The Sophia Institute for Teachers, founded last year to “renew Catholic culture through Catholic education,” made five daylong presentations Aug. 4-8 in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The program, an initiative of Sophia Institute Press, offers training programs, lesson plans and ongoing advice and support to teachers and schools.
Msgr. Sabato A. Pilato, the archdiocese’s superintendent of high schools, called the program “a God-send!” Educators welcomed the “engaging” program that was “useful to religion teachers in the trenches.”
“The combination of scholarly presentation with an experienced teacher’s adaptation of the material provided teachers with substantive, orthodox Catholic teaching along with a useful application to the classroom setting,” he said, thanking the benefactors that made the initiative possible.
Online resources make it a program that “keeps on giving,” Msgr. Pilato said. Free materials include lessons connecting the faith to current events and on liturgical life as well as classroom-ready handouts on such sources as the Bible and St. Thomas Aquinas.
“The expertise of the teachers is one of the things we’re relying on,” said Veronica Burchard, one of the presenters and Sophia Institute’s vice president for education programs. “These are tools to assist teachers in what they’re already doing.”
Burchard underscored the role teachers play by knowing their students.
“One thing that’s constant is that we seek someone to love us, that God loves us, that our teachers love us,” she said, referencing St. John Bosco’s quote: “Young people must not only be loved, but must know that they are loved.”
Connecting lesson plans to current events hooks students into discussions about the truth of the faith, Burchard said. She also doesn’t believe in relying solely on technology.
“There’s a wonderful ability on the Internet to obtain information,” she said. “But I’m a big believer in face-to-face communication to make a real connection.”
The institute notes common misunderstandings students struggle with when it comes to the Catholic faith and offers teachers ways to clarify. Each lesson begins with a beautiful piece of sacred artwork that can lead into meaningful discussions.
“Beauty exposes us to the divine,” Burchard said.
The institute’s Catholic Curriculum Exchange offers teachers a way to share lesson plans.
For more information on the Sophia Institute for Teachers, visit www.sophiainstituteforteachers.org.