Discover the Difference: Learning Never Stops

by Diocese of Des Moines | May 17, 2023

School administrators doing a puzzle activity

Diocese of Des Moines Catholic school administrators demonstrate leadership in so many ways — including as model students. Professional development is an integral part of how we reach and teach our students more effectively, and our school administrators are always seeking innovative ways to serve as instructional leaders in their schools.

Every month, administrators from across the diocese gather as a community of school leaders to discover best practices in education, collaborate on leadership opportunities, and explore the use of student data to make informed decisions about teaching and learning. 

In addition to monthly administrator meetings during the school year, school leaders connect throughout the summer months to perform committee work and plan for the upcoming school year. This June, school administrators and their faculty will learn more about the Multi-Tiered System of Supports process and how this impacts student achievement in their schools. Many faculty and administrators also complete coursework at local universities and Area Education Agencies. Our educators never stop learning.

"Learning is what we are about in education and much of learning comes by way of modeling. Our administrators model the importance of being a life-long learner in what they read, how they respond to questions and new ideas, and by their collaboration with fellow administrators, teachers, and parents," said Denise Mulcahy, director of Teaching and Learning. "Being a school leader is a difficult task, and confidence and competence is gained through a continued desire to seek, learn, and try new things."

So what does professional development matter for our administrators? A recent report from the Learning Policy Institute found, "Principals who are part of well-functioning networks or PLCs meet regularly and collaborate on common problems of practice. This provides opportunities for principals to share best practices, develop a shared orientation toward instruction, and collaborate to solve problems," (Levin et al, 2020). 

Research shows that ongoing, high-quality, professional development for elementary school administrators:

  • Strengthens leadership skills
  • Enhances student outcomes
  • Informs innovative decision-making 
  • Expands professional networks
  • Improves job satisfaction and retention

This growth in knowledge, peer networking, and cross-school collaboration ultimately benefits not only school administrators, but also their faculty and every student in the Diocese of Des Moines. "High performing teachers are the foundation of exemplary schools," said Steve Eubanks, administrator at St.  Albert Catholic School in Council Bluffs. "Investing in our teachers' growth through meaningful, high-quality professional development significantly impacts student achievement as well as the culture and climate of our school."

While not all professional development results in improved student outcomes, research-based professional development aligned with the school improvement plan can indeed impact student learning. Research conducted by the US Department of Education found that such professional development resulted in improved student outcomes by as much as 21 percentile points (U.S. Department of Education, 2007).

Moreover, professional development builds resiliency and confidence among school administrators by expanding their capacity to lead. As a result, these school leaders are "positioned to foster school environments in which adults and students thrive" (Levin et al, 2020). 

The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools that serve more than 6,300 students across central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide students with innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation. To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Des Moines, visit email


Levin, S., Leung, M., Edgerton, A., and Scott, C. (October, 2020). Elementary School Principals’ Professional Learning Current Status and Future Needs. Retrieved April 24, 2023 from


U.S. Department of Education (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement. Retrieved April 24, 2023 from

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.