Meet Two More 2024 DIA Schools Collaborative Fellows

DIA Schools Collaborative’s 2024 Fellows include four Catholic education professionals who are deeply committed to bearing witness to their faith in their work and to strengthening the Catholic culture in their organization. In the March 2024 issue of The Cenacle, we profiled Debra Dahrmer and Sarah Hogan. Meet the final two Fellows and learn more about their projects.

Nicole OConnor, Online Elementary Director, Kolbe Academy

St. Maximilian Kolbe utilized modern tools of communication to evangelize with his Knight of the Immaculata Magazine, reaching nearly one million copies in 1938. It is with this same spirit that Kolbe Academy seeks to harness the tools of our time to share the message of the Gospel.

Nicole’s DIA Project follows in the spirit of Kolbe Academy’s mission and vision to utilize the tools of the modern age, share the Gospel, and to respond to the needs of today’s parents and families. The project, upon completion, will provide a structure for Catholic schools to reframe the ends of Catholic education with their parents and staff. 

The overall goal is to streamline onboarding for parents and staff at Catholic institutions in order to aid in more successful and cohesive relationships between the family and the school. Over the course of the next few months, I will work with a team of talented educators at Kolbe Academy and the greater DIA community to do the following:

  1. Review and Reframe Kolbe Academy’s grade level standards for grades K-6
  2. Create common language for articulating learning goals and outcomes among parents and staff.
  3. Create articles, video blog series, and manuals for onboarding teachers and parents to their new school.
  4. Create a process that will allow other schools to re-write the script as they seek to improve staff/family partnership.

The hope is that this series will aid in rewriting the script about the unique partnership between parents and teachers in education by providing a concise framework rooted in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

With the parent driving and the teacher fueling the journey, I want to ensure education is framed as formatively as possible from the very first interaction a parent or teacher has with their new school of choice.

Anna White, Theology Department Chair, JSerra Catholic High School

Building In-House Professional Development Resources Catholic High Schools 

At the 2023 DIA Summit, Anna participated in a round-table conversation with Catholic educators and administrators who sought to establish a reliable solution for the ongoing need for professional development in their schools. One of the specific needs identified was pedagogical formation.  

Anna’s DIA action plan seeks to establish available resources for Catholic schools to use, maximizing professional growth through an in-house, observation-based model. This framework hopes to keep professional development as cost-effective as possible, and yet attractive and effective for teachers in need of continued training.  

The professional development affords new and developing teachers the opportunity to receive substitute coverage for an entire school day to observe multiple “master teachers” on campus. A group of 3-4 developing educators (along with a guiding facilitator) will spend the first four periods (or equivalent) of the school day observing master teachers, simultaneously filling out the forms included in the model that guide teachers toward what specific behaviors and techniques to observe. The last three (or equivalent) periods of the day, the group of teachers and facilitator will meet to discuss their observations and in what practical ways this experience will impact their pedagogy. The instructional rounds, partnered with guided accompaniment, will allow teachers both exposure and scaffolding for ways to adapt one’s teaching methods. 

The hope of this action plan is to provide promptly accessible, effective pedagogical formation via observation. It utilizes a school’s readily available resources to support new and developing teachers in their teaching craft. This framework seeks to be one that Catholic schools across the nation can confidently adapt to meet the needs of their teachers.  

Embolden your faith community through a DIA Schools Fellowship!

Applications for the 2025 Fellowship, DIA’s fifth cohort, will open in the fall, 2024. Become a beacon of light for passionately Catholic education and the Catholic Church at-large by considering a project mentored and guided through DIA Schools Collaborative. Learn more at