TGIF: Learning and Engagement Strategies

How do I teach my students how to appreciate nature, cultivate a sense of wonder and see God in nature?  Well, today, I took my 10th morality class for a short while outside as part of the unit of creation! It was a little chilly, but the sun was out, and the birds chirped away.  They meditated on creation using the psalms and their five senses.

For my scripture class, I have wanted to make it more engaging. Teaching the girls about something that was written three thousand years ago and how the Biblical text is still very much relevant requires creating personal experiences.

Out of this desire, I had a prayer activity. I led students in a Lectio Divina  (Divine Reading) on a section of the Book of Lamentations in the school’s chapel. Not everyone stayed focused, but a couple of minds and hearts were won over. In reflection of the experience, some students referred back to their Do-Now without me prompting them and asked critical questions about the relationship between God and the Israelites and if their unique bond is still applicable in the present age. This connection was progress!

Between classes, I planned lessons, of course, and looked forward to a nap. When I arrived at my dorm room after a day at Notre Dame Academy, I treated myself to a muffin and headed to bed.

It was a long, busy week, but  I hope you enjoyed reading a tidbit of my teaching experience.


P.S. Holy Cross’ spring break was this week, so campus life was pretty much dead.


Highlighting Thursday: Meditation, Babies and Class

I can highlight how my Thursday went in four words– meditation, babies, and class.

For my only class on Thursday, held in the morning, I taught on Lent and led my seventh-grade students in a guided meditation of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. As a Catholic educator, I want to cultivate the practice of prayer with students and, obviously, teach them to look at faith from an academic lens.

The feedback I received from the students, like “let’s do it again, it was peaceful” to “I really felt like I was there and Jesus was in front of me,” made me genuinely smile.

For the rest of the day, I had the enjoyment of seeing many babies. What I mean by that is that the twelfth-grade class, as part of a psychology course, were given dolls to take care of. It was fun hearing how they named their babies and the different ways they clothed and carried them, even during class.

When I arrived at Holy Cross from Notre Dame, I headed straight to my practicum, my only seminar class for this week. I always enjoy sharing and hearing how the passionate, mighty TEP teachers are doing in their classes.

When I returned to my apartment, I can promise that I was tired, but felt blessed at how my teaching experience has been going.


Sorry, no pictures today. I forget to take some.

Roxana’s Gallery Tuesday!

Good day! Today I only had one block, a 90-minute class.  With my seventh graders, we (my co-teacher and I) finished the unit and reviewed on the Holy Spirit for their quiz on Thursday. I named the review game “Jeopardy with a Twist. ” I slipt the students into four groups, and depending on the category, they had to write, act, or draw the response. 

7th Grade Classroom


For the rest of the day, I worked on lesson plans and mostly reflected on how I could include more engaging activities for my 11th-grade scripture class.

Coming to Holy Cross campus,  I was greatly satisfied to find Cool Beans opened; I ordered my small latte and stayed working in Hogan until I was kicked out.

When I finally decided to take a break from school work, I washed my dishes, made lunch for the next day, and folded my laundry.


A not-so-well light tabernacle

Sometime between waiting for the poblano peppers to sweat in the plastic bag and packing lunch,  I went to the chapel to spend time with the Lord, because why not.  Afterall as a religion teacher, I can’t give of my cup if it’s not full (Biblical reference).

My big cup of smoothie


 I also made a smoothie, which turned out smooth, sweet, and tasty. After I packed my lunch. I decided to head straight bed!




Roxana’s Wednesday Weather

It was crazy weather outside,  but nature gave me some great ideas.

In the morning, as I delivered a lecture on the Book of Jeremiah, it started snowing! It only lasted for about 15 minutes. In the afternoon, while I attempted to answered questions on heaven, loving God, and where all animals and plants fit into the picture of the afterlife, the sun shone brightly strong, with occasions of wind sweeping into the classroom.

Chilly feels

For my scripture class, I want to bring the practice of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) and find something else to do while the computer keeps failing us. For my morality class, now that we are in the unit of creation, I want to share with them the experience of meditating with nature. What better way to address these ideas than to take the classroom outside.

I heard it’s supposed to be sunny on Friday, so we will see how it goes!

Stuffed poblano peppers with tomato sauce and broccoli

By the way, my lunch, chiles rellenos (stuffed poblano peppers) was filling and spicy but just needed a bit more salt, haha.

Roxana’s Monday!


