Notre Dame shares 25-year anniversary with International Baccalaureate's Middle Years Program.
The year 1994 was a big year for Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy — arguably the biggest by far — since it was the year the Marist Fathers and Brothers at the invitation of then-Archbishop Adam Maida began the changeover from Oakland Catholic High School in Pontiac to Notre Dame Preparatory School.
But 1994 also was a big deal for International Baccalaureate as it was the year the organization first introduced the Middle Years Program (MYP) to accompany its already established Diploma Program. Since then, 1,266 IB World Schools in 108 countries have adopted the MYP as a means of providing an education that helps students aged 11 to 16 grow and flourish in their education and personal development.
For Notre Dame, which was authorized in 2009 to offer the MYP to its middle school-through-10th-grade students, it was the second of ultimately three IB programs on campus and the continuation of the school's transformation into becoming one of Oakland County's premier independent and Catholic schools.
Katherine Thomas, Notre Dame's MYP coordinator, said the introduction of the MYP perfectly complemented the school's existing curriculum and educational philosophy.
"The MYP has been a natural fit both for our Marist-based school and for our mission," said Thomas, who has been on staff as a teacher for nine years and an MYP coordinator for five. "The different aspects of the MYP, such as the Approaches to Learning skills and the Learner Profile attributes directly connect with our mission to form Christian people, upright citizens and academic scholars."
She said the academic part relates to the school's already impressive curriculum that now includes IB, and the Christian people and upright citizens parts blend well with the non-academic aspects of the IB program.
Thomas also noted that both the IB and Notre Dame curricula are constantly evolving to ensure they stay relevant and beneficial for students.
In 2014, after twenty years of rapid growth and development, the MYP was thoroughly reviewed by IB and the organization built upon MYP’s already strong features and enhanced the program so that it is more rigorously assessed and more flexible for schools to implement.
For Notre Dame, that meant that administrators had more freedom to further enhance the school's already preeminent course offerings.
"We introduced a new class recently that is required for sixth-grade students called 'Strategies for Success,'" Thomas said. "It's based on the MYP's Approaches to Learning skills, which introduce and reinforce the necessary soft skills one must have in order to be successful in school and life. Examples include creative and critical thinking, reflection, effective communication and organization. Students here at Notre Dame are fortunate enough to be explicitly taught these skills and they also have many opportunities to apply them daily in all their other classes."
She said IB is continuously reviewing their program to determine the future needs of students. "We see regular revisions of subject-specific requirements from IB, with this school year bringing a number of new changes in Language Acquisition and Math."
Collaboration among Notre Dame's schools
Thomas, who is a member of Notre Dame's top-tier IB administration along with Katrina Sagert, Notre Dame's IB-DP coordinator and Paul Frank, who oversees IB-PYP in the lower school, said there is much collaboration among the three coordinators.
"Earlier this year, Katrina, Paul and I worked very closely to coordinate the IB evaluation visit in February," Thomas said. "Additionally, we meet monthly and regularly attend International Baccalaureate Schools of Michigan (IBSOM) meetings to further enhance networking opportunities with and learn from other IB schools in the state."
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org