By Katrina Genereux/Associate Editor, OND
East Grand Forks – Teachers from the eight Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Crookston attended the biennial Professional Development Day hosted by the Office of Catholic Schools. This year the event was held at Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks.
Debbie Averbeck was named diocesan Teacher of the Year. She has been teaching first grade at Holy Rosary School, Detroit Lakes, for 16 years. Averbeck and Holy Rosary Principal Cathy Larson will be sent to the National Catholic Educational Association Convention in Baltimore April 14-16.
She was surprised and overwhelmed by the announcement. The nomination cited her deeply rooted faith and efforts to support her students.
“I love having God at the center of our day and being able to share the faith and his love with my students every day,” she said. “I also love being able to help my students grow in their faith and love for God, knowledge and confidence throughout the year.”
Averbeck said her calling to become a teacher began in third grade while she was attending Holy Rosary School. Her granddaughter will start preschool there in the fall and is the fourth generation of her family to go to school there.
“I feel so blessed to be working at Holy Rosary School,” she said. “We have the best team of teachers, staff, and families; everyone works together and supports one another like a family.”
This was the third year a diocesan teacher has been recognized with this award. Andrew Hilliker, Director of the Office of Schools and Principal of St. Joseph School, Moorhead, said adjustments were made to the nomination and selection processes this year.
“We wanted to create an opportunity not just for other teachers, but also parents, students, parishioners or general stakeholders in our schools to give input and feedback on some of the good things that people are doing at each individual diocesan school,” Hilliker said.
About 40 nominations were received. “It was a truly humbling experience to go through and read them all,” he said.
Hilliker asked a panel of principals from outside the diocese to review the nomination forms with names and schools removed. In addition to Averbeck, the finalists for Teacher of the Year were: Ben Gergen, math teacher at Sacred Heart School, East Grand Forks; Jennifer LeMire, third grade teacher at Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks; Jeanne Lindquist, middle school math teacher at St. Joseph School, Moorhead; and Kari Rath, third grade teacher at St. Bernard School, Thief River Falls.
The development day was attended by 175 education professionals who gathered for prayer, continuing education and relationship building prior to the school year.
“I think sometimes our schools get a little isolated and we feel like we are little islands,” Hilliker said. “I think above and beyond any other objective, we want to make sure teachers know there are colleagues in other places in the diocese that have similar jobs. We are always hopeful that this day results in some professional relationships that are ongoing.”
Sessions included NWEA Assessment Application to help teachers better understand and use data gathered during MAP testing in their classrooms. Every Catholic school in the diocese uses this system to track and enhance student learning.
One session was geared toward newer teachers.
“We put an emphasis this year on helping our new teachers understand the ministry of Catholic education,” Hilliker said. “It’s not just a job, it’s fulfilling something much bigger than that.”
Other sessions focused on students’ mental health, early childhood classroom strategies, and Catholic faith foundations and connecting with students.
Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner celebrated Mass to close the day. He was joined by Msgr. Michael Foltz, Father Matt Schmitz and Father Vincent Miller.
“Your work of faith is a labor of love that results in a growing hope, not only for you but for the young ones with whom you are charged,” Bishop Hoeppner said during the homily. “We pray for a great year for you and a great year for the young students to grow in grace and faith before God, to come to know Jesus more, to learn about life.”