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Wauwatosa Catholic School nears official IB authorization

Wauwatosa Catholic School students are interviewed by representatives of the International Baccalaureate behind closed doors in the school March 25.

Wauwatosa Catholic School students are interviewed by representatives of the International Baccalaureate behind closed doors in the school March 25. Photo By Peter Zuzga

March 25, 2014

This week, International Baccalaureate educators interviewed staff, students and parents of Wauwatosa Catholic School to determine its official authorization as an IB learning institution.

IB is an international organization offering curricula to schools based on specific trans-disciplinary themes, learner attitudes, key concepts, internationalism, learner profile words and more, all based on intercultural understanding and respect. Wauwatosa Catholic School will be the state's first IB authorized Catholic elementary school and Wisconsin's eighth IB-authorized school in general.

"It's an honor; it's very exciting," said 4K teacher Holly Bourbonais.

Applying for IB authorization can take up to four years. All parties involved with the school need to be on board because planning is done collaboratively, said Jaime Veal, IB coordinator at Lowell Elementary.

IB schools use IB curricula in addition to the state requirements. For example, the school will highlight one of IB's 10 Learner Profile qualities — caring, open-minded, inquirer, risk-taker, balanced — and study that particular word in depth.

Patricia Pingitore, parent of two Tosa Catholic students, said her second-grade daughter Olivia wrote in an autobiographical essay that her friendship with her best friend has made her more open-minded.

"It's fun to hear them talk and use the terminology," Pingitore said.

IB educators interview students, staff and parents to ensure they are upholding, teaching and practicing IB's set of standards. After two days of interviews, each lasting about 30 minutes, IB educators will write a report and send it back to the international organization. Tosa Catholic will receive its letter of authorization in up to two months based on IB's decision.

Once authorized, Tosa Catholic will be re-evaluated every four and then every five years to ensure it is growing and working with integrity, said Kirsten Wickman, IB educator.

Sophia Steffen, fifth grade, said during her interview "it was cool to talk about how IB interacts in our daily lives." Maura Mitchell, fifth grade, said "we really take pride in our community of learning. We all work together."

Wauwatosa Catholic School applied for IB authorization after St. Pius X and St. Bernard merged parish schools in 2011-12.

"It's a great fit to have [Catholic] and [IB] go together," said Principal Heidi Hernandez. "I tell parents we are a Catholic school first and an IB school second. We don't want to lose our identity as a Catholic institution."

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