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Teacher facilitators wear two hats

Responsibilities don’t end in the classroom for Erin Jelinek of St. Joseph School in Atkinson and Jennifer Fiscus of St. Rose of Lima School in Crofton.

They and seven other teachers in archdiocesan Catholic schools have taken on an additional role – as teacher facilitators – that in smaller schools combines the roles of a teacher and a principal.

In addition to teaching technology in fifth through eighth grades and substituting when necessary in the school of 129 students, Fiscus as teacher facilitator works with 10 full-time teachers, a part-time instructor, a para-professional and a part-time secretary. She loves being able to teach while leading her school to success, Fiscus said.

"It takes a whole school community to make a school successful, and I am just one small piece of that," she said.

Jelinek, who teaches sixth-grade social studies and math in the school of 65 students, also helps five full-time and three part-time teachers and a teacher’s aide. The role requires flexibility, organization, a cool head – and the help of a terrific staff, she said.

"If we’re having issues in an area, we can brainstorm to figure out our resolutions," she said. "We’re a pretty close bunch."

Besides helping other staff and teaching her students, Fiscus said she often answers the telephone at the school, greets students, makes announcements over the intercom, submits lunch counts and lets people into the building. Jelinek said she often organizes school cleaning nights and handles concerns from teachers and parents.

Patrick Slattery, superintendent of archdiocesan schools, said many teacher facilitators also handle reports for the state, evaluate their colleagues and handle administrative tasks.

"It makes that challenging because most of the teacher facilitators are classroom teachers, and they are also tapped on the shoulder by their pastors to deal with some of the administrative tasks that come along with the role," Slattery said.

And a key role for teacher facilitators – and all educators in Catholic schools – is to teach the faith, Slattery said.

"The teacher facilitators really do need to ensure that our Catholic schools remain Catholic and that Catholic identity is at the forefront of everything that we’re doing," Slattery said.

Jelinek, who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has been teaching for 13 years at St. Joseph School, and she has been a teacher facilitator for seven years.

Fiscus, a graduate of Wayne State College, is beginning her fifth year at St. Rose. She also taught for 10 years at Sacred Heart School in Yankton, S.D. And with help from funds through the archdiocese’s Ignite the Faith capital campaign, she is among teachers working on their master’s degrees in educational leadership at Creighton University.

"We have an amazing school family and I want to see our school be successful and continue to grow," Fiscus said.

And she knows she is successful when students reach their goals, Fiscus said.

"God made us all unique individuals with amazingly different gifts. When I can see that our students are using those gifts for good, I know our school has made an impact," she said.

Jelinek said a desire for success drives her, as well, and she enjoys helping other teachers when she is needed.

"I like to see success and help students get to their goals," she said.

 

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