BRIMMING WITH HOPE | Time for Catholic schools to show and tell in St. Louis

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You surely know about two significant events that took place in St. Louis during the summer of 1904 — the World's Fair and the Summer Olympics. But you may not be aware of another important event that happened that summer.

In July 1904, Catholic educators meeting in the "Rome of the West" founded what would become the National Catholic Educational Association. The NCEA is now the largest private, professional education association in the world. From April 18-20 this year, the association will return to where it all began and we will welcome more than 7,000 Catholic educators for the 2017 NCEA Convention and Expo.

It's a great honor for us to host this pre-eminent event for the exchange of ideas and best practices in Catholic education. Our teachers and administrators look forward to learning from their peers and today's best minds in Catholic education. But, as the host diocese, we will also have the opportunity for some "show and tell" of our own.

Like Catholic schools in other dioceses, ours currently face complex challenges — but that hasn't stopped us before. This is the archdiocese where we created the first free schools west of the Mississippi River, pioneered Catholic education for students with special learning needs and integrated Catholic schools seven years before the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education. This is a proud history, but we do not rest on it lightly. Just like the pioneers before us, we are responding to today's needs and preparing our children for the future.

At the NCEA Convention, our guests will get to see and hear our students' artistic and musical talents. Educators from the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be sharing many of our successful approaches to strengthening the faith dimension of schools, such as teaching students how to make moral decisions, using virtue and restorative practices and using a family approach to service projects.

Teachers will be sharing the transformative power of STREAM education (an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). They will be teaching others about innovative ways to engage students, assess their learning and promote student leadership. They will showcase how we are addressing special learning needs through inclusion, support, enrichment and specialized programs.

Some of our leaders will present on topics of school leadership, new governance models, school health and safety, welcoming millennial teachers, fundraising, marketing, Hispanic outreach and using social media for professional development and fundraising.

Our Catholic school teachers and administrators are incredibly talented individuals. I am so proud to host this year's NCEA Convention to not only show our guests our great community, but also the amazing things our Catholic school educators and students are doing every day.

In 1904, St. Louis welcomed the world. This April, I look forward to celebrating the innovative ways Catholic schools continue to make that world a better place.

Nelson is superintendent of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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