What a Ride!

4 years ago I took a risk. I never expected it would take me through one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was an experience that I know I will never, ever forget. Before I get too far, let me explain more of how I got on this ride!

I was at a school and I didn’t know what to do in regards to finding a full-time position. I kept trying for the same kind of high school positions that I always applied for, but I was never called upon for those jobs. Finally, I asked someone what I needed to do. The advice I received was “apply everywhere, even if you think you’re qualified or not.” Well, I thought, “what do I have to lose!” A week later, I saw a posting for a 5th and 6th grade social studies teacher at St. Michael School in Independence, Ohio. I saw this and said, “Well, might as well go for it!” Now, I have never taught anything below 9th grade, so I had no idea of how to work with 5th and 6th graders…so this was going to be quite a new experience for me if I was able to get this position.

When I received the phone call for an interview, I was quite pleased! This was a big step for me considering my luck up to then on even getting an interview was kind of tough. I prepared as best as I could and I came in for my first interview…then I had a second….then I received a phone call that changed my life. I was contacted and I was offered the position! Well, now what do I do?? I have to figure out curriculum…I have to figure out how to relate to almost middle schoolers…I have to actually decorate a classroom!!!!! But, most importantly, my risk paid off! I am going to be a 5th and 6th grade teacher! I was nervous, scared, and excited…all at the same time!

I still recall my first “meet the teacher night.” I was told that parents come and visit the teachers and pick up books. Ok…I can handle that! Well, I came into my classroom for that first evening and I look up and see 15 5th graders staring up at me! I was not prepared for that! I can talk to adults, but not kids. To make it worse, my podium was not tightened and as I leaned on it, it fell down a bit…this was a rough start to this meeting. I was embarrassed and confused, but it lightened the mood and I was supported by everyone in that room. That’s when I knew this would be a special experience in my life!

Ever since that day, I built a great relationship with those students. This year, my first 5th grade homeroom/class is graduating 8th grade. I still remember so many amazing moments with that group! The field trips…the decorating for my birthday…the lessons that were successes and the lessons that weren’t as successful. Everything that year was great! We grew together…we had fun together…we struggled together…we learned together! That’s what I will remember!

As I grew more and more comfortable within the 5th and 6th grade level…hold on…let me say the entire elementary school level, I found that Catholic education is truly my vocation. It is my calling to be a part of the education of the faith for these awesome students. Just seeing the students being so involved in extracurriculars and sharing their gifts and talents brings me great joy. The Bowling Club is a tremendous social event for students! Drama Club has over 60 students involved and the hardwork and dedication they put into the shows amazes me! The student band performances show such amazing growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year! I’m proud of each and everyone of these students!

This past year, I have found myself really growing closer to the teachers of St. Michael School. We have shared stories…lessons…laughs…and hardships. I have never met a more dedicated, caring, and loving group of teachers in my life. I have seen how supportive they are of the students, families, and community. They have inspired me and I know that they inspire our students.

The families at St. Michael School have been amazing supporters of me. I cannot thank them enough for guiding me along this journey and entrusting me to educate their students. I have been blessed by their willingness to provide whatever I needed and to be there to help me learn what the best way to meet the needs of their students can be. Families are the foundation of our faith and our school community, and I am so blessed to have such a positive relationship with them and I do hope that those relationships will continue into the future.

That leads me to this, and this will be difficult for me to say, but these will be my last few weeks at St. Michael School. There will only be 1 fifth grade class next year and there is no other opening for me to go. It truly breaks my heart, but I have come to accept this decision. Please know that St. Michael School will always hold a special place in my heart. St. Michael School has provided me so many amazing opportunities as an educator. I was able to showcase the school and my passion for Catholic education through the school allowing me to participate in the National Catholic Educational Association Social Media Influencer contest. I was provided the opportunity to attend the NCEA convention the following year because of the generous support of the PTU. I was able to grow in my faith and my vocation as a Catholic educator.

I am sad to leave St. Michael School, but I am also excited for whatever the new chapter in my educational career holds for me. I will remain up to date with the events and stories of St. Michael School. I hope that I will still be able to make it to sporting events and other student involved activities. St. Michael School is a very special Catholic school community! What makes this school so special are the students, families, teachers, and community of supporters! I wish the entire school community all the best as I move on! I’ll be praying for you! Let your light shine! Once a Blue Angel, Always a Blue Angel! Thank you for the amazing 4 year ride! God bless!

Spring is coming!

