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Adam Berkowitz, math teacher

This story was originally published in the Communiqué (Fall 2023 edition) that was delivered in late December.

Back to School Night and Parent-Teacher Conferences, which both took place during the first trimester this fall, are annual events where current parents meet their student’s teachers, learn what each course offers, and check on student academic progress. These two events offer important outreach from the Academy of Holy Angels faculty to develop and grow trust and partnership between students, parents/guardians, and school staff in order to provide each student with the best possible education.

While the events often receive positive feedback, the last few years have seen a greater amount of accolades. This year, through many emails, phone calls, and conversations, teachers and parents were singing their praises about their individual experiences at AHA. “Receiving this feedback is good, positive affirmation of our school culture,” said Principal Heidi Foley. She went on to say, “One parent told me that a new teacher shared how great AHA is after just a few weeks here - that the students are great, the colleagues great, that she can really teach.”

As a Catholic, college-preparatory high school, one of the school’s primary focuses, as stated in its mission, is to help each student excel intellectually. For AHA students, learning is an opportunity for challenge, growth, and exploration
through a wide variety of classes, including core curriculum, electives, and faith and service. Offering a robust and well-rounded curriculum requires the school to hire teachers who are content experts, and it is something on which the school prides itself.

Jack Dayton, digital science teacher

Teachers receive support through regular class observations, usually performed by Principal Foley or a peer teacher. Jack Dayton (pictured right), computer science and digital arts teacher, is new to AHA but not new to teaching. He has taught at three other schools across the country. He shared, “It’s so much different here. I’ve already had three of my classes observed – not from a critical place, but from a curious, supportive role. I’ve felt such sincere care from Heidi and my colleagues. It makes me feel deeply valued as a teacher.” On how this impacts his teaching, Mr. Dayton said, “We are allowed to take our teaching deeper and try new, cutting-edge things. Holy Angels balances its rich, traditional culture with a forward-thinking educational approach, and the students and teachers benefit from that.”

“Holy Angels balances its rich, traditional culture with a forward-thinking educational approach, and the students and teachers benefit from that.”

Malia Lahr, science teacher and department chair

The families who make the decision to send their children to Holy Angels also play an important role in its culture. Of that, Malia Lahr (pictured left), science teacher and department chair, added, “I give credit to our parents who are willing to make a sacrifice to pay tuition. I know that they want their kids to be here because they think education is important, and, in turn, the students also think education is important.” Ms. Lahr, who’s taught at AHA for 11 years, said the respectful environment allows her to take her lessons further, benefiting the students. “I would look at myself as both a scientist and a teacher, so I’m grateful that I have a job where I can dive deeper into the subject and share my passions with our students.”

Math teacher Adam Berkowitz began at Holy Angels in 2018, taught out east for four years, and then moved back to Minnesota this fall. He, too, says that there is something special about AHA which made him eager to return. “A big thing I’ve noticed that is unique to Holy Angels is that people seem to really enjoy working here. When I talk to my colleagues, we are having friendly chit chat or sharing positive conversation about our jobs. Additionally, the fact that I haven’t had to deal with discipline at all is a testament to the culture of the school, the students, and the parents.”

Although sometimes more difficult to quantify with grades and test results, there is a strong desire by the school faculty to not only teach students but also develop the whole person. Ms. Lahr said, “We‘re all trying to teach these students how to be good people. That should be taught right alongside the core curriculum. This school really encourages us to do that. I am thankful that I am free to speak of morality and ethics. It’s more important to me that you leave here as a kind person than a straight-A science student.”

AHA teachers have an average tenure of 13 years, a testament to the school culture. As a way to measure staff satisfaction, the school provides an annual employee survey. The overwhelmingly positive results have earned AHA the designation of a Star Tribune Top Workplace for seven consecutive years (2017-2023), the only high school in Minnesota to receive that honor.

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