CRT Spotlights are intended to encourage and inspire fellow teachers of the faith. Know a religion teacher who deserves to be featured? Please send me their name and e-mail address via my Contact page. Thanks!
What teaching positions have you had and for how long?
5th-9th Grade Religion and History Teacher for 1 year; 6th, 8th, and 9th Grade Theology Teacher for 3 years
Where have you taught?
Presentation of Mary School – Maplewood, Minnesota and Hill-Murray School – Maplewood, Minnesota
JUST FOR FUN
FAVORITE: Bible verse or story
Luke 23:32-43 – The Penitent Thief
St. John Paul II, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Maria Goretti
FAVORITE: Christian work of art
The Transfiguration by Raphael
FAVORITE: Book (besides the Bible) 😁
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Saving Private Ryan
FAVORITE: Vacation spot
My parent’s cabin in Nisswa, MN
FROM THE CLASSROOM
What do you enjoy most about being a Catholic religion teacher?
I most enjoy when a Theology lesson “clicks” for students. When students begin to engage, think a little deeper, and question, it is such an exciting experience to support them as they explore questions about God, the Church, and the Faith in a way that may never have occurred to them before.
What religion topic/lesson do enjoy teaching the most?
I greatly enjoy teaching the Gospels, which we explore in the second semester of 9th grade. We dig into the life of Christ, what he taught, who he is, etc. Students have often not read the Bible at all, so learning about who Jesus actually was and what he actually taught can be a big eye-opener for them.
What is something your students have taught you?
Honestly, the students have taught me that being a successful teacher is far more difficult than I would have ever imagined before I began teaching. However, on the flip side, it has potential to be more rewarding than I anticipated as well.
What is a “win” (story of success) that you have experienced through your role as a religion teacher?
My first year teaching was obviously the most challenging, but it also showed me how rewarding teaching can be, especially teaching Religion. After having the same students for both Religion and History throughout the year, I got to know them very well. One student always stood out in class because he constantly had questions, especially about Religion. He always sought to go deeper, unfortunately in ways the rest of the class often couldn’t follow. I know I couldn’t satisfy every question he had, but I did the best I could. Over the summer, I unexpectedly got an email from the student asking me if I would be his Confirmation sponsor, which I was more than happy to do. For me, this was confirmation that, although we often don’t see the positive fruits of our labors from the constant challenge of teaching, our witness to Christ in the classroom undoubtedly has a positive, and even spiritual effect on our students.
What is a struggle or challenge you have experienced as a religion teacher?
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of teaching Theology is the general apathy of some of the students towards that subject matter. Some of the students I’ve taught struggle to see the relevance of Theology in their lives, and as a result, don’t take the class very seriously. Bringing students out of this apathetic mentality can be difficult and often I struggle to gauge how successful I am at it.
What have you found to be most effective in helping your students develop a strong relationship with Christ and His Church?
There are two particular things I find to be effective in helping students develop a relationship with Christ.
First, though it isn’t direct instruction in Theology and may not have anything to do with the units we are working on, I make a point to bring my classes to the chapel on a regular or semi-regular basis. Often I allow them time to sit in silence and pray, or I guide them on some sort of prayer exercise. Their lives are so noisy and full of distractions. Spending silent time with Jesus in the Eucharist allows them to experience a little tiny bit of peace, hopefully planting the seed for them to desire it more.
Secondly, when students have a Theology/Religion related questions that may be off-topic, I make space in the class to answer those questions. Students are more engaged and learn more when their curiosity is sparked. Giving students the opportunity to ask questions about Jesus, the Church, current moral issues, etc., helps them go deeper in thought, and in faith, than lessons and projects alone.
What kind of advice or encouragement would you most want to share with a brand-new religion teacher?
Be patient with the students, but even more, be patient with yourself. Often Religion teachers go in with a sense of mission, seeking to bring Christ to the students. This is an awesome attitude! But I find it is so easy to get discouraged when we don’t see the effect we are having right away, or it doesn’t appear that we are having any effect at all. But even when discouraged, trust in the Lord. Many saints have been discouraged, yet still accomplished the mission the Lord had for them even when they couldn’t see the fruits they bore.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Sorry I got a little long winded!
How can other teachers connect with you?
Categories: The CRT Spotlight