I asked several friends, coworkers, and family members to write about what Catholic schools mean to them. Today you will hear from my dear friend and colleague, Gina Sabo, who is the Technology Integration Specialist at St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen. It's been an honor to work with her over the past decade in several settings. We both agree that working at SJA has brought us tremendous happiness.
5 reasons why I teach in a Catholic school by Gina Sabo
The author and her son, Danny, on the first day of school.
Why do I teach in a Catholic School?
I have heard this question and many other as to my choice to teach in a Catholic school.
“Aren’t you limiting yourself career wise? There’s not much room for growth!”
“Aren’t you afraid of your school closing?”
“You know you can get paid more in the public school, right?”
In reality, my school isn’t much different than that of a public school. Our students come from all walks of life. We have parents that email...some more than others. We have meetings and professional development. Behavior problems. More meetings. Standardized testing. Budgets. And new standards to meet.
But the one thing that makes my school stand out - God. My School’s Mission Statement describes a “faith community of educators, learners, and families using God’s gifts to develop 21st Century skills of innovation, collaboration, problem-solving, and reasoning to enrich the global society” (St. Joan of Arc School). It is within this type of environment that I cannot imagine being without.
So when I have to “defend” my decision to teach in the Catholic School, here are just five of the reasons:
As I mentioned before, our school is a tight-knit community of teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Some could say that it is because we all have that one thing that binds us together-faith, but I tend to lean more towards the fact that we truly care about each other. We have students who return after graduation talking of how much they loved the sense of belonging they felt while attending our school. As teachers, we bond together over shared students we have watched grow over the years. The administration gets to know each child on an individual level, and cheers them on by name. Even our Pastor, Father Willie Franken, offers words of wisdom and guidance to our families at just the right time. Faculty, students, and parents all come together and pray for those who are sick, celebrate a new baby or wedding shower, or even provide a special gift to a student whose family needs to leave mid-year.
Encourages Me to Be a Better Christian and Role Model
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you attend or teach at a public or Catholic school; all teachers are being watched daily by their students and parents. Eyes are always watching to see how to react and how they should structure their behaviors. Parents are personally making sure teachers are meeting their students’ needs. In my school, however, students are also watching my devotion to the Lord. My students can smell the difference between real and fake, so this encourages me to constantly keep myself in check and be authentic in my relationship with my students and God.
Everything is Geared Towards Christ
In the public school setting, I was constantly worried about offending someone. I had to watch what I said and how I said it. In the Catholic school, I am able to complement, discuss, and even explain my beliefs without worry of offending my students. Often, I can praise a student “God has truly blessed you with the talent for drawing,” or thank a student for their help during Mass. Students can openly discuss their love for God and our daily lessons are often linked to the Fruits of the Spirit.
Holidays - Big and Small
In the Catholic school, the holidays - both big and small - are celebrated with a certain sort of style. The Christmas season appears more humble throughout the school. Giving, rather than receiving, is the moving force within the classrooms. Students focus on service projects and the birth of Christ. In May we celebrate Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a school, we meet in the “Grotto” outside our building and place the crown of flowers atop her head and recite a shortened version of the rosary. It is these spiritual practices that, for me, make teaching in the Catholic School special.
Someone Always Has Your Back
No matter where you work, obstacles are always encountered. Calling for help can include a conversation with technical support, help from a co-worker, or even a meeting with your boss. Working in a Catholic School, you can seek help from a higher authority. Our staff begins each week in prayer. Just before the students enter the building, we gather together in our Faculty Lounge, and thank God for our abilities and blessings, and ask for his help. Throughout the school year, we support each other in highs and lows. We celebrate the small victories and pray over difficult times. We are assured through our faith that no matter what happens, God’s love for us will be there forever.