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Catholic faith is crucial teaching tool for new teachers

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In preparation for the start of school, 180 new teachers gathered at St. Thomas More Cathedral School for orientation Aug. 14 and 15, which included icebreaking exercises, breakout sessions and a meeting with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. The goal was to help them prepare for the more than 17,500 students who attend Catholic schools throughout the diocese.

“We had the pleasure of having Bishop Burbidge visit us this morning,” said Julie Rubio, who will teach middle school math at Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Vienna. “I was very inspired by his encouragement of us and his sharing of how important our vocation is as Catholic school teachers.”

In his impromptu pep talk with the new teachers, Aug. 14, Bishop Burbidge thanked them for “saying yes to teaching in the diocese” and urged them never to lose heart. He also mentioned how both his niece and nephew are Catholic schoolteachers, and marveled at how hard they work.

Leslie Lipovski, assistant superintendent of schools for the diocese, was inspired by the youth of the teachers.

“What I saw during orientation that was really encouraging was a lot of young teachers,” Lipovski said. “I saw a lot of young, fresh faces, and it is exciting to me that they would pick Catholic school over the public options. They had a lot of choices and they chose us.”

For Audrey Allman, a 2018 graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville with a bachelor’s in middle childhood education and concentrations in social studies and language arts, this will be her first teaching position.

Allman is convinced that it is through Catholic education that the whole student can be taught, in contrast to public schools where faith cannot be expressed as freely.

“I look forward to teaching about the faith — virtue, goodness and who God is,” Allman said. “It matters greatly if students are able to love the Lord and do his will in their lives, the significance of which is often lost in a public school education.”

In the breakout sessions, she learned from current diocesan teachers as well as her peers about the kinds of questions that future students may raise and how to address them properly. In an icebreaking exercise she also learned how diverse the teachers are.

“It really showed me the kinds of people called to teach. Not everyone was a recent graduate like me,” Allman said. “There were veteran teachers, bilingual ones and others who were gifted in music: the Diocese of Arlington will be able to reap the benefits of these diverse talents.”

Allman will teach fifth-graders at St. Bernadette School in Springfield.

Kelly Herlihy, who also will be teaching fifth-graders, always knew she wanted to be a teacher. It was during her senior year at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., that she enrolled in Alliance for Education’s program that pairs future teachers with Catholic schools. She earned a bachelor’s in psychology in 2013 and a master’s in education in 2015.  

Even though she has taught before, the orientation helped her prepare for the start of school Aug. 27.

“It’s always a little stressful starting a new job, but to see so many people excited to share faith with kids makes it a lot easier,” Herlihy said. “Also, Bishop Burbidge really encouraged us to live our faith since the kids are going to experience their faith through us.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018