Elizabeth Emery, Middle School Language Arts Teacher at St. Margaret Mary School in Harrisburg, was recently awarded Golden Apple award. The awards are presented to Catholic School educators who demonstrate professional excellence, leadership, commitment to Catholic values and devotion to teaching.
“Growing up in a school whose patroness is the Blessed Mother, it was made clear to me that prayer is vital to the life and love in a Catholic school. At Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we learned to pray the Rosary before falling asleep at night and were told that our guardian angels would finish the prayers if we could not – a practice I teach my students and my own children today. We learned the Memorare as a way to ask for the Blessed Mother’s intercession, and I still pray it with my students before each religion class. Teaching in a Catholic school affords me the opportunity to share this facet of my faith formation, to impart the importance of prayer to my students – the fact that is the heart and soul, the very life of Catholic schools. It drives all our words and actions and permeates our lessons.
All of these lessons are taught with the values, teachings and morals of our Catholic faith as their backbone and driving force, and extend far beyond my religion classes. Even in language arts, I cannot separate a grammar lesson from a lesson in faith. Each character we explore and genre we read stems from the values taught in Catholic schools. Middle school is a challenging time for students who are bombarded with values of the world that are contrary to the values instilled by our faith. Teaching language arts allows me to add lessons on morality and faith while addressing plots and genre in the secular world. Students want to see how to live out our faith, and we as Catholic school teachers must strive to love that faith and demonstrate its role in the world today – in our lives, in our lessons, and by our example.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, a champion of education himself, taught about two important aspects of love. The first being that love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words, and the second that there is greater love in giving than receiving. My calling as a Catholic educator echoes this definition, as well as Pope Francis’ sentiment that it is a life-giving act of love. The example I set for my students, all that I give to them and for them illustrates my love for the faith and that Catholic education is an integral, inseparable part of my life.”