Big welcome for new educators

| August 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

Catholic Schools Office holds orientation for new teachers, principals and presidents

First-year teacher Ali Maeser of Nativity of Mary School in Bloomington greets Arch­bishop John Nienstedt Aug. 24 at the Cathedral of St. Paul following a Mass that kicked off an orientation event for new Catholic school teachers, principals and presidents. Awaiting their turn are Brigid Diaz, left, and Clare Schmidt of St. Helena School in Minneapolis. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Ali Maeser was introduced to teaching in a Catholic school by going to the very top — shaking hands with Archbishop John Nienstedt.

He stood in the Cathedral of St. Paul after Mass Aug. 24 to greet her and other new teachers, principals and presidents of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The liturgy kicked off an orientation event for new educators put on by the archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office.

“I thought it was an excellent way to introduce all the new teachers to the Catholic community,” said Maeser, who is getting ready for her first year in the classroom at Nativity of Mary School in Bloomington. “I loved how, in his homily, he was able to pull everything together and make it one cohesive message to all of us teachers.”

Sharing the vision

In addition to finding inspiration and affirmation of their roles as Catholic educators, attendees also were introduced to members of the schools office, including superintendent of schools Marty Frauenheim. She shared the vision for Catholic schools in the archdiocese, which is to “form students to live out the Gospel message, achieve academic excellence and lead by faith, virtue and reason.”

“This is the vision we want Catholic educators to keep before them,” she said. “This is the focus of Catholic education, this is how we work with young people in our Catholic schools. . . . It’s not just about creating good, well-informed citizens.

It’s about creating saints.”

Seventy-three educators attended the event, which lasted into the afternoon, with a session for principals after lunch and a training session for those needing to go through the program that deals with the protection of children.

Some teachers, like Maeser, are not only new to their schools, but new to teaching. For them, it was a nice way to begin their careers.

“I’m just really excited to teach,” Maeser said. “I thought this was an excellent way to introduce all the new teachers to the Catholic community.”

Teachers who have taught before — at other Catholic schools or at public schools — also enjoyed the orientation event.

“The biggest thing that stood out to me was that Catholic identity was at the forefront — that Christ is the focus,” said Susan Spiegelberg, who will be teaching at St. Charles Borromeo School in Minneapolis after teaching for four years in two states.

Teacher Heidi Demo is glad to be coming back to Catholic schools. She spent 10 years in the Lakeville public school district and will be teaching Spanish at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights this fall (she also has taught at All Saints School in Lakeville).

“Teaching at a Catholic high school will allow me to give full expression to our Catholic faith,” she said. “I strive to be like Christ for others and to see Christ in others.”

Passion to teach

That practice is at the heart of the vision for Catholic schools, which is what Frauenheim hoped to impart to the new educators, along with a hearty welcome to Catholic education.

“What we really wanted to do was help new people really feel welcomed, and to help them understand what their role is as educators in Catholic schools in this archdiocese,” she said. “When you teach in a Catholic school, it’s not a job, it’s a calling. . . . [Teachers] really have to bring to their classrooms, to their schools, a sense of the Catholic worldview — with enthusiasm, with joy, with passion and with wisdom.”

It is that passion that Archbishop Nienstedt was trying to stir up when he exhorted the educators during his homily.

“Jesus must be at the center of all we do from the classroom to the gym, from the church to the lunchroom,” he said. “If our students do not encounter the living Jesus or somehow do not become steeped in his teachings and commandments, then we are simply not doing our job and, worse yet, we are indeed failing our students.”

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