I went on to get my degree in Elementary Education from Purdue University with a minor in reading, kindergarten, and computers. After graduating in 2001, I began teaching Special-Education Pre-School, then Kindergarten until 2008. After getting married and moving to Alabama, I taught Reading Intervention and First Grade. My husband and I moved to Michigan to be near my parents and explore larger job markets in 2012, and I began teaching at MHT in 2013.
Until I graduated from college, I would say I was a mediocre Christian. I went to Mass every Sunday, volunteered with my family, and knew I loved the Lord. Shortly after moving home from Purdue, at Mass one Sunday, I felt called to volunteer in a new youth ministry program at my church. As I look back now, I realize I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought this would be a good way for me to give back and help others. What really happened was that God had lead me into a time of conversion and growth in my relationship with Him. Through the next eight years of retreats, adoration, weekly bible studies, Sunday night programs, and mission trips, my personal and faith life were transformed. I found who I truly was and what I was called to be...not primarily a teacher, sister, or a woman, but a daughter of Christ...forever. For me, once I came to understand this, I could never turn back. It's the most important thing about me and my choice is to always love the Lord. He is my strength, my friend, my hope, my joy, and my heart.
Father Dennis asked me to share some of the experiences I’ve had while working at Most Holy Trinity Catholic School. This is my 5th year teaching 3rd and 4th grade at MHT. Initially, I was terrified because I don't like talking about myself and couldn't possibly have much to share. Next, I was nervous that by expressing my thoughts, I may offend someone who teaches in the public school. I taught in public school for 9 years, where I grew, was inspired by, and was taught by amazing mentors and coworkers. I love teachers. I know that wherever you teach, it is amazing and hard, and that most teachers, whether in private or public schools, love their students and give all of themselves every day. Finally, and perhaps what I should have done from the start, I sat down to pray. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me so I could honestly express how working at MHT has changed my teaching and life. There are many things I could share about the amazing students, parents, staff, and community in Fowler and at Most Holy Trinity, but I am going to focus on just a few.
My first experience came at the first school Mass I attended with students. I kept thinking...I'm at work...praying...with my students...I'm getting paid to go to Mass with my class. THIS...IS...AMAZING! Can you imagine it, if your whole work place went to church together once a week? It took me a while not be moved to tears each time I heard the kids belt out a song with uninhibited joy and faith. Being with children as they encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is breathtaking, to put it mildly. I can tell you this with absolute certainty...the faith of children is pure. When Jesus asks us to have Faith like a child, I now understand what he means. I have far less to teach them than they teach me. Their forgiveness, generosity, and kindness is overwhelming. The Faith of a child is inspiring and I am blessed to witness that every day.
The second experience was a change in my personal goal as a teacher. Throughout my first years of teaching, I worked in areas where many students lived in neglect, poverty, abusive and transient homes. I had one goal that never changed. In Education, everything changes, which can be great and frustrating, as most teachers can tell you. My goal, thanks to Mr. C, was to make sure each child knew that no matter what happened to them in their lives, whoever they became, there would always be at least one person who would always love them. It was what kept me going. However, after a few weeks at MHT I realized this goal had to change. It wasn't enough that my students knew I loved them, I had to make it my goal that they knew, felt, and understood that God loved them in a deeper and more pure way than any human person could. And that they were chosen to share that love with others.
Finally, I began to understand the freedom and responsibility to teach as my whole authentic self. There is nothing I need to hold back from my students about who I am. This is both liberating and challenging because it is my soul that is now accessible. I am free to be a struggling, flawed, mistake-making, imperfect, child of God, but I must also keep learning and growing in my faith. My students and I are on the same journey. We are called to understand why we were created and who we want to be. As in any school, we work together to grow in knowledge, understand how to be our best selves, striving to be a good citizens, and better our world; however, we are also allowed the opportunity to grow in the deepest and most important way. There is no getting around the fact that this allows Faith to permeate everything we do.
I thank Father Dennis and God for giving me this time of reflection. I think He knew I needed it before I did. I ask each of you to consider adding me and all teachers to your prayers. If you could pray especially for new teachers, and for those who feel God nudging them to a career in Catholic Education. I thank my sweet Lord and Savior for leading me to MHT, and for each of the students I have had the pleasure to work with. To each of them: It is you who make my heart full and my faith strong. It is you who inspire me to be better and to have faith like yours. God is calling us to greatness and you will change the world.