Daily and life lessons: The benefits of a Catholic education
Throughout my 10 years of Catholic education in high school and in college, the guidance I received from teachers filled with faith was incredible. To this day, I can still hear the voice of my 11th grade history teacher singing the psalms during all school Masses. A glimpse of my art teacher’s stain glass window that adorns my high school’s chapel lingers in my mind. My Italian professors in college even taught the class how to say the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” within the first few lessons in Italian class. Their efforts to incorporate the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church into my daily life did not go unnoticed.
It is unfortunate that the Catholic education system has a difficult time recruiting teachers to fit its needs. Many underprivileged schools with a tight budget cannot afford to give teachers a competitive salary compared to the public school system. According to the National Center for Education Statistics , the 2010-11 school year had an average teacher’s salary of $56,069 with the average for Catholic school teachers being even less at $43,500. The National Catholic Educational Association claims that first time teachers make an average of $31,853. This fact is off-putting to many in their early years of the teaching profession because the cost of living is constantly increasing and some have student loans to repay which takes a big chunk out of their paychecks. Some teachers struggle with the decision between making enough money to suit their household needs or to teach through their faith.
As Religion News Service recently reported , there are options for these educators so they don’t have to compromise. The Center for Catholic Education at the University of Dayton in Ohio gives teachers an opportunity to combine their love of teaching with their desire to work for a Catholic school. The Lalanne Program  offers two years of committed service to an under-resourced Catholic school for post-graduates. Teachers live and work together, building friendships and growing both in skill and in spirit. The love and support they show each other encourages them to continue teaching their religious beliefs and to not settle for something other than what they want to do with the gifts they possess. There are fifteen similar programs nationwide in various Catholic colleges and universities.
What I admired most about my own teachers was their commitment to service. They served God, their students, and each other through their areas of expertise. Whether it was music, art, languages or another medium, they beautifully expressed their faith lives to all of us.
John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers, is quoted for saying, “To touch the hearts of your pupils and to inspire them with the Christian spirit is the greatest miracle you can perform.” These words of encouragement for teachers are absolutely right. The love my Catholic school teachers had for me and for their profession will continuously influence my life.
Photo by Tom A. Wright