I am writing today to share some very exciting news! On May 14th we learned that St. Matthias School has been accredited as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School and is authorized to offer the Middle Years Programme in our junior high (6th, 7th, & 8th grades). This makes St. Matthias the first Catholic elementary school in the state of Illinois to offer an IB Programme and the seventh in the nation! We surprised our students after Mass today with this great news and a celebration in the garden.
The authorization letter from the IB’s director general in Geneva, Switzerland came four months earlier than we had hoped. In mid-April a team of three professional educators from IB North America Division visited our school spending three days reviewing our resources and curriculum, observing our classes, and interviewing our teachers, administrators, students, parents and school board. This was the final step in a three year long process of extensive preparation, teacher training and implementation of the IB Middle Years Programme.
The Middle Years Programme has transformed our Junior High. Our teachers are planning collaboratively across disciplines and challenging our students to think deeply and critically about real issues. Our students have become more self-aware, understanding themselves as learners, and have developed strong leadership and communication skills. IB authorization is a monumental accomplishment which will ensure that our educational program continues to strengthen and fully prepares our students for personal, academic, and professional success.
At the heart of our success are seven teachers: Ms. DiMuzio, Mr. Stanley, Mrs. Michalak, Mrs. Koukari, Mrs. Downey, Sra. Morales, and Ms. Sagert. These teachers have worked tirelessly writing IB units and assessments, critiquing one another’s work and drafting policies. We’ve spent dozens of Saturday mornings together developing our curriculum and I’ve been beyond impressed with their consistently positive and collegial spirit. These individuals are exceptionally intelligent and masterful teachers who are never satisfied and forever devoted to continued professional growth. More than anything, they care deeply for their students, supporting their development, cultivating their confidence, and taking pride in their accomplishments.
We also could not have done this without the support of our administration – Fr. John, Mr. Dufault, and Mrs. Klich – and our School Board. They have trusted and supported us through the entire process, helping us to creatively fund the program and offering us the resources and training we needed. All of us have been fortunate to attend excellent trainings hosted by the IB Organization which have allowed us to drastically improve our instruction and connect with a network of other IB teachers and administrators.
We cannot forget to thank our students. The sixth through eighth grade students have been our pioneers. They have adjusted to new academic expectations and a new grading system. They have learned to stop asking their teachers, “What do I need to know?” and instead ask, “Why does this matter?” They have learned to work together and they have learned about themselves. We are so, so proud of their progress and hard work.
So, now that we are authorized, what’s next? The IB teachers and I will continue to collaborate to develop and improve IB instruction in grades six through eight. We also have the goal of becoming authorized to offer the Primary Years Programme (PYP) in grades preschool through five within the next three years. Teachers in the lower grades will begin to attend IB trainings as early as this summer to prepare for this transition.