Principal, St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, Chicago, IL
Nine years ago, the St. Therese Chinese Catholic School was struggling to keep its doors open. Enrollment was low, there were fire code violations, and the phones and heat were being turned off throughout the day. There was no playground and no gym.
Enter Phyllis Cavallone-Jurek, a new principal with a strong and clear vision. “Even though we may lack certain physical resources, we can still make our instruction creative and innovative,” she says.
One of the keys to innovation, says Cavallone- Jurek, is technology integration. “I love how technology supports all learners. Because of assistive technology, our special needs children keep pace more easily with their peers. Thanks to the text-to-speech and translation apps, our English language learners feel connected. Fancy calculators help everyone move forward.”
From digital gradebooks to laptop labs to handhelds to a wireless network, St. Therese Chinese Catholic School buzzes with technology. The 5th- through 8th-grade students use Google Docs and Edmodo, all of the students are using SMART products and Rosetta Stone, and the teachers test and track students digitally. To fund all of this, Cavallone- Jurek seeks grants and private donations. “My entire spending budget is about $5,300 per child,” she says. “The local district has about three times that amount.” But even without deeper pockets and resources, Cavallone- Jurek’s test scores are high and enrollment is soaring. “My wonderful teachers share their vision, we do a little research, and I reach out for funding to make it happen.”
St. Therese is deeply committed to implementing STEM-focused classes and works with area universities such as DePaul, Loyola, and St. Xavier to help elevate its existing math and science curricula so that students develop the necessary skills for STEM careers. The technology class uses core-curriculum content as a launching point for students to experience research, design, and engineering. St. Therese also sponsors an annual Curriculum Fair where students have ample opportunities to investigate engineering and technology topics more deeply, and it offers an after-school robotics club. Up next is a Center for Teacher Tech, which Cavallone- Jurek says will offer extracurricular classes in Web design and gaming for teachers and students.
Thanks to strong leadership, technology integration, and innovation, enrollment is soaring. In fact, many grade levels have a multiyear waiting list and the new building—with a gym and a playground—will hopefully be ready by the fall of 2014. In 2011, the school received the National Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education, and in 2012 it was named an Intel School of Distinction Finalist for middle school math.
“Being named a Tech & Learning leader helps us realize that our mission is possible— even on an extremely tight, frugal budget,” says Cavallone-Jurek.
What She Uses
• Angry Birds
• Dell, HP, and Lenovo laptops and desktops
• Google Apps
• Google Docs for Education
• Kindles/Kindle Fires
• Lego Robotics
• Promethean whiteboards
• Read Naturally
• Renaissance Learning/STAR Reading
• Rosetta Stone
• Study Island
• TI-84+ graphing calculators
• TI-Nspire CX