The weather over the past few days has become more and more pleasant. I can easily tell that my students are getting more and more excited about this pleasant weather. Nothing beats going outside for recess. I don’t have anything wrong with indoor recess, as it is a necessity, but outdoor recess is something great! Even though, this year my students were amazing with indoor recess. I saw so much team building, extra work being done, and I heard so much laughter…that’s what recess is about!

Spring is a time for growth. It’s a time for forgiveness and new starts. This is a time of year that I feel we need to see students in the same way that we see the seasons…we need to recognize their growth in learning throughout the year;  in socialization; and as individuals. We also need to be forgiving of their mistakes. This is a long stretch of school that they are facing. It isn’t an easy process. They are getting worn out, they are getting fidgety, they are being kids! We need to realize that they are seeing the sunshine more, they are feeling the warmer temperatures…they want to be more active and growing just like the world around them is doing! We need to embrace their excitement for the new season, the upcoming break, and the end of the school year.

Students are eager to learn. I see it everyday! They question, respond, and want to be a part of the “more” of the content. I feel inspired by this. They make me want to look into our topics even deeper. They ask questions that make me start to wonder and provide me with so much excitement to learn! This Spring season is a time for me to look deeper into what I can do for my students. I want to know where I can help my school community out the most. Where that is, I do not know. I just have to trust that God will place me where I need to be. I need to trust that God will use me where He sees that I am best. I also need to trust that He will help me grow wherever I am.

Spring truly is my favorite season. I feel so much joy seeing everything come back and grow. This is also probably why I associate teaching best with the season of Spring. I am looking forward to spending the end of this school year with these amazing students. I can’t wait to see them grow and learn with so much excitement at the end of this year. I’m also excited to see how they progress as they move ahead in their education. These students are the reason I love what I do! They energize my passion for education, but more importantly, Catholic education. I have seen their growth in the relationship with Christ that they have and I have grown in my relationship with Christ as well.

I hope that you all enjoy this upcoming season of Spring. I hope that you grow and learn throughout these couple of months. I also hope that you find a renewed excitement and passion for your relationship with Christ.

#OneWord2019: Opportunity

A set of circumstances that that makes it possible to do something…an opportunity.

An opportunity is what we all need to make ourselves better. An opportunity is what we all need to push ourselves forward. An opportunity is what we all need to give each other to make each other better.

Opportunity is the word that I have chosen for my #OneWord2019. Why? Why did I choose this word? Well, first of all, I have been given an opportunity to become an educator. I have taken this opportunity to, hopefully, guide the lives of my students to become loving, caring, faith-filled citizens of our world. Each day that I come to work, I feel joy in knowing that I have the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of my students. I have the opportunity to discover more about my students and make connections with them, whether it be about sports, the subject we are discussing, dancing (which I am not too good at!), cats (that I’m allergic to!), theatre, or any other random topic that comes about…it’s the opportunity to learn more about students as people, rather than just a number in the classroom. If the opportunity to learn more about students is not acted upon, students don’t feel welcome; they don’t feel like the classroom is theirs…students won’t be excited to learn. I need to take the opportunity that lies ahead of me when it comes to knowing my students to ensure that they truly want to be there to learn!

In another sense, I need to provide my students an opportunity. I need to give them the opportunity to learn more…to desire more…to be more than they are currently. It is my responsibility to make every learning opportunity available to my students. Students need to be given these opportunities, for it is their learning. Everyday is an opportunity for them to grow in their learning, socializing, spirituality, and emotional growth. I need to be there to support them and their needs. It is an opportunity for the school community to develop and understand each other.

I also need to see opportunities to better myself academically. The academic world is ever changing. There are so many new, innovative teaching resources available that can aid my students that I need to understand. There is so much I need to learn as a teacher. There is so much I need to learn as an academic leader. This year is an opportunity for me to develop into a greater guide for my students, my colleagues, and my school community.

We need to see the opportunities that we have in our lives. Sometimes what we see as an opportunity is not the opportunity that is right for us. Maybe situations that we encounter that we don’t take but are later presented to us will be the right opportunity for us. We just need to take each opportunity seriously and with the best that we have to offer. We cannot let opportunities to pass us by…pass me by!

Each day is an opportunity. An opportunity for me…for my students…for my colleagues. Grow with them. Challenge yourself. Embrace the opportunity. Be the opportunity for others!

