Degrees of excellence – Inside our Catholic schools

Photo by Jordan Whiteko

Multimedia Content Manager


When teachers continue their education, students reap benefits

Many faculty members in the diocese’s Catholic schools have served as both teachers and advanced students as they earned master’s and doctoral degrees.

Four teachers and an administrator in Diocese of Greensburg schools have a doctorate as their highest degree, and another 80 teachers and administrators have a master’s as their highest degree, according to the Office for Catholic Schools.

Amy Smart, a third-grade teacher at Mother of Sorrows School, Murrysville, has two master’s degrees, which have helped her implement technology at the school.

Smart has a master’s degree in instructional design with technologies and enhanced learning from Seton Hill University and a master’s degree in reading education from Edinboro University. She was one of the first teachers at MOSS to use a Smartboard and is now coordinator of the school’s Makerspace classroom (pictured above).

The degrees have helped her take the higher education knowledge she gained and apply it to her elementary classroom, Smart said.

“I had students help with some of my class projects, and I tested curriculum ideas with them. They thought it was neat that I was learning as well,” Smart said.

Her MOSS colleague, Mark Phaneuf, has a master’s in liberal arts from the St. John College Graduate Institute in Maryland and a master’s in education from Loyola University of Maryland.

“The great books curriculum at St. John provided me with the big picture of the value of knowledge, learning and critical thinking,” he said. “And the master’s in education helped me with the nuts and bolts of classroom management and preparation.”

Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School has three teachers with doctorate degrees, which speaks to the quality of the education offered at the school, according to Patricia Nickler, principal.

Algebra teacher Jamie Brooks has a doctorate in educational leadership from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Va. She said many concepts she learned doing the research for her dissertation about student perceptions in learning math in a higher education online environment were transferrable to her Geibel Catholic students, who were learning in a traditional classroom.

“I am more sensitive to their issues and how they learn,” she said.

Justin Stevenson, a Geibel Catholic graduate who has a doctorate in English from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, said learning at that level helps him better serve the students at his alma mater.

Having three teachers with doctorates tells parents “we have the best qualified teachers who will be instructing and guiding your children,” Stevenson said of Geibel Catholic.

Karen Croftcheck, who has a doctorate in instructional management and leadership from Robert Morris University, Coraopolis, said the degree gave her a broader perspective of what students bring to the classroom and provided her with diverse teaching techniques to help students meet those challenges.


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