January 29, 2021

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Teacher’s ‘codes to live by’ inspire her students

In her 35 years of teaching in Catholic schools, Angela Toner of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis has made it her mission to connect with her students inside and outside the classroom. (Submitted photo)

In her 35 years of teaching in Catholic schools, Angela Toner of Roncalli High School in Indianapolis has made it her mission to connect with her students inside and outside the classroom. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: Part of the emphasis of this year’s Catholic Schools Week supplement is to honor Catholic school educators, especially those who have dedicated 25 or more years to Catholic education. This is the first of several stories in the supplement that will feature such educators.)
 

By John Shaughnessy

After she says a prayer with her students, Angela Toner sometimes shares one of her “CODES TO LIVE BY” with them.

“Some of them are simple,” says Toner, a math teacher at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. “Open the door for others. Call your grandparents. Never look down on another unless you are giving them a hand up.

“And some are fun quips. If God is your co-pilot, swap seats. Do not let your worries get the best of you, remember Moses started out as a basket case. Forbidden fruits create many jams.”

Toner’s inspiration for sharing such codes each Monday started a few years ago when she decided, “If I want students to make solid decisions, then I should tell them exactly what I mean.”

“Students become excited about the code each week, and I’ve often had college students e-mail me and tell me that they have their CODES posted in their dorm rooms,” she says. “Knowing one can make a difference in kids’ lives through prayer fulfills Roncalli’s mission to ‘make God’s love complete among us.’ ”

That’s also been Toner’s mission in her 35 years of teaching in a Catholic school. She’s even been known to make “house calls” as a teacher, bringing students their homework and tutoring them when they’ve had to stay at home because of an injury or an illness. She’s also come to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis to tutor a student who has been hospitalized there for cancer.

Downplaying such efforts, she says, “When I see how appreciative the parents and kids are, that is a gift to me.”

Even after 35 years, her passion for teaching and trying to influence young people’s lives still burns.

“Having the opportunity to impact kids is paramount,” says Toner, a member of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. “I pray that every teacher gets to hear from a student at least once in their lives, ‘You were my favorite teacher.’ This is extremely powerful and makes one want to continue to excel and thrive in the classroom in order to allow children to do the same.

“Honestly, however, I receive equivalent satisfaction from students who say, ‘Your class was so fun,’ and even, ‘Mrs. Toner, you made math tolerable.’ This is because I truly believe Maya Angelou’s adage that people may not remember what I said, but they will never forget how I made them feel.”

That focus complements her educational goals to help students “understand the material, become a good problem solver, and be prepared for the next level of math.”

Tying all those components together, Toner says she tries to model the wisdom that St. Theodora Guérin offered about the education of young people: “Love the children first, and then teach them.”

Toner considers that approach as her own personal code to live by. †

 

See more from our 2021 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!