sense that students of color have been shown to benefit more from educators of the same ethnicity.

 

Another downside of certifications is that they are often state-regulated, which means teachers are very limited in terms of where they want to teach. While it may be rare for an educator to move across states, the option should always exist. Certifications effectively render that impractical.

 

Unions may not be beneficial

 

Steven Virgadamo, with 35 plus years involved in implementing school improvement programs in nearly all 50 states, believes that having a group of educators more interested in protecting their jobs can sometimes be counterproductive to student performance, unless of course job security is tied directly to student test performance. The needs of the students and their families should never be placed secondary to the needs of the teachers.

 

State Tests Show Results

 

Mandatory statewide testing has always been seen as a somewhat controversial practice, but they have been shown to provide results. The University of Chicago found that students who took state tests later showed improved grades, a higher acceptance rate among colleges, and a consistent college tenure. But, with more testing came more displeased students, suggesting that teachers who may be great at improving test scores may lack in providing a happier educational environment.

 

Staying ahead of the curve in educational trends can be difficult, but knowing what works best, and what has worked in the past can equip teachers with the necessary tools to help their students succeed, as well as improve their personal teaching methods.