I was fortunate to work with Jane for ten years. Her dedication to her students and her commitment to being a life-long learner are inspiring. I miss working with her for many reasons, but just one of them is her ability to troubleshoot any weird problem with our school’s outdated technology. Here’s why she teaches in a Catholic School:
I was recently having a discussion with a former co-worker from a public school about my job as a teacher at a Catholic school. She and I talked about the similarities; dedicated professionals, amazing students, innovative programs and ideas, as well as the discipline problems, curriculum challenges, endless meetings, standardized tests and lesson-planning. We also talked about the differences; lower pay (she thought that since it was a private school, we were paid more!), fewer resources, budget constraints, and lack of support for students with special needs, to name a few. But what really stood out when we were discussing the differences, was the rewards or blessings one receives when teaching at a Catholic school. These rewards may not be easy to see at first, but after you’ve spent time in a Catholic school, you begin to see them all around you. Now, this is not to say that teaching in public schools is not rewarding. I’m writing about the blessings I experienced and continue to experience in my 19 plus years as a Catholic school educator.
The first thing that stood out to me when I began to teach at St. Joseph-Marquette Catholic School in Yakima, Washington was the incredible amount of support I received from the parents. I was amazed! Volunteer hours are required at most Catholic schools as part of the tuition agreement, but most of these parents are enthusiastically engaged. Parents supported me in discipline, classwork and homework issues. I seldom experienced this in my 5 years teaching at a public school.
Another blessing is the sense of belonging to a close-knit faith filled community. Beginning each day with prayer, monthly rosaries, special prayer services and weekly Mass all contribute to this feeling of oneness. One experience that still resonates with me to this day is the impromptu prayer service we held after our bus driver was hospitalized with a heart attack. We quickly gathered for a candlelight prayer service and prayed for his healing and for his family. The students were prayerful and engaged. It brought tears to my eyes. Again, this was something that I never experienced at any public school. This is repeated often as our school prays, mourns and celebrates together. Our school community sincerely cares for each student, staff member and family.
Perhaps the biggest reward or blessing I have received as a Catholic school teacher, however, is the opportunity to practice and learn more about my faith. I am more conscious about how I practice my faith and about being a good role model for my students. I can talk with them about my own faith journey and how God is a part of my life, in and out of school. My faith has grown and become stronger.
Ask anyone who dedicates their life to teaching at a Catholic school and they will probably tell you that it is a calling. You are called to teach at a Catholic school. You don’t choose, God chooses you. I truly believe that God chose me to teach at St. Joseph-Marquette 19 years ago. Due to circumstances unrelated to my wonderful job, I found myself in need of a new teaching position at the end of last school year. It would have been tempting to find a job at a public elementary school. There were many openings and I would have made much more money. (I’m talking 2-3 times more!) But I would have been missing all the rewards I received by teaching at a Catholic school. But the decision wasn’t really mine. God found a new place for me at Assumption Catholic School in Bellingham. I have found the same parental involvement, close-knit community and sense of belonging that I had before. I continue to pray that this will be my home for many more years to come.
Jane Town graduated from the University of Montana in 1994 with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and earned her Masters from Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington. She attended Catholic schools as a child and taught at Saint Joseph Marquette for 19 years. She currently works at Assumption Catholic School in Bellingham, Washington. She has been married to her husband Nathan for 36 years and they have been blessed with 3 sons, 1 daughter and 6 grandchildren. She enjoys reading, genealogy, computers, photography, , traveling, fly fishing, camping and hiking.