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Faculty and Staff Learn from Peers during Fall Professional Development Day

Nearly 300 faculty and staff members gathered on Friday, September 24, for a day of professional development on campus that focused on Loyola’s Catholic identity and Ignatian mission. The day addressed several school-wide goals for the 2021–2022 school year including: building academic and social-emotional skills, navigating difficult conversations, and building an inclusive school community. Notably, faculty and staff in-house experts presented to their peers in a well-received and meaningful new professional development format.
The day kicked off with a continental breakfast in the cafeteria, where colleagues enjoyed fellowship and conversation with one another before heading to the Chapel. Led by Loyola Academy President Rev. Patrick E. McGrath, SJ, an opening prayer set the tone for a thoughtful, reflective day.

Next were meetings of faculty and staff Companion Groups, which are small groups of 10–15 individuals from various departments and offices across Loyola. During this time, teachers and staff reflected on two passages from the book What is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, SJ, which all faculty and staff received at the beginning of the year. The first passage was “A Vision of Life, Work, and Love” (pages 1-5), and faculty and staff discussed their work as educators as a way of loving God. The second passage, “Prayer is a Conversation” (pages 49-53), asked Companion Group members to reflect on prayer and the call to find God in all things: art, music, work and play.

“Companion groups provide us the opportunity to reconnect—after a year of disconnection,” says Director of Adult Faith Formation Doug Gleber. “They allow us to have important, cross-departmental conversations about our shared Ignatian identity and mission. Ongoing reflection and discussion of Ignatius' vision of life, work, and love, as well as his understanding that prayer is a conversation with God, are central to our work. Ignatius' vision animates all we do at Loyola. In our journeying together—through our shared prayer and conversation—we come to learn how best to discern God's will for us. We come to learn how to authentically live out the call to be women and men for others.”

Following Companion Groups were a series of workshop-style breakout sessions hosted by our own in-house experts. Over fifteen breakout sessions were offered, and each was led by a faculty or staff member presenting to their peers on various academic, social-emotional and spiritual topics. Examples of sessions include: “Open Wide Our Hearts,” led by Theology Department Chair Josh Hooker and Theology Teacher Trevor Clark. “Art and Human Dignity,” led by Visual Arts Teacher Keith Brown; “Trauma-Informed Classroom Strategies in a Post-Pandemic World,” led by School Counselors Sara Provis and Erin Shapiro; “Prayer in the Classroom: Creating Space for Mindfulness,” led by Director of Adult Faith Formation Doug Gleber and Theology Teacher Sarah Buntin; “Navigating Difficult Conversations,” led by English Teacher Stacey Zupec; and “Social-Emotional Learning Strategies for the Classroom,” led by Social Studies Teachers Brandon Ceplecha and Tim Devine ’88.

A tasty lunch was served in the caf and provided a break between the morning and afternoon sessions, which concluded at 2:15 p.m.

“Participants found the day ‘engaging and beneficial,’ as well as ‘meaningful and substantial,’” notes Director of Professional Development Sandra Smycz, who organized the workshops and conducted a survey of faculty and staff afterward. “One staff member said, ‘It's impressive that so much expertise was shared by our staff.’”

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