The following blog was contributed by Kevin Baxter, chief innovation officer at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in Arlington, VA.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! It is wonderful to set aside this week, especially during the current coronavirus pandemic, to honor the work that teachers do every day in service to students. Catholic school teachers are a special group – when I was superintendent in Los Angeles I wrote an article for our archdiocesan magazine which talked about the superpowers that Catholic school teachers possess. So, it is a great practice to set aside this time to honor the great work teachers do each day.
Catholic school teachers go above and beyond their standard role in the classroom. I remember an unforgettable comment made to me by one teacher when I was a principal. She had a student who presented some significant behavioral challenges in the classroom and we were brainstorming some strategies that could be effective. She turned to me and said, “I don’t see (student’s) challenges as being his challenges, I see them as my challenges.” This is indicative of Catholic school teachers across the country who view their primary task to be helping students to achieve their God given potential in all aspects of their learning.
I had another experience with a teacher at a different school where I served as principal that further demonstrates the selfless, giving nature of Catholic school teachers. This first-grade teacher also had a young boy in her class who presented various learning and behavioral challenges. I met with the teacher a few times throughout the fall to talk through different approaches that might be effective. The boy also had some issues with his home life and his parents had gotten divorced. During the Christmas break, his mom reached out to me to tell me that she was going to move out of the area to start fresh. In the back of my mind I thought, “I am sure that will be a relief to the first-grade teacher.”
After the Christmas break, the first person to come bounding into my office was the first-grade teacher. She sat down and started to go through the things she thought about over the break that she was going to use with this young boy. I cut her off and said that his mom withdrew him from the school. Instead of relief on her face, I was surprised to see the teacher burst into tears of disappointment. She was sad to lose the opportunity to work with the young boy.
Catholic school teachers bring their whole selves to the classroom – their faith life and their commitment to seeing the best in each child. They recognize that all human beings are on a continuous path of formation and none of us ever get to the end point in this life. Thus, they never ‘give up’ on a child but rather see the path each needs to take to be successful. For some students, that path may involve more turns, hills and valleys but Catholic school teachers know that each child will get there with loving guidance and support.
So, thank you to all the wonderful Catholic school teachers across the U.S. who give so much of themselves to see their students succeed. Especially in this time of shifts to remote learning and challenges, the value of a great teacher is more evident to all of us and something to cherish and celebrate.