January 23, 2015

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Unlikely journey leads teacher to find her destiny

Amaranta Kemple strives to help her students at St. Mary School in Rushville understand that their lives and the world are full of possibilities. (Submitted photo)

Amaranta Kemple strives to help her students at St. Mary School in Rushville understand that their lives and the world are full of possibilities. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Considering the way that she met her husband, it’s understandable that Amaranta Kemple believes in destiny and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now a pre-school and Spanish teacher at St. Mary School in Rushville, Kemple was living in her native Mexico 16 years ago when her work had her traveling to the small town of Morelia on a crowded bus.

“I was really upset that I was going to this small town when all my friends were going to Mexico City,” she recalls.

Yet during the bus trip, she sat next to a man from the United States who was headed to that same small town for two weeks to learn Spanish. And their enjoyable conversation on the bus kept evolving into something more and more interesting as they kept running into each other during those two weeks.

“After that, we talked on the phone and visited each other. We talked on the phone for a whole year. We decided it was going to be cheaper to get married than to pay the phone bill,” she says with a laugh about her relationship with her husband Joseph.

Then she turns serious, “I think the Holy Spirit put me on that bus. That was my destiny.”

Kemple also believes it is her destiny to be a Catholic school teacher—another journey that has been marked with some interesting twists.

For the first five years of their marriage, the Kemples lived in Michigan. Eleven years ago, Joseph knew he needed to return to his hometown of Rushville to care for his mother, a widow who has Parkinson’s disease. Searching for a pre-school at the time for their daughter Clara, Amaranta didn’t find the right one until she stopped by St. Mary School in Rushville.

Soon, everything fell into place.

“We met people, we joined the Church, and when Clara was in first grade, I volunteered in her classroom once a week,” Kemple says. “I asked if I could teach them Spanish. Then I was hired as the pre-school teacher, and I continued teaching Spanish as well.”

The school became a home for Clara and her sister, Sofia. It also became a home for their mother.

“As a mother, I love that my kids are safe in school. As a teacher, I love that we can talk about Jesus,” she says. “The kids behave very well, and they’re kind. We’re like a big family. You always see kids helping other kids, teachers helping kids, and kids helping teachers. I love that when someone is having a bad day, we can stop and say, ‘Hey, let’s pray about that.’ And we can help each other.”

Kemple also strives to help her students—especially her pre-schoolers—understand that their lives and the world are full of possibilities.

“As a teacher, I want them to know that the world is open for them. That’s why I teach Spanish. I want them to know there are no limits, that people around the world love Jesus. I don’t want my students to be just good. I want them to be outstanding. I love when they say, ‘We’re outstanding!’ That’s a big word for a little pre-schooler. We teach that Jesus is our leader, and they can be good leaders, too.”

Besides being a teacher, Kemple also serves St. Mary School in another leadership role—as the president of the parent-teacher organization.

“I like to do things for the school. The school has done so much for my children. And I have to give back to St. Mary’s for that. Being the president of the PTA helps me give back in another way.”

She also gives by sharing her faith with the non-Catholic students at the school.

“We have so many non-Catholic students. When we take them to church, it’s the first time for many of them. Just to see the joy in their lives is so amazing.”

So is the commitment that Kemple has to the school and the parish, says Sherri Kirschner, principal of St. Mary School.

“Without her being here, we wouldn’t be able to offer Spanish to our students,” Kirschner says. “She also does a great job in communicating with our Hispanic families. And she tutors them after school if they need it.

“She’s also our PTA president, she’s on the school’s safety team, and she helps out with Sunday school. That says how much she believes in what St. Mary’s gives to our students, and how she wants to make it as best as possible for her children and all children.”

Kemple just sees everything she does as a reflection of finding her destiny.

“I remember growing up thinking, ‘What’s my talent?’ I’d watch those talent shows and wonder if I had one. Now, I know my talent is teaching. You can share so much with children, teach them so much, and learn so much from them.

“I have learned from them that I can have fun. I’ve learned that I can sit down and color with them for 15 minutes and have a conversation with them. We talk about their feelings and their life.

“I’ve learned from them to enjoy my life.” †

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