“We’re just a little school in El Monte so getting this national attention is such an honor,” says Sister of St. Louis Stacy Reineman, principal at Nativity Elementary School, one of 12 recipients of the 2014 Innovations in Catholic Education Awards from Today’s Catholic Teacher.
A special insert in the March issue of the magazine featured the 12 honorees. The awards will be presented during the NCEA National Convention in Pittsburgh later this month.
Nativity was selected to receive the award in the category “Innovation in Curriculum and Instruction” based on its popular Electives Week program, now in its third year.
The idea for Electives Week came three years ago when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles strongly encouraged elementary schools to add 20 days to their school calendars. Nativity added 10 days to their school year with plans of adding more in the years to come.
Sister Reineman decided to use five of those days for electives where teachers offer different educational “servings” (she presented popular classes in photography and in balloon art/twisting). Middle school students had options throughout the day, while the lower grades stayed together as a class and rotated through various subjects.
Students chose between a host of engaging and intellectually stimulating activities including such offerings as boot camp, science “Myth Busters,” embroidery (“quite popular with the boys this year,” says Sister Reineman) and — for the first time this year — a weeklong retreat for middle grade students which was well attended.
All baked goods made in the baking class were sold at recess and lunch time with proceeds donated to the Holy Childhood Foundation.
Exposing kids to different experiences and allowing teachers to use their talents made for a wonderful week, says Sister Reineman, adding that being recognized for their creativity was just the icing on the cake.
“I think one of the biggest lessons we have learned is that for those kids who don’t excel in traditional subjects, they find something during Electives Week that they can excel at and that’s neat,” she points out. “Especially when it’s kids who have been struggling. To see them be recognized for other talents can be just the boost they need.”