Barbara Moldavon makes the analogy to a pebble tossed into a pond: The ripple effect from Moldavon's participation in the first CAST (Catholic Archdiocesan School Teachers) cohort can still be seen at her school five years later, she says.
After 20 years of practicing law, Moldavon decided to become a Catholic school teacher, a career she quickly concluded was far more rewarding. By the time she enrolled in the CAST program, Moldavon was in her seventh year of teaching junior high language arts at Cathedral Chapel School in the heart of Los Angeles' Korean community. By any measure, she was an unqualified success: Her students were getting admitted to top high schools, standardized test scores were up, and Moldavon had coached the school's academic decathlon team to a state championship.
But Moldavon says she now realizes there was much more she could do to engage her students. "CAST opened my eyes to what I wasn't seeing," she explains. "It was so exciting to learn about strategies, action plans and assessment tools at LMU and then go right into my classroom and employ them."
The first changes Moldavon began to make in her classroom involved implementing technology in new ways. She brought in a laptop and an LCD projector, along with interactive remote controls that enabled students to provide feedback during lessons. She redesigned her classroom and restructured activities so that instead of hours filled with the teacher addressing students from a podium, students were able to make choices, learn at their own pace and challenge themselves to think critically. "The difference is profound," Moldavon says. "Students are so much more inspired and engaged."
Moldavon discussed what she was learning with her principal, who encouraged her to share her new strategies with the rest of the faculty at Cathedral Chapel. "Every time I brought in something new, she'd say, 'Bring it to the faculty,' and then they were on board too," Moldavon recalls. "Instead of being about scheduling, our faculty meetings started to address how we could improve learning, engage more students, and get parents more involved. It just elevated our entire school."
Five years later, Moldavon continues to cross paths with teachers from other Catholic schools with whom she developed an enduring bond through the CAST program. "We still have the warmest feelings for each other," she says, "and we're always excited to share the stories about how CAST changed our lives and the lives of our students."