January 28, 2011

2011 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

A calling from God: Educators share the blessings of teaching in Catholic schools

A first-grade teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville, Jacquelyn Singleton describes teaching in a Catholic school as a calling from God. Here, she works with first-grade student Piper Prince. (Submitted photo)

A first-grade teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville, Jacquelyn Singleton describes teaching in a Catholic school as a calling from God. Here, she works with first-grade student Piper Prince. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Jacquelyn Singleton knows the special feeling of being named one of the top ten teachers of 2011 by the Indiana Department of Education.

A first-grade teacher at St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville, Singleton also enjoys the special feeling of being a teacher in a Catholic school.

“For those of us who teach in Catholic schools, our job is not just a career but a vocation—a calling from God,” Singleton says. “We don’t see what we do for our students as ‘extra effort,’ but rather simply providing the love, respect and education that all children deserve.

“For me, the best part of teaching in a Catholic school is the opportunity to share our Catholic heritage with students. I have the freedom to teach as Jesus taught by sharing morals and values within the academic curriculum.”

Singleton was among several educators in Catholic schools across the archdiocese who responded to The Criterion’s request to share their thoughts and stories about teaching and administering in Catholic schools.

Here are some other responses…

Living the faith

Pat Tucker often tries to share her faith with her students at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. In return, the English teacher has benefited from the faith that the students have showed her in difficult times.

“Several years ago, one of our students—a very gregarious, well-liked young man—died suddenly,” she recalls. “Throughout the days that followed, I was so touched by the way our student body drew close, especially through prayer, in order to cope with the tragedy. When we celebrated the Mass together, I think I realized, more so than ever before, what being a part of the Body of Christ meant.

“The second incident occurred last year. I had received a phone call that my elderly mother, who lives in another state, had fallen and was hospitalized. I was extremely worried, and shared my feelings with my students. After one class, I found a note on my desk. It said, ‘I just said a Hail Mary for your mom, and when we’re at Mass today, I’ll pray for her, too.’

“I never found out who wrote the note, but just realizing that a student acknowledged the importance of prayer and cared enough to let me know that he or she was concerned touched me so deeply.”

A special road trip

One of the favorite events of the school year for Rick Ruhl is when he makes a special road trip with the seniors of Seton Catholic High School in Richmond.

“Each December, I am afforded the distinct privilege of taking the senior class to a very special Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis,” said Ruhl, the principal of Seton Catholic. “Our seniors join Archbishop Daniel Buechlein and hundreds of seniors from all the other Catholic high schools in our archdiocese for a celebration of the Eucharist. This Mass is a wonderful celebration of Catholic schools throughout our archdiocese.”

That Mass is also a reflection of the approach of Catholic education, Ruhl says.

“In addition to the ‘3 Rs,’ we delve into issues such as morality, justice, fairness and faith each and every day. In working with and for our young people, our teachers do not simply experience the Holy Spirit, they live in it. Providing educational excellence for our students, with teachings centered in the mission of Jesus Christ, is our continual goal.”

A sense of community

“The best part of teaching in a Catholic school for me is the sense of community,” says Ruth Roell, a math teacher at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. “Growing up in a small town—Batesville—I had that community experience, and it has been reinforced here at BCHS. Not only have I come to know students over the years, but I have grown close to families and my colleagues. I count many of my colleagues as my best friends. And I truly value my friendly relationships with parents.

“The joyous moments are too many to mention. I remember a pre-calculus class where we got so close that every kid and I hugged on the last day of school. I remember one where a student read inspiring stories as part of our prayer before class. I remember celebrating when a student finally grasped a mathematical concept, and sharing laughter with students over the clever humor they brought to class.

“Probably, my most favorite experience with students has to be the senior retreat. Getting to know the leaders and the seniors on a more personal level creates a lasting bond. There is a perfect blend of spiritual growth, life lessons and fun times.”

Three great blessings

As the principal of St. Mary School in North Vernon, Franciscan Sister Joanita Koors talks about Catholic education in terms of blessings—given and received.

“First is the great blessing of being able to share our Catholic faith, pray as a community of believers and teach children of the great love God has for them,” says Sister Joanita, who has been nominated by the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education for this year’s Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association.

“Secondly, teaching and administering in a Catholic school enables us to educate the whole child—spiritually, academically, morally and emotionally in an environment of mutual respect, love and care.

“A third great blessing of being part of the Catholic schools is the deep appreciation for all the people. We are a school family, called to provide excellence in education, rooted in faith and bound together in love.” †

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