I am a product of public schools from pre-school clear through university, even teaching in a massive public high school as a student teacher. The eighteen-year experience was overwhelmingly positive, and I was blessed with one great teacher after another. Moreover, several public school teachers in my family were role models who inspired me to become a teacher in the first place. In fact, the first Catholic school I ever set foot in was the first one I taught in. Yet despite their absence from my formative years and my deep appreciation for my education, I have not looked back. Since my first day at St. John Bosco School, I have been fixated on Catholic schools.
St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a person fully alive.” When any person is able to discover what ignites and drives their spirit; to use their gifts for the good of others; to find meaning in work, relationships, and community; to go through life with a full heart and sureness of purpose; and to know God’s presence; there God is seen with striking clarity, in individuals and in their work. Catholic schools are lauded for providing students the space and the tools to grow into their full God-given potential—to be “fully alive." Teachers, staff, and volunteers at our schools are not only given the same space and tools, they are in fact expected to use them, an expectation that might be intimidating, but is usually exhilarating and life-giving.
Everything about Catholic schools—environment, routines, traditions, values, even the professional expectations—calls the adults in the building to constantly strive for the good of every student. We know that each student’s primary identity is as a child of God and that God is in our work, a knowledge that gives both gravity and hope to everything we do. The realities that make our obligation so clear and unbending also make our objectives possible. Our schools manifest our connectedness, creating the support and partnerships teachers need to serve students effectively.
By celebrating the reality that God is part of education like water is part of the ocean, Catholic schools permit the adults who work in them to participate in a divine endeavor through the formation of minds and hearts, meet their own fullest potential, fulfill their vocation, and be fully alive.