The task of recovering classical education coincides with the task of interpreting exactly what we mean by a “Classical Education.” The Cana Academy team has significantly advanced and focused our program towards this end. They provided expert but fraternal curricular and instructional guidance on literature, history, and writing. Their wealth of experience helped us avoid pitfalls and, no doubt, saved us years of costly trial-by-error mistakes. Yet, they respected our decisions when we communicated the need to take an approach that focused on the particularities of our region, demographic and mission.
The teachers went to school as students for a day! We are so appreciative of the wisdom, inspiration, and modeling provided by Andrew Zwerneman. Topics included “Great Discussions on Great Texts”, “How to Teach Poetry”, and “How to Teach Fiction”. For fiction, teachers read a short story from Flannery O’Connor, then discussed the physical and psychological details evident in the text, a strategy that teaches students from the inside out.
Andrew Zwerneman’s energy and enthusiasm for learning is contagious. Like the best coaches, he has an incredible gift of storytelling and teaching. He challenges and inspires us to think well and as a result to learn how to live well. In his lecture, The Case for Classical Education, Andrew presented to us in compelling terms the bold challenges of Socrates and Jesus Christ: the challenge to learn well, to pursue wisdom, to oppose all forms of domination and tyranny, to take responsibility for ourselves and for others, and, because of the Gospel, to see each encounter with another human being as an encounter with Christ.
Mary Frances Loughran serves as a “Choice Theory” educational consultant to Praise Academy, a small neighborhood elementary school in the poorest zip code in Louisiana. Our students come from very tough circumstances and she gives us the sense that she is in this with us, not just an observer. She is encouraging and approachable and has a way of talking to you that shows she cares deeply for you as a person. Her teachings and exercises have given us new eyes with which to evaluate how our students are doing and, at the same time, given us new ways to self-evaluate as teachers. “What went well today?” helps us to look at the day and ourselves differently and made us realize we were accomplishing more than we thought we were. She has taught us to redirect our focus by examining what we as teachers value and what the students value. Her advice is practical, immediately applicable, and easy to use; and her solutions get us unstuck in a difficult situation. In a nutshell, she reinvigorates our love for teaching.
Writing Well, Thinking Clearly is free of the artificiality that marks many writing programs. Its structure and integrity are rooted in Cana Academy’s deep understanding of how humans think. The guide cogently articulates how to help students think reflectively and clearly about sophisticated literature. The writing samples exquisitely illustrate what students can accomplish. The “Teacher’s Toolkit” is filled with practical, insightful workshops. All this means that this writing guide uniquely gives teachers everything needed to coach their students into beautiful writers. The Cana Academy workshop on writing was the perfect complement to the guide. Jeannette DeCelles-Zwerneman’s time with our writing team deepened the knowledge of even our most experienced teachers. Her patient, thorough exposition of the guide gave us an opportunity to reflect on our own best and worst practices as writing coaches. We came away invigorated—alive to new and wonderful possibilities for our students.
The Cana Teacher Workshop helped me get a clearer vision for what I teach, as well as some practical ideas that I could incorporate into the classroom.
The Cana Teacher Workshop offered an experienced voice to some new teachers—giving guidance and encouragement...It was well conducted. We covered a lot of material, practically applied it, and had time to answer questions.
Two amazing ladies from Cana Academy, Mary Frances and Jeannette, visited our homes one or two Monday nights each month and shared scripture with our residents. This gave our residents the opportunity, maybe for the first time, to hear and understand the word and love of God and possibly to begin changes in their lives, from the inside out! We believe the hearts of our residents were changed forever.
My department, made up of a disparate group of individuals that handles the business administration of a large church, asked Andrew Zwerneman of Cana Academy to lead our annual departmental retreat. Andrew led us in a half-day Socratic seminar on how to read a poem and how to “read” a painting—both matters we rarely, if ever, encounter in our daily work. With his guidance, we focused on selected works of Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Marc Chagall. The seminar opened our minds to new ways of thinking about and understanding these art forms, all within the context of a Christian imagination, and simultaneously gave rise to a greater appreciation of the hidden talents and insightful observations of our fellow team members. Andrew is a captivating storyteller and a remarkable teacher who inspires participation from everyone in the group. My department says it was “the best retreat ever!”
Teaching Fiction from the Inside Out is a beautifully written statement on how to inspire students’ hearts and minds.
Cana Academy’s faculty master class on Socratic seminar instruction helped our honors faculty grow both in the tangible arts of close reading, crafting questions, and leading discussions as well as in the intangible elements of joy, open-hearted laughter, and friendship that make for genuine education. Our time not only made us better teachers but better lovers – lovers of learning, one another, our students, and God. I can’t recommend Cana’s faculty master class any more highly!
Andrew Zwerneman provided exemplary and unique professional development for the faculty of Saint Mary’s Catholic High School. His enthusiasm and expertise renewed our teachers’ commitment to a genuinely liberal education. His well-planned and executed sessions on history, writing, poetry, and Socratic seminars displayed his servant’s heart and the wisdom only accumulated through extensive experience. Our teachers are now inspired and better equipped to provide our students an encounter with the truth, who is Our Lord Jesus Christ.
To create passionate learners in our classrooms, we have to be passionate readers and observers who take joy in the beauty and truth that surrounds us. During our day of professional development the Cana Academy team inspired that passion in us. Together, we drank deeply of art and literature and were reminded of the life-giving refreshment available to us in such works. God, let our thirst never be quenched and may our students forever benefit from our renewed desire for beautiful works.
We were thrilled with the inaugural seminar in Cana Academy’s VISIONS program! Every person I spoke with thoroughly enjoyed it. Many were surprised by how much they enjoyed discussing Chagall’s works, since it was their first exposure to modern art. This Cana seminar series is a real blessing to our community.