May 8, 2020

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Thank a teacher for making your future possible

Kimberly PohoveyI remember the moment my vocation in life took shape. I was seated in Mrs. Dumont’s sixth-grade English class, and she announced she would be reading a chapter book to us—a detective novel written by a local author. The mystery unraveled as she read one chapter at the culmination of each week—no doubt a reward for good behavior. I sat spellbound each week as more and more of the story unfolded.

Inspired by her recitation of this story, I began to read more on my own. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a habit up to that point. Mrs. Dumont also instilled in me a passion for writing, especially creative writing. I found that I had a gift for storytelling, and she heartily encouraged my efforts. These two endeavors went hand in hand. The more I read, the more my vocabulary increased and the better a writer I became.

In high school, I continued writing by serving for four years on the high school newspaper and yearbook staff. Sister Benedicta Mahoney was our newspaper and yearbook advisor. She further encouraged my talent and turned my direction toward pursuing journalism. I studied communication arts in college, concentrating in journalism and public relations, while also serving another four years on a newspaper staff. Countless professors continued in the process of honing my skills.

I was always going to become a journalist, but following college, I found I was burned out on the fast pace of producing a newspaper. Writing was still important to me, but I decided to find another avenue to use my skill. I stumbled into the world of educational institutional advancement (otherwise known as development). I remember my father being perplexed at my about-face, expressing, “What are you going to do with your communications degree then? PR for God?” Well, as a matter of fact, Dad, yes.

Over the past 30 years, I have held communications and fundraising positions at a Catholic high school, two Catholic universities, several Catholic parishes and elementary schools. Now I work for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. I have found my writing and storytelling ability to be an asset in every position. What’s more, I have found throughout my career that we all owe our vocations and careers to teachers.

The best of teachers identify, ignite and fan the flames of a student’s passion. Every teacher provides the foundation and tools their students need to succeed in the future.

This month, my youngest son, Ben, will graduate from high school where he has, for the past four years, participated in his school’s architecture drafting program. I can see how he too has been held spellbound by the influence of a teacher.

Mr. Ratliff has imparted not only his architectural knowledge and experience, he has instilled a love for the work. There is no other subject for which Ben would stay after school for hours on end to complete an assignment. And now as he embarks on his college education, there is no other career choice for him (he wouldn’t even enter a second or third choice of majors on his college applications).

Graduation season is typically a time when we think about and/or recognize teachers for their contributions to our graduates. That gratitude is only heightened in this strange time of COVID-19 social distancing. I imagine we have all seen examples in the news or on social media of extraordinary efforts by teachers from quickly converting to online education, to finding creative ways to teach under challenging circumstances, to organizing parades by student houses. I am continually amazed by and grateful for folks who choose teaching as their vocation.

One of my favorite bumper sticker phrases is, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

So, Mrs. Dumont, Sister Benedicta,

Mr. Ratliff, and each and every teacher who has influenced my family and me, thank you for making our futures possible.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of mission advancement for Archdiocesan Education Initiatives.)

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