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University News

Life after Georgian Court: Catholic Educators Learn and Lead

Margaret Kane

A special group of newly minted master’s degree recipients—all graduates of the GCU School of Education—found that some of their most memorable lessons didn’t come from the curriculum.

“The program allowed me to work with other Catholic school teachers, and because of the faith-based component, I was able to share my experiences with peers who felt as passionate about Catholic education as I do,” said Thomas Guida, who teaches at Holy Cross Academy in Delran.

It is a shared sentiment among the seven Catholic school educators who recently completed a new Georgian Court University program in administration and leadership that was launched in partnership with the Diocese of Trenton.

(Many) Lessons Learned

The first group of participating educators included Kathleen Blazewicz (Holy Family); Jennifer Bumbico (St. Mary); Margaret Kane (pictured above at St. John Vianney); Jane Olving (Mater Dei); James Reid (St. John Vianney); Theresa Ritter (Holy Cross); and Mr. Guida. Their 36-credit program focused on “developing leadership skills informed by best practices, current research, mandates, and a strong ethical foundation.”

Theresa Ritter
Educator Theresa Ritter was among the first group of Catholic teachers to complete a special GCU graduate program in administration and leadership.

Beyond traditional master’s degree content, the program’s speciality content speaks directly to Catholic school teachers who want to move into school leadership.

“The administrator candidates now understand the legal, budgetary, curricular, supervision, and leadership skills that are needed for sustaining their institutions,” said Timothy Briles, Ph.D., co-chair of the program.

For some, a benefit comes from being able to experience the classroom as both a student and instructor. This helps to incorporate contrasting viewpoints of education to help develop a well-rounded administrator.

“Teachers were exposed to a plethora of information to help form sound decisions as a future administrator,” said JoAnn Tier, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Trenton. Today, she said, educational leaders must understand everything from instruction to finance to school governance.

“The graduate cohort prepares students for a mission-driven experience that is most rewarding,” said Ms. Tier, noting the program’s special emphasis on leadership in Catholic schools. “It is a natural venue for Catholic school teachers to enhance their learning with a vision for future service as an administrator.”

For some, another benefit is the small size of the program.

“We bonded as a group of friends; we understood the frustrations of wanting to remain in a Catholic school, while other people advised us to move into public schools,” said Ms. Blazewicz, who will begin work in fall 2015 as a principal of All Saints Regional School. In addition, each candidate was required to complete two internships.

“The internship element allowed me to work closely with administration and further my understanding of what an administrator does each day. It was the hands-on learning experience that taught me the most about administration,” said Ms. Kane.

Program participants were also expected to study best practices and understand the qualities of successful schools, Dr. Briles added. “They are prepared to take the helm and lead Catholic Schools into the near and distant future.”

Editor’s note: This story was contributed by Megan Kelly ’15, a recent GCU graduate who earned a degree in English. She is pursuing a master’s degree in publishing in Galway, Ireland.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,200 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 14 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by Money.com and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at HazletGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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