Joliet Catholic Academy is unlike any other school. It is a college preparatory high school that is sponsored by both the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate and the Carmelites of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. This gives students the unique advantage of developing physically, mentally and spiritually in the traditions of both the Franciscans and the Carmelites. The Franciscans take a holistic approach to education and include the study of religion, academics, fine arts, athletics and other activities. The Carmelites believe that education is not an end, but a part of a spiritual journey. Joliet Catholic Academy incorporates both philosophies to ensure students attain a well-rounded education while in high school and build the foundation to continue their education throughout their lives.
To ensure every student that seeks a JCA education is able reach their full academic potential, JCA offers three levels of curriculum, College Prep, Upper College Prep and Accelerated/Honors Prep, as well as an Academic Resource Center. These three levels provide varying degrees of difficulty for students as they learn the skills and discipline they will need for college and beyond. Additionally, students who require special academic assistance may qualify for JCA’s Academic Resource Center, where students are tutored in small groups by certified staff.
In addition to a three-tiered learning system, JCA offers Advanced Placement and Dual-Credit courses that give students an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. Laura Pahl, Vice Principal of Technology and Curriculum, stated, “As college costs continue to rise, it is important that we are offering our students every opportunity to begin earning college credit while still in high school. Our AP and Dual-Credit courses give all our upperclassmen, not just the top tier, that opportunity.” AP courses are offered to juniors and seniors through the math, science, English, history and foreign language programs, which are based on the core classes students are required to take in college. Dual-credit courses are college courses taught at JCA, allowing students to earn college and high school credit for the course. JCA works together with Joliet Junior College to determine the number of college credits a student will receive upon successful completion of the course. “When students can earn college credit now, it gives them an advantage over other students entering college at the same time and relieves some of the stress first-year college students encounter.”
In this age of smart phones, tablets and wearable devices, students encounter technology everywhere in their daily lives. “The mission of JCA is to ‘inspire growth in knowledge and faith’ and to ‘cultivate opportunities for academic excellence,’ said Pahl. “Today’s world is a very different experience for students than it was just 10 years ago. Young people are constantly encountering technology throughout their lives. However, we must remember that technology is just a tool; it is up to us as educators to teach our students. The difference for us is our curriculum will determine how the technology is used; we will not let technology determine our curriculum. Incorporating technology into our curriculum will ensure that students are using it responsibly. When our seniors graduate, we want them to understand technology across multiple platforms, preparing them for whatever field they enter.”
As JCA explored the various options, the Technology Planning committee, comprised of administration, faculty and staff, spent months talking to educators across the country and determined a one-to-one initiative using the Google Chromebook is the best approach to ensure students have the skills they need to succeed in college and life. “Many factors contributed to this decision,” Pahl continued. “The Chromebook has various tools that promote collaboration, an important 21st century skill students need. It is also cost-efficient and offers many free apps through the Chrome Web Store. Additionally, it is practical, light-weight, portable, and durable.”
JCA will introduce the one-to-one technology program for the 2016-2017 school year. To ensure a successful implementation, the existing technology infrastructure will be reconfigured with new servers, an upgraded firewall and uniform technology equity across all classrooms. Additionally, each faculty member will receive a Chromebook to begin using in the 2015-2016 school year. This will give teachers an opportunity to focus on integrating the technology into their curriculum to enhance their students’ learning.
JCA is committed to providing the best college preparatory education for all students. By thoughtfully integrating technology into the overall curriculum, students are more engaged in the classroom and can take an active role in their overall education, building on the Franciscan and Carmelite traditions.