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The Florida Catholic

3 teachers selected for prestigious program

PALM SPRINGS | Three educators at St. Luke Catholic School have been selected to participate in the University of Notre Dame’s STEM Teaching Fellowship program starting this summer. They were chosen from eight schools that are part of the program’s seventh cohort.

Over three summers, said St. Luke’s principal, Diann Bacchus, the teachers will visit the Notre Dame campus in Indiana to receive professional development in teaching practices, leadership and equity in education, which entails ways to reach all students, even the ones in the back of the classroom who rarely participate. The teachers also will take classes during the school year and gather for January “summit meetings” to examine their progress.

Bacchus, who was in the first cohort of the university’s fellowship program, said the goal is for the three teachers to return and share their knowledge with peers and students.  

“How do we engage the students to have a really vibrant interaction in the four disciplines?” she said. “It ends up being actually cross-curricular. You can use it in any discipline, not just the four (science, technology, engineering and math).”

Since St. Luke wants to become a STEM-certified school, Bacchus said, the objective is for the educators “to come back, set a STEM plan in motion of how we can integrate all of our curriculum, and they build the teachers’ capacity to teach in this very enriched environment.”

The three teachers picked for the program are Robert Bacchus, who will teach middle-school math and science next year; Kenia Lama, who will focus on STEM and English language arts; and Jesus Lopez, religion and math instructor.

Looking ahead, Robert Bacchus said he hopes the program will “give us more ideas to engage the students and have them walk away with ways they can utilize the math skills, not just in math class, but in their everyday lives, and integrate some of the other curriculum into their everyday learning.”

Lama said she feels the experience will enhance the tools the teachers already have, while Lopez, who is new to the teaching profession, said he is looking forward to gaining knowledge that assists students.

The fellowship program continues a St. Luke partnership with Notre Dame that includes having Patrice DeMartino, regional director of the university’s ACE Academies, as part of the St. Luke School leadership team. She assists in advancement, teaching, learning and boosting Catholic culture.

Diann Bacchus noted that Father Andrew Brierley, St. Luke’s pastor, has spearheaded efforts to improve the learning environment at the school.

“He is the one who has said we need to make sure that we are continuing to push for academics and bringing the kids into 21st-century education,” she said. “So, he’s been a real supporter of STEM and has been very open to whatever we need.”

Besides helping students understand how, for example, math skills are useful in science lessons and other subjects, the teachers aim to make curriculum engaging and dynamic, the principal said.

“It also helps us develop a common language within the school, how to communicate with one another, and ensure that we’re all on the same page about how to have robust dialogue,” she said. “That’s a huge thing to teach kids, particularly now with everyone on their phones. You have to really teach kids how to have a dialogue, a discussion where they can debate issues. Part of this is teaching the teachers how to teach the kids how to have a rich discussion, and that’s huge.”

Bacchus added that Notre Dame only accepts teachers from five to eight schools a year, totaling about 170 educators who have been through the fellowship program. “It’s pretty selective to get in. We were happy that we got in a second time, which was unheard of.”

To learn more about St. Luke School, visit, call 561-965-8190 or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For information on all schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach, go to