Carolyn Cano does not consider her career choice – teaching at a Catholic school – as a job. It’s not a venue for earning money. It’s not a livelihood. It’s not an 8-5 job. It is much more than that, she said.
“I don’t consider what I do at St. Anthony School a job. It is my vocation to serve the people of God. I truly believe that God brought me here 11 years ago to serve the community of faith in Manteca. I am blessed to be part of a community that can share freely about the gospel values of Jesus Christ. I help parents form their children as disciples of Jesus. I can share my faith experiences to bring real world examples of how to live in today’s world,” said Cano who teaches fourth grade at the 58-year-old parochial school.
“When I walk on this campus, I feel something. I feel the Spirit of God present. It’s almost as if there is a sense of peace. Don’t get me wrong, there are good days and bad days – mostly great days! Everyone has them,” she added. “I love seeing my students each day. I miss them when we don’t see each other. I think about them constantly and pray for their families. I love that we work hard each day and strive to be better people in our community and school. It is family to me. It is where I belong.”
Cano was one of the teachers at St. Anthony School who responded to the questions about what they like about their job at the K-8 elementary campus, and why they think Catholic education remains relevant today.
Eighth-grade teacher Nancy Hogle said one of the “nicely convenient” things about working at St. Anthony School is that she does not have to deal with the daily commute hassle. Even more convenient – the parking space is just a few paces away from her classroom. And, the school is a part of her parish.
Those are just the creature comforts that come with her job, though.
“The real reason” she likes her job, she said, is that “even though I have taught here for 22 years now and the same subjects for most of those years, every year is a new year, and every day is a new day, and every lesson is a new lesson because every class of students is a new class, and every day they are a new class. In the end, I get to teach my three favorite subjects: religion, math and science. And they are my favorites in that order, too.”
Second-grade teacher Jennifer Burkland, who is in her fifth year at St. Anthony, points to the camaraderie on campus as one of the many things she likes about the small parochial school.
“I enjoy working because of the closeness of not only the faculty and staff but also the parents. I enjoy sharing my faith and morals with the students and being able to help them in their Catholic and school journey.”
For kindergarten teacher Desiree Aguirre, it’s the ability to “teach children the Gospel, God’s love for each of us” that she finds fulfilling in her job as a teacher at a Catholic school.
“I love overlapping academic concepts with scripture values. This is planting seeds of faith, love, and hope to young people which will continue to grow in their lives,” she said.
Being able to share her faith with the children and finding rejuvenation in that experience is the best part of her job at St. Anthony, said Resource/Spanish teacher Lynn Poncini.
“Every Wednesday, when I see all the children together in the church, I feel rejuvenated and full of purpose. There is no greater joy than to be able to share the Body of Christ with one another, especially the youth,” said Poncini, the mother of six children.
The weekly celebration of the Mass on Wednesdays is an integral part of the education provided by the school. Also, classes start every day with the students and their teachers saying a prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I love that we start off our mornings with prayer,” said sixth-grade teacher Jessica Teicheira. She also likes the “sense of community that St. Anthony’s offers” and the “family-friendly environment” that the school promotes.
It’s that “strong family ‘school’ community” and its commitment to “successful student learning,” that first-grade teacher likes about working at St. Anthony’s School.
She also likes the fact “instruction is guided by research” and that the school has a “highly educated instructional staff” that works as a team and always strives “to provide the very best strategies and technologies available to each and every student.”
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Relevance of Catholic education today
One of the challenges facing St. Anthony’s School and other Catholic campuses in the Diocese of Stockton and elsewhere is declining enrollment.
“I have seen some families leave the school due to financial problems. It is unfortunate. They may get public education but, I think that they are really missing out on what our school can offer them,” commented Cano on the relevance and value of Catholic education today.
“The school is not only for textbook education but also for helping to shape and prepare our children for the future. These social values allow our children to learn kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and tolerance. Learning Catholic values and following Jesus’ example is something that will always be relevant,” Teicheira rejoined.
Third grade teacher Michelle Crowley agreed. “Learning about moral values will always be important. A Catholic education is one of the few opportunities for children to learn about moral values,” she said. “I do believe that Catholic education is relevant today, with 712 Catholic schools educating children in California.”
Added second-grade teacher Burkland, “We need to teach and instill good morals and a good sense of community in our youth for a better world. They are the future and they need to be good citizens, working together for a common good based on God’s teachings.”
To contact Rose Albano Risso, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3536.