January 29, 2021

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Valuable lessons from her students touch a teacher’s life

In her 34 years of dedication to Catholic education, Lillian Kelley has always felt blessed to live her dream of teaching “In this wonderful faith community.” Here, she teaches in her current school, Holy Cross Central School in Indianaolis. (Submitted photo)

In her 34 years of dedication to Catholic education, Lillian Kelley has always felt blessed to live her dream of teaching “In this wonderful faith community.” Here, she teaches in her current school, Holy Cross Central School in Indianaolis. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

The story is profound in its innocence and its faithfulness, and it speaks volumes about what Lillian Kelley has always valued in her 34 years of teaching her students.

“I have enjoyed many visits and comments from former students, but I recall a time that one of my preschool students caused diners at Red Lobster to quiet themselves as she prayed over her meal,” Kelley recalls.

She also shares another story of a small child, a story that helps explain why she has dedicated so much of her adult life to Catholic education by teaching

pre-school and kindergarten students at such places as the former St. Andrew Academy and Holy Cross Central School in Indianapolis.

“As a young child growing up in rural Mississippi, I was made aware of the fact that Catholic schools were the ‘good schools,’ ” she notes. “I liked the idea that the schools taught religion, required discipline and they expected students to excel academically.”

Influenced by her own Catholic education, Kelley says she has been “blessed” to live her dream to “teach in this wonderful faith community.”

At the same time, she has never stopped being a student. She initially gives credit to the knowledge she has gained from administrators, priests and parishioners through the years. Still, she says, her most valuable lessons have come from her students.

“They are the ones who taught me the following approaches: First, get to know the child. Second, help the child to feel that you care. Third, develop a relationship with parents. Finally, but most importantly, teach the child the Good News about Jesus Christ. Children will learn academically, grow spiritually and develop a way to see God in all things.”

Keeping that focus on the children, Kelley has one more story to share about a former student, one more story about the joy she’s experienced from teaching in Catholic schools.

“I was at Indiana University in Bloomington when a former student gave me a hug and thanked me for being her preschool teacher,” Kelly recalls. “She is a college professor.” †

 

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