This post is the third of a series of posts during Catholic Schools Week.
By: Julie Galloway Yanchulis, teacher at Saint Timothy Catholic School
5. Catholic Schools Offer Authentic Community
Catholic schools, their administrators, their faculty, their parents and their students, are a close-knit community. Perhaps it’s the fact that there is a commonality among us, a faith that binds us together. But it’s also more than that. There is a level of true caring for each other that makes those lucky enough to be part of each school community thankful for this large family that God has brought together.
4. You Get to Celebrate Holidays, Big and Small
Catholic school communities celebrate the big holidays — and even the not-so-big holidays –with special flair. Advent and the Christmas season are marked by paper chains counting down the days until Jesus’ birth and candles that glow with each passing week. The season always culminates with a Christmas pageant or concert resplendent with small voices singing “Away in a Manger.” But it is the less-commercial holidays that, for me, make teaching in a Catholic School special.
On November 1, the Feast of All Saints, Saint Timothy School students don the bishop’s mitre and green cloak of Saint Patrick, or the white and blue banded veil of Mother Teresa, and march over to Mass in a colorful saintly procession. For the past few years, teachers have joined in the fun, as well, and saints come to life in the hallways of the school. Other saintly days, too, are marked with small festivities. This December, on the cold and rainy sixth of the month, I flung open the doors to the school, and there, lined up outside each classroom, were shoes of all types awaiting treats from Saint Nicholas. A smile lit up my face, the dreariness of the day fading away, as I thought about the simplicity of the shoes and a child’s belief in all things good.
3. Prayer, Prayer, Prayer
If you are ever in need of a prayer, Catholic schools are the place to be. There is a morning prayer, the Angelus at noon, a prayer before meals, a closing prayer, and yes, more prayers in between. My favorite prayer comes at the start of each day, when I gather with my eighth grade homeroom and we share intentions that we offer to our Blessed Mother.
One particularly rough morning for me — traffic issues, computer problems, and a loss by our hometown baseball team in the playoffs the night before — I welcomed the students to school, told them about my less-than-sunny morning, led them in the Pledge of Allegiance and then asked for their intentions. There were prayers for a sick grandmother, a dad taking a flight later that day, unborn children and their mothers, and then, without hesitation one student said, “For you, Mrs. Yanchulis.” What a wonderful way to begin the day.
2. Students’ Enthusiasm for Their Faith – and All Things – is Infectious
Children see the world through rose-colored glasses. They marvel at snow as it falls from the sky, love a hot pizza lunch (no matter that they have it each and every Friday), and rank a trip outside to play tag up there with winning a million dollars. For students in Catholic schools, that zeal is magnified when it comes to their faith. They look forward to attending Mass each Friday. They not only sing the liturgical songs they like, but also sometimes clap along. They, unlike many adults, look forward to the Sacrament of Penance. During our school’s monthly Adoration, they pray quietly and passionately, and I am amazed as my middle school students kneel for the entire 30 minutes without wavering, despite sore knees. The students’ trust in God and love of their faith is powerful and should be emulated by adults.
1. Someone Always Has Your Back
During every work day, there are obstacles that come your way. You can call for technical help, seek help from a co-worker, or meet with your boss. And if you’re a Catholic School teacher, you can seek help from a higher authority. Every morning, before hundreds of students enter our hallways, the whole Saint Timothy School staff gathers in prayer. We thank God for our blessings and ask for His help, as we always remember our top priority is doing what is right and what is good for the children we teach. Our faith assures us that no matter what happens, God’s love for us is far-reaching and will be with us today, tomorrow, and for eternity.
Julie Galloway Yanchulis is currently in her 12th year of teaching at Saint Timothy Catholic School in Chantilly, Va. A former professional journalist, Yanchulis now teaches Language Arts, with an emphasis on writing skills, to middle school students in grades 6, 7 and 8. She is an avid sports fan with a love of all Washington sports teams. She and her husband Phil are the proud parents of four daughters, all three graduates of the Arlington Diocese school system, and one currently a sophomore at Paul VI High School.