Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 4, 2002
St. Joe's meets religious ed needs
New Catholic teachers need classes offered by Catholic college
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Like most colleges in the city, St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta is listening to the market when it comes to offering new courses. And it's paying off.
Course enrollments at St. Joe's have increased significantly since it began offering religious education courses geared specifically to students enrolled in the faculty of education who are preparing to become Catholic teachers.
And the request for these courses came straight from employers such as the Edmonton Catholic Schools and the Elk Island Catholic School Division.
St. Joseph's has always offered courses geared primarily towards students enrolled in the faculty of education who are planning to teach within the Catholic school system.
But two years ago it began offering two religious education courses that fulfill the hiring requirements of most Catholic boards of education. One is called Theological Education of the Catholic Teacher, a one-trimester course that prepares the prospective teacher on the foundations of the Catholic faith.
The other is a set of two methodology courses - one to prepare education students who want to teach grade level and another for those who want to teach high school.
"Catholic school boards want well trained and well prepared teachers who are models of their faith," says Basilian Father Tim Scott, president of St. Joe's.
"That's to say if you want to teach in Edmonton Catholic you must have taken during your undergraduate time at the University of Alberta two courses from St. Joe's, specifically Theological Education of the Catholic Teacher, and the other methodology course."
The Theological Education of the Catholic Teacher course is the most popular with some 300 students having completed it in the past two years. This year there are 250 students taking different sections of the course. Most of them are education students.
"Curiously not all of them are Catholic," noted Scott. "We have non-Catholics, we have non-Christians taking the course."
The course is "an examination of the foundation of the faith (which deals with) what is important to know about the Catholic faith if you are going to be a teacher in a Catholic school," the president explained. "It's not a course on teaching methodologies as a much as a critical reflection on the content of the faith at a university level."
In September St. Joe's will begin offering the course in French for francophone education students enrolled at Faculte St. Jean. And in September 2003, it'll begin offering the course online for students from outside the city and from outside the province as well.
In the past two years enrollment at St. Joe's has climbed from 1,100 to 1,350 and Scott credits the college's move towards religious education for the increase. He hopes the college will be able to sustain the interest and involvement in these courses.
"The move (towards religious education) is a little bit market-driven but I think it's a good drive," the president admits. "I think Catholic parents have some real expectations about the people who are teaching in Catholic schools.
"I think the school trustees have been very clear about this and the superintendents have been clear about it and they are saying 'what can we do to get future teachers as well prepared as possible to go into Catholic schools' and these courses are the way of doing that.
"This is an absolutely win-win situation. The school boards want well trained, well prepared Catholic teachers and we are in the business of helping the faculty of education provide that."
Scott said in the last few years the Catholic school system has become more explicit in terms of what they expect of a teacher, going from "it would be a good thing if teachers have some theology" to "they have to have specific courses" if they want to teach in a Catholic school.
"Clearly the superintendents have been sending a very strong signal to their hiring people that they are looking for teachers who can be models of their own Catholic faith," he said.
"Catholic jurisdictions want to see somebody who is a Catholic, somebody who believes and lives that Catholic faith and somebody who in their academic programs has taken the time to reflect critically on their faith. That's what they are looking for, those pieces together."
But the courses are popular not just because they are a requirement. "What I also find very interesting is that these courses have provided a context for what is really evangelization," Scott said.
"Students want to know more about their faith. They have perhaps not had the opportunity as young adults to reflect seriously upon their faith and this kind of course setting, which obviously has the normal rigours of the university class, is giving them an opportunity to do that. It's giving them a kind of a holistic understanding of how faith is integrated to our living."
And according to the college's president, this is going to make a big difference in Catholic schools. "It's going to make their environment much more explicit. It'll help create an environment where Catholic values, Catholic understanding will really permeate the curriculum within Catholic schools."
St. Joe's is currently in the process of hiring a full-time professor of religious education "to get us focused on that whole dimension in the college," said Scott. "Hiring a (full time) religious education professor is a new phase in our growth."
St. Joe's also offers other courses specifically for high school teachers." Teachers of science, for example, can take a course on science and religion which is very popular," the president noted. "For teachers in other areas we have courses in sex and marriage and courses in bioethics, which are very popular."