St. Julie is the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

One of the first things I see when entering Notre Dame Academy is the Notre Dame seal along with a statue of St. Julie with a girl.  When I ride alone in the Holy Cross van, I arrive at Notre Dame from Holy Cross around 7:30 a.m. This week, because of the Holy Cross spring break and the few people left on campus,  I will enter the school grounds with a bit of extra time for making copies and looking over my lesson plans.

Today, in two of my three classes, we started new units, which means I spent most of my weekend lesson planning and going into the week with little sleep.  My 10th and 11th-grade morality and scripture classes were back-to-back which meant that after 11:00 a.m., I had the rest of the day to check papers.

The greatest highlight during the school day was my morality class. Professor Roche from the religious studies department came to observe me and I received some great feedback after class. During the lesson, which is the first on the unit “respect for creation,” I had a student asked me, “Do dogs go to heaven?”  After my response, I  had to use a couple of attention signals to have the class settled down. 

10th Grade Morality Class

Next lesson, as a promise to my students to touch on this topic again, I will explain the difference between souls and spirits. Even though the girls became a bit chaotic, I am glad to say that at least this reaction showed that they were invested in my lecture. They also managed to remain quiet for the remainder of the period while engaged in independent reading.  Two points for me!

After returning to Holy Cross, I took a long-needed nap. I woke up four hours later. Now, I am headed to lesson plan for my seventh-grade class tomorrow.

Roxana Ruiz’s Saturday: Participating in Family Weekend

This is my last post so I am glad to show you how the campus turns alive!

Friday to Sunday is Family Weekend. This means that there are several activities to enjoy oneself and dive into the Holy Cross community.

Before joining the Family Weekend festivities, my roommate and I went to Price Rite, a fifteen minute walk, to stock up on groceries. They have more vegetable options to choose from than Walmart (not sponsored). With a full fridge, I am ready for the rest of the week.

Fruit, potatoes french toast, and eggs with a side of orange juice

Immediately coming back,  I headed to an ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, and Native American) brunch hosted in the Hogan ballroom. The buffet had tasty breakfast options which included fruit, eggs, french toast, sausage and bacon to name a few. With coffee to finish off my brunch meal, I was ready for the day.


From 12:00 to 4:00 p.m., activities filled the Hoval ground. There were games, a food truck, a table setup with apple cider and boxes of pie, a decorative coaster painting setup, a pumpkin painting contest, and a photo corner area. I enjoyed pumpkin painting, picture taking, and hot apple cider tasting.

People paint pumpkins for the contest.
My roommates and I (far left)







As soon as I finished my painting, I rushed to my first football game. We won thirty-one to ten. Woohoo!

Celebration after a touchdown

At 4:30 p.m., St. Joseph’s Chapel became jam packed for Mass. Father Boroughs, S.J. delivered a thought-provoking homily, the choir sang heartfully, and the cellist played beautifully.


Family Weekend Mass

Right after mass, I went to Don Juan’s, a Salvadoran-Mexican restaurant, for dinner and in early celebration of my birthday. My brother arrived on campus in time to join my friends and I.

After tomorrow, I hope we can all returned refreshed to what awaits us.





Roxana Ruiz’s Friday: Unwinding

Thank God Its Friday!

Today, my one class was cancelled! This meant I took the opportunity to go to Mass. After Mass, I headed to Notre Dame Academy for my observation.

Notre Dame Academy

I finished my two hour observation on “World Religions” with having learned about Hinduism. Students connected Hindu rituals to the ones from their own religion, and compared the similarities and differences. After that, they had dismissal and headed to a pep rally on the field which included music, bonding activities, and friendly competition.

Heading back to Holy Cross at 3:00 p.m., I had a big lunch at Crossroads. I ate grilled veggies with quinoa and sauce accompanied with a grilled cheese sandwich and an apple as dessert. I plan to enjoy myself tomorrow with all the food they will have for family weekend.

I also did  small “grocery shopping” in the lobby shop upstairs since my brother is coming by tomorrow for family weekend and my birthday celebration. (This week I am turning twenty-two!

The Holy Cross College Choir performs in St. Joseph’s Chapel

I ended my evening with going to the Holy Cross choir concert held in St. Joseph’s Chapel. The theme was “Voices of Black Women.” They sang beautifully and one female particularly performed with soul.

Tomorrow I look forward to the festivities, but also, of course, hope to do much homework. We will see how that goes.





Roxana Ruiz’s Thursday: Busy Bee


                  I did not post yesterday, because of the lack of time. So, today you will hear from me twice!

