May 30, 2008

Answering the call: Teachers committed to sharing gift of faith with high school students

Ben Grimes, a physics teacher at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, said one of the most rewarding parts of his job is “when the students recognize what is going on around them.” (Photo by Bryce Bennett)

Ben Grimes, a physics teacher at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis, said one of the most rewarding parts of his job is “when the students recognize what is going on around them.” (Photo by Bryce Bennett)

By Bryce Bennett

They represent the new wave of Catholic teachers, educators who have felt the call to share their spiritual and intellectual gifts with this generation of high school students.

As another school year nears its end, here’s a look at seven teachers from across the archdiocese who strive to help students learn and grow during an important part of their lives. The teachers were chosen based on recommendations from administrators at each high school.

Toni Schultz, Seton Catholic High School in Richmond

Toni Schultz’s passion for teaching comes from her desire to stay involved in the lives of students. That is why she teaches eight classes ranging from junior high art to student publications.

“I haven’t learned to say ‘no’ yet,” Schultz explained.

She came to Seton from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College where she earned a teaching degree in art. When looking for a full-time teaching job, God provided the answer she needed.

“After my graduation from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, I began a quest for an art opening in any school,” Schultz said. “God provided only one option—Seton Catholic High School in Richmond.”

Schultz believes in art projects which use recycled items and are good for the environment. Among the projects that students completed this year are original paintings on discarded suitcases and shoes, a jewelry project in which they created key chains from pieces of license plates, and perhaps the most unique project, which involved Schultz’s farm.

“I live on a farm, and my students have used animal bones to create scrimshaw drawings,” Schultz explained. “It is similar to whalers carving into ivory.”

Before her students begin anything, they take a few moments at the beginning of each class to devote time to prayer.

“The greatest gift I have as a teacher is prayer with the students,” Schultz said. “I am humbled daily by their prayerful intentions for family, friends, neighbors, pets and personal situations.”

As the situations, projects and needs of the students change, Schultz remains comfortable in the fact that God will direct her where she needs to go.

“I really try to live in the moment,” she said. “If I trust in the Lord, he will place me right where I need to be.”

Margaret Zeh, Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis

When Margaret Zeh and her friends were deciding on their futures after college, they looked to two things for guidance: a map of the United States and God.

“I ended up in Indianapolis after a few of my friends and I got out a map and chose 10 cities that we all thought we could live in,” Zeh explained. “Then we started applying for jobs in that area. Whichever one got the job first, we would move to that city. I got the job at Scecina first.”

Part of Zeh’s approach to life is to put God’s plan above everything else that she does.

“I feel like I try to be open to what God wants of me,” explained Zeh, who is in her fifth year of teaching freshman theology. “Faith is the most important thing we have.”

In the classroom, Zeh tries to present an approach to students that will keep them interested while providing lessons that will last outside the classroom.

“When you [the students] have to be there, it can sometimes become more about academics and less about faith,” Zeh explained. “We try to do some different things in the classroom with the overall message of love that is present throughout the lessons.

“I aim for the students to understand that love is more permanent and everlasting than some other subjects.”

Ben Grimes, Roncalli High School in Indianapolis

Ben Grimes brings six years of Army Reserve experience into his physics classroom every day. He credits his time in the military for helping mold him into the confident person that he is today.

“The military made me realize discipline and also having a presence of authority,” Grimes explained. “It gave me leadership abilities and a confidence that I did not have early in my life. I was the least confident nerd in high school.”

That experience helps Grimes recognize and relate to the everyday issues that teenagers face.

“I realized, especially through teaching, that everyone who comes in my classroom is having different experiences. This allows everyone to contribute,” he said.

Classroom participation is a major emphasis for Grimes, especially considering that he teaches physics, which can be a difficult subject for high school students to grasp.

“The biggest challenge is making the students forget what they know and what they think they know,” Grimes explained. “The most rewarding part can be when the students recognize what is going on around them.”

Lisa Baute, Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis

Lisa Baute first took an interest in teaching thanks

to a theology teacher who taught her when she was a high school student at St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“My senior year of high school I had a theology teacher that was just awesome,” Baute said. “She was young and made things interesting.”

Baute took a similar approach when she came to Indianapolis from Dayton University through its Lalanne Program, which aims to place young Catholic school teachers at inner-city schools. Baute said she was drawn to teach theology because of its lessons of compassion, respect and faith.

Baute taught junior high and freshman theology at Cardinal Ritter for two years. She loved the experience and the interaction with students.

“The stories I heard and the lessons I tried to teach hopefully had an impact on my students’ lives, but they definitely had an impact on my life,” she explained.

That interaction with students led to her current position in campus ministry at Cardinal Ritter. Baute now oversees and plans all retreats, Masses and service projects. She also is available every day to help students through any difficult situations that they may be facing.

“I feel like I have the best job in the school,” Baute said. “I try to keep our community centered on faith.”

Emily Howell, Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville

For Emily Howell, a first-year art teacher at Our Lady of Providence High School, teaching was something that always ran in the family and was a vocation that always showed its influence in her life.

“My mother and two of my aunts teach in the Louisville area and inspired me to move into the profession,” Howell explained.

Howell’s teaching style focuses on the individual. She believes in allowing students the freedom to produce works of art that represent their talents.

“I never put my hands on the students’ projects. … I let them make the artistic decisions and just help out with simple technique and construction matters,” she explained.

Howell is also involved in extracurricular activities

like the art club and junior high student council. For a first-year teacher, she puts a special emphasis on getting in touch with the student body.

“These leadership roles give me the chance to get to know my students better and help them get involved,” Howell said.

Brian Shaughnessy, Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis

Brian Shaughnessy arrives at school every morning remembering an important lesson that he learned from his days as a student at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind.

“I had a resident assistant my freshman year at Notre Dame that had the ability to make the person he was talking to the most important person in the room,” Shaughnessy explained. “I try to treat my students the same way.”

Shaughnessy arrived at his high school alma mater, Bishop Chatard, two years ago to teach freshman theology. During his first year after graduating from college, he served as a youth minister at St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis.

Shaughnessy has seen a few differences in teaching high school students compared to leading a youth ministry group.

“One of the biggest challenges in youth ministry is getting the kids there and involved,” he said. “In high school teaching, you have the kids there and you have to work to keep them interested and keep them involved in the class.”

To do that, Shaughnessy likes to use unconventional teaching techniques to keep his freshmen involved and interested in theology.

“I like to have the students do presentations, read Scripture reflections, show videos, and we even had a project in which the students made a rap mix tape,” Shaughnessy explained.

Steve Hesse, Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison

Steve Hesse’s teaching path may seem unusual, but he would not have done it any other way.

He came to Shawe Memorial High School straight out of college and taught history classes for three years. Then family life called. Hesse stopped teaching to stay at home with his children for nearly 10 years.

“My youngest [child] went off to school and, at that point, my wife and I decided it was the right time for me to return to work,” he said.

Hesse had doubts about returning to teach high school classes.

“I was not a great high school student,” Hesse explained. “In the end though, that motivated me to become a great teacher.”

Hesse returned to Shawe two years ago to again teach history as well as Advanced Placement Government. His philosophy is simple: Try to make history exciting so the students are excited.

“I think history is fun,” he said. “I get excited, and I try to convey that to the students.”

Hesse also leads junior and senior retreats. He said he has gained a different perspective from teaching this time, and he hopes that it shows in the classroom.

“I think I understand the kids a little bit more,” he said. “I hope they see me living a Catholic life. I’m not perfect, but I try to stay involved the best I can.”†

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