Dr. Richard Rymarz

Dr. Richard Rymarz

August 17, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

If you are new at teaching religious education or simply want fresh tips, there is a new book with sound advice.

It's called So You're Teaching Religion and offers helpful guidelines for teachers seeking to create engaging and dynamic faith formation classes.

Written by Dr. Richard Rymarz, a professor at St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta, the 63-page book explores content areas and teaching strategies that will "help Catholic teachers be good religious education teachers."

The book is divided in two parts. The first addresses religious themes such as the sacraments, Scripture and moral issues. The second offers practical advice for laying out discussion exercises and play-based learning.

"Much of the discussion in the book is centred on pedagogical issues that can help teachers treat religious education as a discipline that is serious, systematic and scholarly," explains Rymarz, who is currently on a sabbatical in his native Australia.

"I hope this book will offer practical assistance to religious education teachers who aspire to make a difference in the lives of their students."

Rymarz has been with St. Joseph's for eight years and holds the Peter and Doris Kule Chair in Catholic Religious Education there. Prior to that, he worked at Australian Catholic University. His 12-year experience teaching religious education in Catholic schools was in Melbourne, Australia.

In an email, Rymarz said he wrote the book because "teaching religious education can be very challenging and those who undertake it need practical assistance," which the book offers in abundance.

"I think the permeation of Catholic identity in schools must be founded on a comprehensive well-taught and well-resourced religious education program in Catholic schools," he continued.

"As Catholic educators we need to focus much more on what happens in the religious education classroom - what are students learning and how well we are teaching."

Besides, "there is no more important forum for the new evangelization than what happens in the religious education classrooms of Catholic schools," Rymarz pointed out. "Come September, all over Alberta every day, students will be in class doing religious education. Do we have a better opportunity to get our message across?"

AUTHENTIC CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

Rymarz is currently working on a book on "authentic Catholic schools." This is a more theoretical book that examines some of the more existential issues surrounding Catholic education.

He says So You're Teaching Religion has been well received with excellent reviews. "It has been taken up and used more in Ontario than Alberta, though."

David Keohane, superintendent of Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, has described the book as a definite "go to" resource for Catholic teachers.

"Richard's book is a timely, thorough and practical rendering of those pedagogical strategies that teachers can use to bring real value, meaning and impact within the catechetical and evangelical dimensions of Catholic education," Keohane commented in a review.

So You're Teaching Religion is available through the publisher Novalis.