Assumption University in Windsor, Ont., has a five-course graduate diploma in Catholic Studies that counts toward a Master’s in Education. It’s another step toward generating teachers for Catholic schools who are well prepared for the classroom in both mind and spirit. Wikipedia

Putting the ‘Catholic’ into teachers college

  • March 24, 2023

There are 40,000 Catholic teachers in Ontario and thousands more in the four provinces that provide some level of public funding to Catholic schools, to say nothing of even more who work in private Catholic schools. But there’s no Catholic teachers’ college in Canada, with the lone exception of the Faculty of Education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. — not a province with publicly funded Catholic schools.

Catholic teachers do most of their preparation to teach in Catholic schools in faculties of education that have no explicit ties to the Church.

“I find that more than a few teachers have a lack of awareness around Catholic teaching on certain topics,” Ottawa Catholic District School Board religious education and family life co-ordinator Mark Siolek told The Catholic Register in an e-mail. “This poses some challenges and concerns later on.”

Catholic teachers don’t just wander into a Catholic classroom with a baptismal certificate and a vague memory of their first communion. 

As undergraduates, most students who are aiming at teaching in Catholic school systems opt for courses in Catholic education. They often minor in Catholic Studies in their undergraduate years. At St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, they can be found in the Christianity and Culture program.

Once they land a job, professional development at Catholic boards very often concentrates on Catholic content and educational philosophy.

If that may seem like a patchwork solution to a pretty fundamental challenge — how to form Catholic teachers so they can effectively pass the faith on to their students — Assumption University and the University of Windsor have just injected a little dose of systematic rigour into the patchwork.

Assumption University’s five-course graduate diploma in Catholic Studies now counts toward advanced standing in the University of Windsor’s Master’s in Education program. 

The diploma was already designated a hiring asset by Catholic school boards. The Assumption graduate diploma combined with the University of Windsor M.Ed. would be a major stepping stone into a career as a Catholic school principal or administration role.

The agreement with the University of Windsor is a significant advance for tiny Assumption.

“It’s one of the first academic deals we’ve had with the university in a very long time,” Assumption principal John Cappucci told The Catholic Register. “Having a deal with the Faculty of Education makes a lot of sense.” 

Cappucci designed the Assumption graduate diploma with the Catholic school system in mind.  

“I spoke to about 20 Catholic school boards in the Province of Ontario when I was developing this program,” he said.

The Catholic Studies diploma is designed for working professionals who typically take one or two courses per semester online while they continue working. It starts with a foundational Catholic thought course, then covers the Catholic social justice tradition, interfaith dialogue and opens up opportunities for directed reading courses.

“The world is changing so rapidly and even the Church is changing rapidly,” Cappucci said. “We need to equip our students with that knowledge set.”

But the argument for learning everything about being a teacher in a thoroughly Catholic context has fans.

“A Catholic teachers college would provide benefit in regard to delivering the various subjects through a Catholic perspective,” said Siolek. “It would also provide the opportunity for faith formation and professional development.”

St. Joseph’s College vice president and academic dean Matt Kostelecky values the relationship his college has with a major research university as it prepares undergraduates for careers in teaching.

The Catholic college at the University of Alberta offers a four-course certificate program that prepares students for admission to the Faculty of Education. The certificate is considered a hiring asset by 11 of the 17 Catholic school districts in Alberta.

“It starts with the Bible, then fundamental theology, then how to teach it. There are two practical courses — how do you go about teaching it,” explained Kostelecky.The last thing Kostelecky would want to see is Catholic teacher training separated from the university.

“The university itself as an institution comes out of the Catholic context,” he said. “I would want to employ the institutional resources that are already there, but perhaps employ them in more careful and intentional ways so that we do worry and think about the formation of the individual teacher in concrete ways — so that they can integrate what they’ve learned into their personal prayer life, into their sense of who they are and why they’re choosing Catholic education instead of public education.”

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.