Latino Enrollment Institute
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
DENISON – Educators from St. Rose of Lima School were chosen to attend a workshop to further their knowledge on building connections with Latino families.
Patty Lansink, St. Rose principal, along with Trisha Boettger, first grade teacher and Angie Stangl, third grade teacher, attended the Latino Enrollment Institute sponsored by ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education), which was held June 30 through July 3 at the University of Notre Dame.
“We spent three days learning more about Latino culture and learning strategies to better connect with Latino families and hopefully increase enrollment in our schools,” said Lansink. “We were there with approximately 30 other schools from all over the country.”
The women received a grant of more than $5,000, which paid for airfare, travel expenses and cost of attending the conference. Lansink said she was paired with a mentor principal who will help St. Rose with the implementation plan of strategies she and the teachers learned.
Part of their time on campus was spent writing an implementation plan for their own school. Stangl, Boettger and Lansink came up with a list of things they plan to do at St. Rose over the next year and subsequent years.
“The speakers all shared their experiences with keeping their school doors open,” she said. “Some of their stories hit close to home. We have empty seats just like they did. Why not try to fill them?”
Boettger said she regained her “spark for education, which is a great feeling. I also gained knowledge on ways to improve my classroom and school.”
She said she will make simple “fixes.” She plans to make sure all communication is sent out in Spanish and English. She is going to make it a point to send personal letters, make a phone call or a visit to each of the parents at the start of the year “to open lines of communication and to make them feel welcome to my room.”
“We learned strategies to make our school more welcoming to Latino families, for communicating the strengths of our school to families, promoting scholarships for students and increasing family involvement in our school,” said Lansink. “Education is always changing so we need to constantly update our skills and knowledge. Specifically for Catholic schools, since we are tuition-based, we need to work hard to help families see the value of a Catholic education for their children.”
The conference gave them many ideas, Stangl said, to take back home and try out at their own school.
“Ideas as simple as just letting people know that there actually is a Catholic school in our town,” she said. “It sounds silly but there really may be some people out there that don't know what that big brick building is next to the church.”
Boettger said she is going to make sure her classroom represents all students with labels in English and Spanish, pictures of all students and religious holidays.
“Having attended this conference, the information I gathered will help the Latino students and families feel more welcome in our school,” she said. “If we can't make families feel like our school is a good fit for all students, then we will not gain students.”
Never stop learning
Stangl noted attending conferences like this is important because “you can never stop learning. There is always something new out there - new information, new strategies and new updates. It will end up helping you as an educator, but it will also help your students and your school.”
“We brought back a lot of ideas to help with the culture of our school,” said the third grade teacher. “Ideas to use in our classroom and school wide – different activities for holidays throughout the school year, activities for family nights and even for Spanish Mass on the weekends. We are hoping these activities will help our students feel welcome, it will help us welcome more students in our doors and it will help our school succeed.”
Boettger said it is important for teachers “to learn new strategies and ways to improve what we are already doing. As a member of my Building Leadership Team, I have already helped come up with ideas to improve our school, but this conference helped select which ideas are the most important to promote change in our school.”
While at Notre Dame, the three educators had time to attend daily Mass at the Basilica and in a chapel in a nearby dorm. Before they left, they were also able to take a tour of the football stadium.
Lansink will be going to Scotsdale, Ariz., in February for a follow-up meeting with other principals of the schools who attended (about 30) along with their mentors.
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