Independent Study


The Junior Theology Independent Study course, took a field trip to visit the Sophia Institute in Nashua, New Hampshire. While they were there, they learned about the different careers in publishing companies but specifically at Sophia. They also learned how each of the employees’ roles benefits the company and how it would not be able to function as well with a missing piece. The Sophia Institute is where books are created, written, and published. One division of the Sophia Institute, the Sophia Institute for Teachers, specializes in creating theology teachers’ guides and lesson plans. That was helpful for the students to learn because the Independent Study in Teaching the Christian Message course is focused on preparing the students, all juniors, to become catechists for elementary-aged kids in the upcoming school year.

The trip started off with a warm welcome from two friendly and excited employees, Ms. Anna Maria Mendell, Curriculum Development Manager, Sophia Institute for Teachers, and Ms. Veronica Burchard, VP for Education Programs, Sophia Institute for Teachers. They gave a warm greeting and led the group into their conference room where the Austin Prep students were surprised by doughnuts. While snacking, Ms. Mendell and Ms. Burchard talked about the mission of the Sophia Institute. When they wrapped up their introductions, they invited their marketing director, Mark, to the front of the room, where he spoke about his job and all of the amazing opportunities it offers him such as expanding Sophia’s brand and traveling all over the country.

Following the marketing speech, the students were introduced to other employees, who talked all about how they travel around the country for their specific job. Once they had finished learning about all the different positions, they were brought into the warehouse, where everyone got to see where all of the book-sorting action takes place. With over one million books in stock, it is clear that the Sophia Institute is growing rapidly and may soon need to expand this new space where they moved only a few short months ago! The Austin Prep students were able to browse the stacks and generously allowed to keep a few books, with the most popular one being “The Vatican Cookbook.”

Once the book decisions were made, the students returned to the conference room and received a copy of a lesson plan created by some of the Sophia authors, among them our own Mr. Michael McLaughlin, Head of the Middle School, who writes for the Sophia Institute for Teachers. Students were able to discuss what they liked about the lesson plan as well as what was helpful to them as catechists. Part of the Independent Study in Teaching the Christian Message curriculum entails learning how to create lesson plans to help the budding catechists stay on schedule when they begin to teach. Reading the Sophia Institute lesson plans was very useful, especially considering that most of the students are always looking for ideas on how to create a lesson plan that is well organized and not too wordy; Sophia did a great job providing the students with ways to stay organized and get all the work done. The trip concluded with a class lunch at Panera Bread. Although they were sad that the trip was over, it seemed as though they were all glad that they got to go and see what life is like behind the scenes of a successful textbook company.

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Austin Preparatory School is a Catholic private school in Reading, MA for Middle School and High School students in grades 6-12. We seek to cultivate the hearts and minds of our young students and provide an environment in which our students can successfully learn, grow, and develop beyond the classroom.

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