                This quote has been on my mind since when my hometown friend sent me a link to a motivational video on YouTube: “Pain is temporary, regret is forever.” Even though I am not drowning in stress, a push always helps. 

               I can always count on Thursdays being crazy busy. I turned in three essays and much of my day was devoted to completing them. One welcomed surprise— I received more time tidying my essays— was that my observation at Notre Dame Academy was cancelled. Teachers had a professional development day, so classes were not held.

             Over the next few weeks at Notre Dame Academy, I will observe the classes “World Religions,” “Scripture,”and “Morality.” From these I will decide which grade level and content area I will teach in the upcoming spring as part of student-teaching. 

           The most exciting event of my day was participating, in my “Methods of Teaching” course, in a Mursion simulation in which my classmates and I taught to student avatars in a live program. In the brief teaching session— ten minutes per classmate— we practiced on handling classroom behavior and delivery of content. I always get a slight rush of adrenaline while teaching, even if just in front of a virtual classroom.

           As much as I would have liked— not really, but feel compelled to—spend every hour of the day immersed in work, I have to remind myself that self-care is necessary or my body will naturally take care of the job. I slept in until nine a.m. and in the evening I took a two hour nap after dinner. After that boost, I went back to work.

           I promise the next post will be much more exciting. Good luck to everyone!

Roxana Ruiz’s Wednesday: Meaningful Pauses

                 Senior Portraits! I cannot believe three years have gone by already. In this academic year, I have finally seen how much I have grown academically, mentally and spiritually. Compared to the writing during senior in high school, my articulation has improved substantially in college. My perseverance and self-awareness enhanced. I am more informed of Catholicism,  and the beauty of living and sharing the faith. 


Light setup for senior portraits

                  Taking my senior portrait this morning provided a moment of gratifying contemplation on my time here on  “The Hill. ” Such reflection also gives me insight into the community I had been apart of— which I will visualize with the 2020 yearbook— and will join as an alumna. I am thankful for the friendships, shared events, resources of Holy Cross and even the rigor of professors. 


Father Monning giving a talk on “Evangelization and the Three Spiritual Keys”

The topic of recognizing friendship at Holy Cross also came up in today’s talk in a recognized student organization I am part of called Society of Saints Peter and Paul. One spiritual key in “Evangelization and the Three Spiritual Keys” is evangelizing through friendship.  Friendships, especially the divine ones, help one navigate through life and come to encounter God through the fruits of care, concern, patience and love shared between the persons.These types of friendships especially have added to my Holy Cross experience and holistic growth as a Christian woman. 
            Reflections (meaningful pauses) like these need to be savored because, generally, they can help oneself truly realize what the college journey entails and motivate one to persevere in order to deliver the best work and self. I hope and suggest that my fellow classmates stop to see the little and big moments as they also navigate through this week and midterms. 


Roxana Ruiz’s Monday: Post Plans and a Busy Day

I enjoy a cup of coffee and look into the sunny Hoval as I write emails.

              It’s the first day back from October break and the rhythm of academic days are in full swing. I do not have classes on Mondays, but it always surprises me how, if I do not pause for a minute of reflection, time becomes a blur. I usually spend the second day of the week, besides writing essays and doing reading assignments, in meetings and doing other miscellaneous duties that I cannot do on other days due to classes. 

              Today, Holy Cross hosted a graduate service fair day, which meant that I spent a large amount of time reflecting upon my plans and thinking about what I hope to do after graduation this upcoming spring. For an hour or so in the morning, I gathered questions that I planned to ask to the ambassadors of programs or admission counselors so that I can better compose my applications and discern the programs that would be an ideal fit for me.

After asking an hour of questions, the time comes to pack up the graduate service fair.

Later on in the afternoon before the service fair, I met individually with one of the ambassadors of a teaching fellowship program I am looking into and confirmed the program as a priority of attention. I have newfound motivation for making the most of my class observations this fall so that I may know if I want to teach middle or high school for the next two years. After the service fair, I was reminded of the blessings of education and opportunities that Holy Cross has granted me. 

              The great pause in my day and constant keeper of my demeanor despite the hectic two weeks of midterms I have ahead of me is the Holy Mass. In these sacred thirty to forty minutes, I recognize that above all, I can handle anything in Christ, especially in midterm week(s). Moreover, I realize that I am called to serve selflessly and fully integrated in what I do, as a student and future religion teacher. As a student or any busy person, it is always good to step back and ask oneself, “what keeps me going and what’s my goal?”