NCEA conference inspires local educators


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

In preparing for strategic planning for Diocese of Davenport Catholic schools and for Regina Education Center in Iowa City, administrators learned how others have implemented their plans during a national education conference.

Lee Morrison

The administrators were among several educators from the Davenport Diocese who attended the National Catholic Education Association’s (NCEA) conference April 22-24 in Pittsburgh. They said they were inspired by the conference’s opening liturgy. Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese gave the homily in which he told educators to, “Remember that God loves you. He really loves you. He calls each of you by name. In turn, we are called to be God’s hands. May we always continue to be an Easter people.”

Opening speaker Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., spoke on the new evangelization. Robert Marzano, author of The Art and Science of Teaching, delivered the closing address.
Lee Morrison, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Davenport, said he especially enjoyed a talk about strategic planning by the Diocese of Allentown, Penn. The Davenport Diocese plans to release its strategic plan this fall. Allentown “really talked development, planning and getting feedback from its stakeholders,” Morrison said. He plans to contact that diocese for more information as the Davenport Diocese finalizes its plan.


Lee Iben, president and CEO of Regina Education Center in Iowa City, attended NCEA for the first time as president. He thought it was a good fit because he is working on Regina’s 2014-19 strategic plan and wanted to learn more about the strategic plans that other schools have in place. “I was able to attend two specific sessions concerning strategic planning and an additional session on Catholic identity best practices. Additionally, the supporting materials presented at NCEA are always top notch and timely.

“My goal is to present at the NCEA conference next year on the working president/principal model Regina adapted in 2008. My discussion would center on the process of bringing a similar model to other Catholic schools and the successes and challenges they should expect to embrace.”

Julie Delaney, principal at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport, said attending NCEA is a highlight of her professional development. “This is the only conference that addresses the unique needs of Catholic school educators in the areas faith, academics and leadership. Along with providing practical information to make me a more effective leader, NCEA provides nourishment for my spiritual life.”

Cathy Hannon, religion coordinator for St. Paul the Apostle, also attended the conference. “I would love to be able to take all the teachers every year,” Delaney said. “It is important for Cathy to attend because as the religion coordinator, this is the only conference that provides the professional development she needs. Cathy works with all of the teachers at St. Paul’s when planning prayer services and Masses, as well as coordinating the religion classes.”

Some of the sessions Delaney attended: “Is Christ the Core of Your Standards? Educators must, and can, infuse the Common Core State Standards with Catholic identity; “Forming Strong Catholic Parents, One Virtue at a Time;” “Agents of Evangelization: Fostering Catholic Identity in the Classroom;” and “Become a Productive School Leader With Your iPhone/iPad!”

Celeste Vincent, principal of Regina Elementary in Iowa City, attended the conference to bring back new ideas, to renew her dedication to Catholic education, network with other administrators across the nation and to confirm/reaffirm “what we are doing in the name of Catholic education.”

Vincent noted that at Regina “our running theme for all correspondence this year is ‘We are Called.’ I found it to be divine intervention that this would be what was shared during the homily. It made me think of all the dedicated Catholic school educators we have. Our school is blessed.”

One presentation she attended was led by two mothers who lost children in the Sandy Hook tragedy. “Their message was to let God help you each and every day. They wanted all to remember that God will hold you up and give you the strength you need. Let God’s ‘to do’ list come before your personal ‘to do’ list.” Another session titled “You Can’t do it All” shared the complexity and demands of school leadership in the 21st century and encouraged principals to identify, nurture and cultivate leadership capacity of their staffs. “The Best Practice in Educating Students with Autism” shared ideas on how to help students who face challenges in the learning environment and ideas that teachers can use to create a successful school environment.

Two Regina staff members, Doug Vollstedt and Joan Ochoa, attended the conference. “We are thankful that Home and School sponsors an administrator and two teachers each year so that we can attend this valuable professional learning experience,” Vincent said. Names of the teachers selected were drawn from a hat.

“This is a terrific venue to reconnect with peers and the NCEA conference provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the ministry of Catholic education and why Catholic education, as a whole, is so vital in today’s society,” Iben said.

“The core values in Catholic education have to be understood,” Morrison said. “We need to tell our story and reach out and get people excited about Catholic education.”

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