CV NEWS FEED // The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE) has launched a groundbreaking alternative to state teacher’s licensing requirements at a time when more and more states are codifying woke standards into their licensing processes.
The Catholic Educator Formation and Credential (CEFC) program, which prepares Catholic school educators to infuse a deeply Catholic philosophy and anthropology into their teaching, is designed to replace the de facto need for state-approved licensure at Catholic schools across the country.
“It’s sad to say, but it’s common when I talk with teachers who graduated from a state program for them to say it was a waste of time,” says the director of the CEFC program, Dr. Alyssan Barnes.
“And state programs are often not just banal but are more and more downright harmful; faithful Catholic administrators are finding that teachers who are trained in ‘woke’ programs have to be untrained when they make it back to their schools.”
A Better Way
Enter the CEFC, which developed out of collaboration between bishops, superintendents, teachers, pastors, and principals.
The 18-month program, which will begin with a 40-person cohort during the summer after a successful pilot program in the Archdiocese of Denver, focuses on practical classroom training while staying true to the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person.
“With everything we do, we are being intentional about making it relevant to the classroom and informed by the Catholic faith; it’s highly practical, but it’s deeply Catholic,” says Barnes.
“All of the instructors model the kind of teaching we want our teachers to do – sometimes interactive and hands-on, sometimes contemplative and focused, but always with attention to beauty, wonder, and joy.”
Coursework with ‘Top-Notch Faculty’
The 18-month program is broken into five integrated courses delivered through a hybrid mix of in-person workshops held at Nashville’s Thomas Aquinas College and distance learning.
Courses include “The Virtuous Classroom,” where educators learn a foundation in classroom management framed by an understanding that their students as made in the image and likeness of God. In “Quadrivium: The Harmony of Number” educators learn to encourage their students to explore the wonder and mysteries of the created world and grow in relationship with the Creator himself. In “Trivium: The Mastery of Language,” educators will learn how to provide a foundation in language as the medium of thought through a study of the three liberal arts of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
Throughout the courses, educators are led by some of the brightest and most recognized Catholic liberal arts educators in the country.
“We have a truly top-notch faculty, each with a special role they play,” says Barnes.
Instructors include Barnes as well as Dr. DeAnne Staurt, Dean of Curriculum at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Tyler, Texas; Merril Robeets, a Nature Studies teacher at St. Jerome Academy and postgraduate researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD; as well as Dr. Arthur Hippler, Chairman of the Religion Department at Providence Academy in Minnesota.
A Turning Point?
The program comes at a critical time amidst the country’s ongoing fight over the role of teachers and curricula.
Despite moves by states such as Florida and Oklahoma to restrict woke ideology in the classroom, some states are increasingly adopting woke standards and requirements in their licensure rules for teachers. Minnesota’s licensing board, for instance, adopted a set of requirements in 2022 that requires teachers to demonstrate Marxit-inspired critical race theory and gender ideology into their classroom pedagogy.
“The teacher fosters an environment that ensures student identities…such as…sex and gender, gender identity, sexual orientation…are…affirmed, and incorporated into a learning environment…” reads the approved measure from Gov. Tim Walz’s Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB).
While not required by law to hire teachers with teaching certifications from the state, many Catholic school superintendents and dioceses do so by default.
In contrast, the CEFC brings the formation of Catholic teachers back under the guidance of the Church – not secular licensing boards and certainly not Democrat politicians.
Barnes, for her part, sees the program providing an answer to the challenge posed by woke educators in schools across the country.
“Our faith has something to say about social justice; in fact, we believe that it actually has the answer to the issues that ‘woke’ education is trying to address. But in the same way that we’re called to be just, we’re also called to be charitable, merciful, ready to acknowledge our own sins, and open to God’s grace.”
“It’s a rich and complex anthropology, not a simplistic one.,” Barnes adds.
Though CEFC has only completed a pilot program, the response has already been overwhelming.
“Participating dioceses tell us they’re delighted to see that their teachers in this program bring back fresh ideas and enthusiasm for Catholic liberal education to their own schools,” says Barnes, who noted that the 2023/2024 cohort features teachers from California to Florida.
“Teachers have exponential reach in evangelizing the culture,” she adds. “We want to grow up those leaders within institutions that are deeply committed to the Catholic faith.”
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