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The Christmas Toy Drive

Yesterday I took part in an event that I know I will always remember…the delivery of a dumpster full of toys to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland. The toys came from the generous donations from the families of my school, St. Michael School in Independence, Ohio.

How did we get the idea of having a toy drive for Rainbow Hospital? Well, we did it because St. Michael School is a family! One of our students, PJ, has had many surgeries to help him. He has a condition called Craniosynostosis which means his skull does not develop to fit his growing brain. He has had 16 surgeries on his skull to help him. He is a special child…he is a Blue Angel…he is family!

PJ’s family wanted to do something special to help the children who may not be receiving gifts this Christmas season. They know the realities of how the holiday season is for children in the hospital, which is where St. Michael School stepped in. We started PJ’s Rainbow Christmas Toy Drive!

When this started, I’ll admit that my homeroom started off kind of slowly. I was promoting the drive and encouraging my students to give. It was still slow but then all of a sudden it took off! My homeroom started giving…and giving…and even more giving! Entering into the last few days we were at 87 gifts donated by my homeroom! The last day, even more came in! We ended with over 110 gift for the toy drive! I couldn’t have been happier! My students stepped up and overwhelmed me with their compassion and generosity!

Now, this was just my homeroom. Every homeroom was just as generous! The school carried their donations down and we filled up a dumpster full of toys! It was a beautiful sight! It was a sight of our community gathering, donating, and showing the true meaning of the Christmas season!

At the end of day, PJ and his family headed down to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital to empty the dumpster. I was unsure if I wanted to go, but in the end I decided to go, and I will be forever grateful for my decision! I followed a dumpster from St. Michael School all the way to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. It was a dumpster full of joy!

As we waited to empty the dumpster, we were unable to put the dumpster down on the ground, which caused some issue. For some reason, I said just lift me up and I will be the one in the dumpster to empty it. It was me in the dumpster full of the generosity of St. Michael School. It was emotional and joyous! We emptied the dumpster…box after box of toys, books, games, and crafts! We filled up Rainbow’s library! We showed the true St. Michael School spirit…giving to others without questioning what we will receive in return! We give because it’s what we do!

So many amazing moments happened…me not wanting to go, but ending up being the one to unload the gifts…PJ’s neurosurgeon just happened to walk by for an awesome photo opportunity…seeing the faces of the UH Rainbow’s staff as they were overwhelmed by our donations! It was just what I needed heading into Christmas break!

I will never forget having PJ and his brothers join me in the dumpster to help get the items out. I knew of PJ, but I never really met him until yesterday since he is only in 1st grade. After yesterday, I feel like I have known him for a long time!

Yesterday was extremely special. Yesterday was St. Michael School at its finest! Yesterday was a day that I will always remember! I want to thank PJ’s family for letting me be a part of such a special event!

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Making Connections

Well, today I did something that I haven’t done before. I was challenged by my students to take on a task that they see as very important…and that is to play Fortnite! I know that this game has been around and that it is an activity that students see as a release from the stress of school and their daily pressures. It also is a way for students to connect outside of school…and that’s where today’s adventure begins.

Today was the first day of drama club auditions and I am supervising a room full of 6th and 7th graders who are showing great dedication to this show already! While they are waiting for auditions students are playing various games on and off of their devices. Students who are playing Fortnite kept asking me if I have ever played the game and I told them that I haven’t…but that soon was going to change. A student handed me his phone and said “Here you go!” and I was on my way to playing Fortnite!

Well, I soon ended up falling from the sky…landing in some random place…jumping onto a plane and flying around…chopping down trees…and losing. Honestly though, it was a win. Students saw me differently. They saw me doing the Fortnite dances. They saw me taking on something that I haven’t ever done before. That’s the win! That’s where I come out ahead…students seeing teachers take risks…being silly…being real!

Fortnite isn’t for me…but it is a silly game that I enjoy putting myself out there to play! I may not be good at it, but I did have fun. I am looking forward to working with this group of students on this drama club production! Maybe we will have some Fortnite dances in our choreography!

School Theme…Let Your Light Shine!

As we continue into our school year, our school theme of “Let Your Light Shine” is bright throughout the school community. We are growing our light in many ways. We are trying new methods of teaching…we are welcoming new students and teachers into our school with open arms…we are finding new friends…but most importantly, we are shining God’s light to everyone we see!

“Let Your Light Shine” shows that we are working together to make our school and community an open and inviting environment for all! We cannot be an environment that excludes. We are all God’s children and we need to treat each other as such. God’s light needs to shine brightly from within each of us. The darkness in this world can only be overcome by the light that we show.

