Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, LSMIG, doesn’t remember the name of her first teacher, but she’ll never forget her impact.
As a child in Uganda, Draru and her siblings walked eight miles to attend school outdoors under a tree. “Madame Teacher” was the only name they ever used for their teacher.
“To this day, I can’t say her name,” said Draru, now the executive director of the African Sisters Education Collaborative. But her impact was lasting and permanent.
“She made us understand that whatever mistakes we make are temporary,” Draru said. “And our accomplishments were permanent. That is the teacher that I’m talking about.”
Draru and Fr. Friedrich Bechina, F.S.O., the undersecretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, talked Wednesday to 300 students in ACE Teaching Fellows and the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, sharing what makes a great Catholic school teacher and leader.
As executive director of the collaborative, Draru oversees the education for Catholic sisters in 10 African countries. She has spent much of her life working to expand women’s education in Uganda and other African countries.
Draru said that Madame Teacher treated her students like they were the most important things in the world to her. She would stop lessons when airplanes flew overhead, telling her students that one day they would ride on a plane.
“Our imagination would go wild,” Draru said. “That I’m here tonight is proof that I remember my Madame Teacher.”
Bechina said that in his role for the Vatican, he has visited Catholic schools on every continent.
“I came to know there’s not the ideal Catholic teacher, there’s not the ideal Catholic school community,” he said. “I learned to know many ideals (of each).”
Bechina asked for a volunteer to come up from the audience, and Caitlin Drake, an ACE teacher from St. Petersburg, Florida, came to the stage. Bechina asked her to stand in front of a mirror, and asked Drake what she saw. She said saw herself in the mirror.
That’s an ideal Catholic teacher, Bechina said, and pointed out the quote from Blessed Basil Moreau that hangs in St. Anthony Commons in Remick Family Hall: “With eyes of faith, consider the greatness of your mission and the wonderful amount of good that you can accomplish.”
“It helps to be critical, to work on yourself, ask forgiveness for sin,” Bechina said, “but you should see yourself as a teacher, and see yourself as God does.“
Teachers and leaders must also look into the eyes of their students and be open to their individual experiences, he said.
Draru used the ACE community as an example of what a Catholic community could be.
“The Catholic community, the school community – what does it look like?” she asked. “It looks like you: A community of joy, a community of love.”