Creighton grads, students guide transition at Red Cloud Indian School
Creighton grads, students guide transition at Red Cloud Indian School

Isaac Piepszowski, who will earn a master’s degree in secondary education from Creighton University this spring, is keen to praise the work his fellow Magis volunteers are performing as they help the Red Cloud Indian School transition to online learning.

“There’s a great Creighton presence here, and I think, honestly, the Creighton students are leading the charge in terms of handling the situation,” Piepszowski says. “There’s some really good model teachers in the Magis program doing some really great work.”

The Magis Catholic Teacher Corps is a two-year, post-graduate, volunteer program at Creighton that allows students working on their master’s degrees in secondary education to gain experience working within a Catholic school. Red Cloud Indian School is a private, Lakota-Catholic K-12 school located in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, that serves Oglala Lakota Native American children living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Creighton students working with Piepszowski, all of whom earned their undergraduate degrees from other schools, are Haley Curtin (high school English), Jason Nitz (high school English), Nickolas Preston (fifth grade) and Connor Moynihan (middle school social studies).

Piepszowski came to the Magis program after graduating from Loyola University Chicago in 2016 with a bachelor’s in biophysics after which he spent the 2016-2017 school year volunteer teaching at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, his high school alma mater.

He joined the Red Cloud volunteer program in the fall of 2017. 

Piepszowski teaches high school science — primarily physics and physical science. The transition from classroom instruction to online learning has been smooth, Piepszowski says, in large part due to the work of Christopher Smith, BA’15, MEd’18, the school’s assistant principal for academics who earned both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Creighton.

Not that it has been easy.

“The reality is, it’s tough,” Piepszowski says. “It’s hard on the students. There’s a lot of complications to being at home. You’re in home mode. Maybe you’re having to take care of a sibling or you have more responsibilities.

“We’re just trying to stay on our toes and being ready through this shift to support the students in the process of virtual learning.”

Nevertheless, the school was on the ninth day of transition as Piepszowski spoke and all his students have Chromebooks and Wi-Fi access. They’re showing up for virtual class on a normal schedule and Piepszowski is blending live instruction with prerecorded videos that allow his students to revisit instructional material.

And, he says, he is eager for feedback.

“I have a weekly feedback form rating how they’re feeling, what’s good, what’s not working, how could I improve, what could other teachers improve, what can I do differently to support you?” he says.

One thing that has not changed for Piepszowski and his fellow Magis volunteers is their residential situation. Magis volunteers live on site and in community, and although teachers who commute to and from the school are teaching from home, the Magis volunteers are still on site and in the school.

“There’s a great community here,” he says. “There’s a number of us still coming to the school on a daily basis. I live in community, like all the volunteers.

“My community is 10 people in a house, which is tight quarters, but we’re taking a lot of precautions, including socially distancing six feet, whether in the house or in the school.”