I have 16 students in my homeroom and each student shines their light in a different way. There are artists, singers, dancers, athletes, readers, crafters, engineers, and so many other gifts that God has given to them. This has been an inspiration for me. These students, in the short time that I have had them, have reignited my passion for education. We have been in class for 1.5 quarters and I have seen such growth in these students. They have truly brought a new light into my educational career.

We have to continue to let our light shine. We cannot stop letting it shine because of challenges that we may encounter. We need to have our lights shine brighter during these difficult moments. We each face challenges throughout our lives, but we need to find ways to let our light shine through any crack in that challenge and find a motivation to move forward.

This year has already prepared me for a bright future. All I hope is that I am leading my students towards their bright future. Can’t wait to see how bright my students will shine at the end of this school year! Let your light shine, Blue Angels!

Preparing for the School Year

The upcoming school year is rapidly approaching and it is a bittersweet moment. Spending time with family and friends, working on my new house, enjoying time with my new wife, and enjoying time exploring my new neighborhood…these are all moments that will be reduced as I begin this new school year. Yes, I will miss those moments, yet I’m excited for the upcoming possibilities that this school year holds. It’s going to be a year of innovation, growth, socialization, and self-discovery. It’s a year all about students!

When students enter into my classroom, excuse me, when students enter into THEIR classroom, it will be a place for them to be who they are. It will be a place where they can grow in their social skills, grow in their knowledge, and grow in their faith. I do not want my classroom to be a place where students feel unwelcome or out of place. Our classroom will be a community.

Preparing a classroom is not easy, yet at the same time it is exciting. This summer our school did a little remodeling. The classroom was painted and new carpet was laid. It’s a much different look now! With all these changes, there is more to do to prepare for the upcoming year. There is more cleaning, moving of desks and cabinets, and hanging posters up on the wall, but this is a representation of our upcoming year…it’s a fresh start!

Every student comes into a classroom with a past. Every student has their story. I cannot let those stories impact how I see a student. Every student that enters into the classroom is a new story and this school year is a new chapter for them. The past will not define my perception of a student. This upcoming year is like the new paint and carpet in my classroom for each student…it’s a fresh start.

I’m excited for this upcoming year! Next week students will enter into their classroom, some will be eager and others may be nervous, but each student will be there to grow as an individual or a community. We will grow together and we will share laughs and failures and we will become a better community. We will see our faith grow individually and in each other. We our going to SHINE!

NCEA Day 2…The Presentation

So, today I did something that I never thought I would do…present at a national conference! Sure…it wasn’t the entire convention I was presenting to, but it was still letting my voice be heard to teachers from across the country. I was overwhelmed, excited, nervous, and all those other words to describe my anxiousness. All that matters though is that I did it. I took a risk and faced it head on. I did something that was different for me and I did it well.

Yes, I said I did it well. Do I know that for sure? No…but I felt like I did well. My perception from observing the audience was that they were receptive of what I was saying…and sometimes that is what matters most. I will never know the true outcome of my presentation, but if it helped one person, that is what matters. I was placed in Junior Ballroom B at the Duke Energy Convention Center for some reason. I spoke from the heart…I told the great story that is St. Michael School…I shared my Joy of the Gospel with the people that attended my session. That’s what I set out to do. I wanted people to walk away from my session energized in a way that will make them want to bring their passion of the Word of God to the families in their school community. Now it’s up to the Spirit to lead them to deliver that joy to the families.

Leading up to the presentation, I was nervous. Why? Why was I so nervous telling the story of a place that I hold so dear to my heart? Here’s the answer…there’s a lot pressure sharing the long, wonderful story that is St. Michael School. I have only been at the school for 3 years, but I can tell that the families and teachers have a deep care and love for the school community. Placing myself in front of educators from around the country to tell this story was overwhelming, but a great honor as well. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to tell the great things that St. Michael School does to educate both our students and school community.

The main thing I did throughout this whole process was to let the Spirit lead me. I had to trust that I was being placed where I needed to be, and I truly feel that I was led to where I needed to be. I was where the Spirit placed me to give the spark to someone or some place…who that was or where that was I may never know. All I do know is that I was able to share my Joy of the Gospel and Joy of St. Michael School to those in attendance at NCEA 2018!

