Column: A Look at Pacelli Catholic Schools 33 Years Later
Technology, small class sizes, national awards, test scores, Christian values ensure life-changing educational environment for students, community
By Gregg Hansel, Director of Education, Pacelli Catholic Schools
I have been with Pacelli Catholic Schools (PCS) for 33 years. Over that time, some things have really changed.
When I started, there were no computers in the schools.
Our first foray into computers was a bus that would drive up and plug into the school with about twenty Atari computers; many of you may have never heard of that brand! In PC’s today, every classroom has a SMART board for interactive learning. Every student in grades 1-12 has an iPad or Chromebook.
We are one of the first school systems in the state of Wisconsin to teach computer programming in every grade, beginning in kindergarten. Integrating technology into our classrooms enhances the learning tremendously for our students.
Class sizes were large 33 years ago, and students learned together as a whole class. Today, our students have an individual learning plan, based on their gifts and needs. Specialists and programs help students who struggle, to ensure they have the support they need, and students who excel, ensuring they’re continually challenged academically.
Our smaller class sizes allow for individual attention and the ability to educate all children at their level.
Some things, though, I am glad to report, have stayed the same. When I came to Stevens Point in the early 1980s, the academic performance of students in Catholic schools was amazing. Still today, our test scores are some of the highest in the state, as evidenced by the many United States Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School Awards we have earned.
Additionally, ACT scores, which are down in many schools around the state and country, continue to go up at Pacelli High School with an average score of 24.4 last year. Our commitment to ensuring that all students learn and grow as quickly as possible makes a huge difference.
When I came to Stevens Point, it amazed me how affordable Catholic schools were. Today, they are still that way, costing only a few dollars a day. Scholarships and tuition assistance provide tens of thousands of dollars to support families.
The Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, or school choice program, gives families who qualify the opportunity to attend at no cost to them. A summer work-study program helps high school students earn money for tuition. Just as it was 33 years ago, if someone wants to attend Catholic schools, there are many, many ways to make it happen.
The cornerstone of Catholic education, as always, is making sure that our students grow in their faith and love of God. Teaching Christian values and helping our students become strong, active citizens, continues to be a strength of our schools. Students perform thousands of hours of community service each year, making sure that their faith is not just knowledge, but put into action as well.
I am sure that over the next 33 years, education will certainly evolve, probably in ways none of us can imagine.
What we can imagine, and know for sure, is that Pacelli Catholic Schools will continue to provide a strong, faith and values based education with tremendously high academic standards, individualized learning, and cutting-edge techniques and technology.
Some things will change and those changes will ensure that our students will be ready to have many opportunities in life, and be ready to change our community and world for the better.