NCEA is a learning experience

Jessica Moore, Nicole Holtkamp and Elizabeth Scheetz of Holy Trinity Elementary in West Point participated in the National Catholic Education Association Convention in Dallas last month.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Educators from across the continent convened at the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Convention in Dallas last month. Several educators from the Diocese of Davenport took part in the three-day convention, attending learning sessions, keynote addresses and networking opportunities.

“I was very impressed with the conference,” said first-time participant Jessica Moore, a fifth-grade teacher at Holy Trinity Elementary in West Point. “NCEA was full of people striving to make Catholic education their first priority… Being able to spend time and learn with teachers who shared that same passion was inspiring. I gained a wealth of knowledge on how to better incorporate our faith into my classroom.”

Doug Vollstedt, a first-grade teacher and coach at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City, has been to several NCEA conventions. “I enjoy attending these because of the energy that takes place with everyone educating today’s youth in Catholic schools… The convention is a great way to learn new ideas and get reinforcement for what we are already doing.”


Moore said the learning sessions were helpful, such as one on “Friendzy,” a program to help students gain a better understanding of their emotions and how to handle them in various situations. Holy Trinity plans to implement the program next year.

Elizabeth Scheetz, Holy Trinity’s elementary building coordinator, attended the convention for the third time. “This year is especially beneficial for me because the programming offered learning opportunities (related to) our school’s specific goals. We were able to bring back so many actionable tools, some that are even able to be implemented for the remainder of this school year.”

The Friendzy program will have the biggest impact on students and staff but “other sessions that I attended gave great tools to use for incorporating more Catholic learning opportunities throughout the day and seasons of the year,” Scheetz said. “I hope to integrate more activities with the Eucharist throughout the school year and have some great new resources to do so.”

Holy Trinity’s marketing director, Judi Dinwiddie, hopes the knowledge she gained at NCEA “will help me boost our social media presence and clearly define our school’s mission for the community. These tips and reminders could not have come at a better time for our school as we move forward with informing current families and community members of the opportunities available with the state of Iowa’s Students First Educational Savings Accounts.”

Holy Trinity’s business manager, Nicole Holtkamp, appreciated the variety of speakers and topics, including school choice legislation and workplace stress management. “The highlight for me was being able to interact one on one with one of the speakers (whose presentation Holt­kamp attended). We ended up sitting together during a different session and exchanged email information. She gave me a few additional tips.”

Participants had the opportunity to attend a liturgy each day. “It’s always moving to have a large number of people worshiping in one place,” Dinwiddie said. Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas celebrated the opening liturgy. “It really set the tone for the rest of the convention.”

 “As much as I enjoy the classes, I get very excited for the liturgies,” Vollstedt said. The local students who sang and played instruments during the liturgy inspired him.

Joan Ochoa, a second-grade teacher at Regina, said the past few years have been challenging for students and teachers. “I needed a spiritual time to rejuvenate my enthusiasm for teaching and feeling closer to God. The NCEA trip helped tremendously. Away from the pressures of home and school, I could focus on God and myself and find great speakers to guide me.  Experiencing Mass and classes with so many others who share a common belief, a common goal, and love of teaching helped redirect my focus on what is most important: God, faith, family and sharing and supporting our kids in their academic journey of faith-based education.” 

Vollstedt wished that all Catholic school educators could attend an NCEA conference. “It is energizing and a tremendous way to keep the faith going for our churches and students.”

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