Sharing Insight with Catholic Educators

On Thursday, April 27, 2023, the Institute for the Transformation of Catholic Education at The Catholic University of America held a webinar about Insight for over 100 registered participants. Insight is the first Social and Emotional Learning Professional Development Program for K-12 Catholic school educators that brings together contributions from the psychological sciences and the Catholic intellectual tradition. Insight is a joint project between ITCE and Aquinas College in Nashville, TN.

In June 2022, four Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia of Nashville, Tennessee, Sister Beatrice Clarke, Sister Dominica Bickerton, Sister Elena Marie Piteo, and Sister Maris Stella Vaughan, joined ITCE at The Catholic University of America to produce Insight. With the upcoming one-year anniversary of Insight’s launch in August, the team at ITCE is excited to share how Insight has impacted the work of Catholic educators across the United States and in nations abroad, including Australia, Canada, and Ireland. Since its launch, over 400 Catholic educators have subscribed to the video series to access Insight’s resources and better serve their students’ social and emotional needs.

ITCE Program Manager, Sagra Alvarado-Hardy, hosted the webinar on behalf of the Institute with a team of guest panelists, including two lead Insight co-contributors, Sr. Elena Marie and Sr. Dominica, and two Catholic school educators from St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge, VA, namely its principal, Sr. Mary Sheila Maksim, O.P, and her colleague, Katie Benjamin, a kindergarten teacher. Sagra shares, “It has been so rewarding to see how Insight has grown since its early stages of drafting, filming, and editing last summer. I am proud to share how far Insight’s reach has extended into Catholic education since its beginnings and how teachers and students alike have benefited from its lessons.”

The webinar consisted of a roundtable discussion with the panelists and time for participant questions afterwards. When asked about the creation of Insight, Sr. Dominica responded, “I think it’s fair to say that we had to go through several iterations of the structure of the program…so that we could blend it as best as possible.” Sr. Elena Marie agreed with Sr. Dominica’s observations, affirming that: “I think we struck a lovely median, but it was a long process. It’s not an easy thing to do whenever you’re integrating several disciplines. …with Insight we’ve been able to take those main points that are drawn from each discipline and weave them together.”

Later in the conversation, Sagra asked Sr. Mary Sheila and Katie for their “on-the-grounds” experience utilizing Insight during their faculty formation at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School. Sr. Mary Sheila remarked,

“Thank you, Sisters, for your hard work on this program. As a principal, and I know there are many in my position, we need something to form our teachers. It’s hard to find something good, so it’s a gift to have something like Insight because it’s so well grounded, it’s practical with examples in the classroom and applied to the teacher, it’s prayerfully done, it’s systematic that we can use every month – and it’s short! The videos are only 10-minutes long, each. And I know that it was really challenging to encapsulate that content in short videos, but that makes it practical for me as a principal to use the program with my faculty, and it’s free!”

Katie spoke about her experience going through Insight as a faculty member. She began, “Thank you so much for this program! It has been absolutely wonderful. If you’re looking for a stamp of approval – I give a dozen! ” Katie continued, “Insight is filling the teacher’s cup, so they can then fill the child’s cup. It’s helping us identify emotions that we might not even be familiar with in ourselves, so we can then identify them in students. In a time when teachers are tired and a little bit overworked, I think this program gives a layer of benefit in that we are able to take a break to look at scripture, to look at art, to look at how we can bring it all in, so we can give it back to our students.”

With that in mind mind, Katie shared how Insight helped her ease the anxiety of one of her kindergarten students after studying lesson five, “Eye of the Storm” in the Insight series by teaching the student to pray, “Jesus, I trust in you,” whenever she began to feel overwhelmed by her emotions, which the student continues to do months later. After the testimonies from Sr. Mary Sheila and Katie, the webinar opened up questions from the participants for a Q&A segment.

As the hour came to a close, Sagra thanked both the guest panelists and participants for making time in their busy schedules to attend the webinar. The team at ITCE prays that Insight continues to bless Catholic educators and their students for a deeper flourishing in their social and emotional well-being.

To hear more from our panelists about Insight, view the webinar recording here!