NCEA 2018 Day One…Spirituality and Mission

Today was the first day of the National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo in Cincinnati. I went into today with having a basic idea of which sessions I wanted to attend, but as I went further into the day I let the Spirit lead me into the sessions I needed to be in. Yes, the sessions I needed to be in…not the sessions I wanted to be in. Sometimes we need to let ourselves go and let the Spirit place us where we need to be.

Even before sessions began, the Convention began with Mass. Today’s Mass was special as it was presided by His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. In simpler terms, he oversees all Catholic education for the Vatican. The main theme for the Mass was “Who are we seeking?” We are seeking the Lord, Jesus Christ. We need to seek Him everywhere.

This is sort of why I let the Spirit lead me to the sessions I attended. I was seeking the Lord where I needed to find him. I found him in 2 sessions that dealt with Spirituality and Mission in schools. Why was I pulled to these sessions? What was I to find in these 2 sessions? I believe I found my reasons…I need to be stronger in developing mission and faith formation for myself and my school community.

Session 1 was great. I spent the session thinking and reflecting on my own reason of why I am a part of a Catholic school. It strengthened my calling of being a Catholic educator….yet I also found new ways, simple ways, to bring faith formation to myself and my colleagues, which will only lead itself to developing a greater faith formation for our students. It’s where I needed to be.

Session 2 was a last second decision. I was about to walk into a session, yet I stepped out and went next door only to be pulled into a session on developing spirituality and faith formation. Very similar to the first session, yet it was more interactive. More opportunities to share and build with other Catholic educators. This was more of what I needed, especially since it built off my first session. I found several connections and ways that I feel will benefit my school community well. I’m excited to share what I gained in these 2 sessions.

Again, I didn’t really have a plan, but I did feel I needed to be in these sessions. Sometimes we need to let go of our plan and let the Spirit lead us to His plan.

Our keynote address was by His Eminence and then Bishop Caggiano. Their discussions were on the Joy of the Gospel and Catholic education. This was a bit overwhelming for me since my presentation tomorrow is Taking the Joy of the Gospel from the Classroom to the Home! How am I supposed to follow up a Cardinal and a Bishop on this topic? I will try my best, but all I can do is let the Spirit lead me. The Spirit will guide me in what I need to say and share. The Spirit does wonderful things for us. We just need to place our trust and focus on letting the Spirit place us where we need to be.

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I will be presenting. I will be sharing the story of St. Michael School and how we take the Joy of the Gospel from our classrooms to our families. We have areas we can grow and I feel we are on the right path. I’m excited for tomorrow, yet I’m also nervous. I know that I will share from the heart and that I have amazing support behind me. Please keep me in your prayers.

God bless!

My One Word for 2018…Family!

Family. Family can be defined as a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household. Yes, that is a very basic definition of family, but what characteristics do I see in a family? I see family as a group of people who care for each other; who want to see each other grow and be better each day; to learn from each other; support each other; to laugh with each other; to have fun; and most importantly, want to be with each other.

Now, why would I choose the word family as my One Word for 2018? Well, there are may reasons. First of all, I am blessed to be a part of a loving supportive family. My family has guided me throughout my entire life and I am so fortunate to have my mom, dad, and sister to be there for me everyday. I am also blessed to have a great brother-in-law and 3 nephews to make me a stronger person. They are so instrumental in me being who I am today!

Secondly, my life with be changing on July 7 when I begin my own family. I will be getting married on July 7 and I am beyond excited to begin my new life and family with my amazing fiancee! She is so supportive, loving, and caring that I don’t know where I’d be without her! My family life is going to change on July 7, but it also means it is going to be even stronger because of all the support I have and will continue to receive from my current family!

Thirdly, I want my students to feel as if we are a family. My classroom will be supportive, caring, wanting each other to grow better each day, having fun, laughing, and wanting to be there. Every student should want to come to school not because they have to, but because they want to be with their classmates. I want students to take risks together and challenge each other to be the best they possibly can be, both academically and spiritually.

I want my students to look at their faith with open eyes and hearts to find ways that they can guide others in their faith. I want students to take their strengthened and renewed faith and take it home with them to their families. I want my classroom to extend from the school building into their homes. I cannot let the opportunities to grow the faith of my students to slide by. I need to see my students and classroom as a family more. I need to guide and facilitate ways for my students to want to support each other even more.

While my classroom is not the definition of parents and children living together in a household, I feel we are and can be an even stronger “family” by the characteristics I feel a family has. I am excited for my future family, but I’m also excited to take the second half of the school year and 2018 to grow my classroom into more of a “family”.