A blog by Ms. Katharine Guerrero, Campus Minister and Theology Department Chair
“Talk less and listen more…” a good reminder at times and one that may be difficult for a teacher who is used to being at the center of the classroom– the one who is usually leading the conversation. But that is exactly the position the faculty and staff found themselves doing on their last day of their annual Back to School Retreat. The faculty staff worked together preparing for the upcoming school year in the days leading up to the retreat, sharing insights on strategies and teaching methods that they plan to bring into the classroom and community. But on the third and final day of the in-service, the concluding retreat called on the faculty and staff to think a little deeper as to why they believe in Alverno Heights Academy and our mission of educating young women, to reflect on why girls’ education is valuable and what it means to be part of the development of empowering young women.
As they worked in small groups the discussions revolved around how much there is a responsibility in educating young women– social and emotional development along with academic enrichment is not an easy balance. The groups reflected with personal experience and examples of current students and alums. Walking around and listening to these conversations it became so clear that our Alverno Heights Academy community of faculty and staff members are truly dedicated to not only Alverno, but to each and every one of the girls here and that there is a distinct dedication to the young women that walk these halls. We are supporting these girls on various levels, from the soccer field to the stage of the Spring Musical, from the classroom to the AP Art Show, we are there for our girls. And for the first time at a faculty retreat we were actually given a chance to hear from them. It was our time to stop talking and start listening.
Five members of our Campus Ministry and Christian Service teams walked into the retreat ready to share on topics like faith, responsibility, pressures of society and their personal goals for themselves. They walked in confident, and actually thought it was so “cute” to see the faculty participating in activities that they have become familiar with from their personal retreat experiences. It was powerful to witness the girls sharing their testimonies with their small groups. The engagement between them and their audience was profound. The girls were open and felt at ease as they shared their struggles and celebrations. The groups engaged by asking questions and the girls obliged them with honest answers. There were times when the groups did not want to part with their student leader, but looked forward from hearing from the next. By the end of this sharing activity, there was a feeling of enrichment on both ends.
The faculty and staff members were enriched from hearing from the students, hearing why they loved Alverno and felt safe here. Hearing the struggles they face on various levels and amazed that they manage to still show up with a smile. Our students were enriched with the inquiry from their mentors; that they actually wanted to know more about them. Both groups walked away with a much better understanding of one another and, I think, energized to start the new school year with this insight that they both gained in that hour of interaction. For many of the faculty and staff it reassured them that they are here for this exact interaction and development of our young women. And for our students, they left knowing that we actually care. One student told me after this experience that she felt the faculty were surprised when she responded to their question of what students need from them, “I think they were expecting me to say less homework or something like that, when all we really need is their support.” And with that I feel this retreat brought us closer to understanding of how much it is about our support here and that is something that we truly thrive on at Alverno!
Ms. Katharine Guerrero is the Campus Minister and Theology Department Chair at Alverno Heights Academy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from Whittier College as well a Certificate of Religious Education from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. This is her twelfth year teaching at Alverno Heights Academy and she currently teaches World Religions, Morality and Social Justice, Campus Ministry, and Christian Service. As the Campus Minister, Ms. Guerrero oversees the two enrichment courses, Campus Ministry and Christian Service, that plan campus retreats, student liturgies and prayer services, and service projects including Bake-A-Change and Pantene Beautiful Lengths.