Browsing The Northern Cross

Schools: Stella Maris Academy’s journey with Catholic liberal arts

By Julianne Blazevic 
Guest columnist 

Since the inception of Stella Maris Academy in the fall of 2017, the goal was to strengthen and align our parochial Catholic schools in the Duluth area with various identities and become one academy. Stella Maris Academy includes the St. James Campus (PreK-8), Holy Rosary Campus (PreK-4) and the St. John’s Campus (grades 5-8) in Duluth.

Bishop Felton visits preschool-aged children at Stella Maris Academy in Duluth. (Submitted photo)

SMA did not want to adopt a largely a “public school curriculum” with Mass and religion class added. The academy was challenged to enhance what we did in our parochial school settings and create a curriculum that embodied our mission — to prepare lifelong learners who lead, love, and serve as Jesus taught. 

“The Holy See’s Teachings on Catholic Schools,” by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, provided a starting point for us to engage in the dialog of who we were and who we were called to be. 

Today’s educational methods are “new” and ever changing in the world of education. There seems to be more chaos in today’s education than ever before. Catholic schools across the country are seeing a resurgence in the “Catholic intellectual tradition,” a philosophy of education that is steeped in wisdom and virtue — two areas that are rather challenged in today’s society. 

In the spring of 2019, SMA developed a curriculum philosophy to guide into the future (see below). 

SMA has adopted tools or steps that have brought us closer to where SMA ultimately wants to be within our Catholic liberal arts approach. Some examples include but are not limited to: 

  • Addition of Latin to grades 5 and 6 
  • Using a shared inquiry approach to reading across all grade levels 
  • Addition of virtue study and studying lives of saints as models 
  • On-site professional development with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education by sending more than 30 teachers and administrators to national conventions and school leader forums across the country 
  • On-site visits with more than 40 SMA teachers and administrators to schools around the country that have adopted the Catholic liberal arts approach 
  • Curriculum development and review using our newly formed curriculum philosophy 
  • Intentional teaching strategies and classroom setup that embrace the Catholic liberal arts approach
    Bishop Felton visits a classroom of fifth-grade children at Stella Maris Academy. (Submitted photo)

Going forward and into the future, Stella Maris Academy will continue to develop and adopt curriculum and strategies that align with our philosophy, our faith, and our mission: Always seeking truth, beauty and goodness and connecting all that we learn to the Logos — Christ, and to lead, love and serve as Jesus taught. 

Julianne Blazevic is principal of Stella Maris Academy, St. James Campus. 

Stella Maris Academy Curriculum Philosophy 

Stella Maris Academy curriculum is a liberal arts model of education rooted in the sacramental and intellectual traditions of the Catholic faith. We refer to our curriculum as a Catholic Liberal Arts Education. 

The curriculum will provide teachers, parents, and students with the tools to navigate the modern world with a defined order that celebrates the truth, goodness, and beauty of our faith. The Catholic Liberal Arts Education will respect and honor the wisdom of great thinkers of the past, the saints, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our continuum of experiences and content. The curriculum will unify faith and reason, forming students who discern their unique, God-given plan (vocation) as the best version of themselves (confident, intelligent, free, fully alive, faithful young adults).