CANANDAIGUA, N.Y., August 1 - The first national conference for educators who seek to renew the Catholic Church's tradition of classical liberal arts education revealed a growing tide of enthusiasm among teachers and administrators from across the U.S. and even Canada.
"This is everything I believed that education could and should be," said Anne Muntz, a 20-year veteran public school teacher who recently joined the faculty of St. Agatha Academy in Winchester, Kentucky, as it makes a transition to a classical model. "[It] renews my faith that I was called to be a teacher and that we can make a difference in children's lives."
More than 70 educators from 35 different institutions and dioceses in the U.S. and Canada gathered here in mid-July for a conference that established ties among dozens of Catholic schools that have adopted a classical model or are exploring ways to move in that direction. Sponsored by The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE) the conference will be held next year in the Washington, D.C., area in response to clear demand for support of the growing movement. Designed to be both inspirational and practical, the program offers formation for administrators, teachers, board members, and superintendents.
"This conference is the start of something important for the Church," said Dr. Kevin Roberts, founder of John Paul the Great Academy in Lafayette, Louisiana, and now President of Wyoming Catholic College. In his opening address, "Creating Order in a Chaotic World", Roberts emphasized the benefits of classical education on the young while giving 12 tips for succeeding in what can at times be a difficult process.
Dr. Andrew T. Seeley, Executive Director of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, said his organization is poised to help Catholic schools join the wider classical school movement, which includes the 230 member Association of Christian Classical Schools and the burgeoning Great Hearts' charter school network.
Seeley expressed his excitement in his closing remarks to the conference. "Non-Catholics in classical education ask me, 'Where are the Catholics? This is your tradition.' Now I can say, 'Here we are!' And we're bringing the full tradition of the Church, her liturgical life and her educational experience to enrich the classical model."
ICLE plans to expand its services to offer more in-service programs, drawing on experienced teachers from established Catholic classical schools, according to Seeley. Collaborative relationships with institutions like the Circe Institute and the Institute for Excellence in Writing will help provide specific training where needed. Planned upgrades to the website will offer further resources and a job posting page.
"I believe our Institute will be an important instrument in forming school communities with a clear Catholic educational vision, whose examples will be a blessing for all Catholic schools and parishes," Seeley said.
Click HERE for free audio from the 2013 conference.
Click HERE for complete audio from the 2013 conference.