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Professors begin three-year, cultural diversity training in Catholic schools

Nearly 300 Catholic school teachers will participate in a professional development program to raise awareness about cultural diversity

Chicago (Oct. 11, 2005) – Nearly 300 Catholic school teachers will participate in a professional development program to raise awareness about cultural diversity in their schools – for three years.
	
Designed by Saint Xavier University education professors Earl Thomas and David Bell, the program is designed to help teachers recognize how their schools are responding to a culturally diverse student body and how they might do more to meet the needs of their students.
	
While supportive of a Chicago Archdiocese mandate to participate in cultural diversity workshops, teachers of the Archdiocese’s Council 10-A schools on Chicago’s Southwest side felt the issue needed more attention to effectively bring about change, said one participant, St. Bede Principal Richard Guerin.
 	
“We wanted some long-term, sustainable changes, not a one shot deal,” he said. “We wanted to begin understanding cultures and to start examining the strengths of the different cultures in our schools.”
	
Gone are the days of monocultural schools, Guerin said. Many Catholic schools have experienced a change in their student body within the last 10 years. While educators have done a good job of meeting the needs of their students, there has been little done to assess how well schools have adapted to those changing demographics, Guerin said.
	
The program takes a broad look at cultural diversity, asking teachers to not only consider gender, race and ethnicity, but also learning abilities or disabilities among students and their socio-economic backgrounds, Thomas, one of the two Saint Xavier researchers, said.
	
The program will be administered through a series of surveys among teachers to measure their awareness of cultural diversity in their schools and to assess growth in awareness from one year to the next during the three-year program. 
	
How that growth will be achieved will be up to the teachers to determine, a key component of the program, Thomas said.
	
“Change will come from the voices of the teachers that work at the schools,” Thomas said. “The program is designed in a way that teachers are truly provided a voice and, therefore, greater buy-in of the plan.”
	
At the end of each year, teachers and administrators will report on their progress to members of the other schools from the Council 10-A, as well as what challenges remain to be addressed in the following years. Thomas noted that the duration of the professional development program is noteworthy because it allows participants to not only plan how to address an issue but to also measure their progress.
	
Schools participating in the project are: St. Barnabas, St. Bede the Venerable, St. Bernadette, St. Cajetan, Christ the King, St. Christina, St. John Fisher, Most Holy Redeemer, Queen of Martyrs, and St. Walter.
	
Founded in 1846 by the Sisters of Mercy, Saint Xavier University is a Catholic, coeducational, comprehensive university grounded in the tradition of the liberal arts and offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 5,700 students from across the country at campuses in Chicago and Orland Park.

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