I may be biased, but I believe the teachers in our publicly-funded education system in Ontario are pretty great. I have a particularly special place in my heart for our Catholic teachers, and considering I’ve spent almost my entire life inside the system (as a student, teacher candidate, teacher, and parent), I do know what I’m talking about.
As lifelong Catholics, and employees of the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board, choosing Catholic school for our daughters (now nine and 11) was an obvious decision, especially knowing what we did about the amazing Catholic teachers. Of course we wanted the daily religious instruction that we knew these teachers would provide, but even more than that I knew from experience that our girls would also learn so much more from these dedicated women and men, and be educated in an environment rich in values, embedded into every aspect of the curriculum and the school day – lessons for life. (Whether or not you share our belief that Jesus rose from the dead, I really don’t think you can go wrong wanting your children to emulate the example that He set while on earth.)
As both a teacher and parent, one of the richest values to me that I see developed in our Catholic schools is an understanding of the responsibility we have to promote charity and social justice, both locally and worldwide. In our little school alone (where I teach kindergarten and my daughters are currently in Grades 3 and 5) Catholic teachers spearhead initiatives to support the Terry Fox Foundation, organize book drives for children who may not have that all-important access to reading material, support a sponsor child in Ethiopia (there’s always some confusion when we first tell kids – and parents – that we are fundraising for “Abush”!), coordinate food and toy drives and Christmas hampers for local families, and raise money for Development and Peace.
We recently held our 4th annual Wigs For Kids Donation Day, where several of our students cut off their ponytails to be made into wigs for children with medical-related hair loss. My daughters and I launched the initiative together at the school in 2014, and my younger daughter has already participated twice.
I have been so impressed by the efforts of the teachers and support staff at our local Catholic secondary school as well (full disclosure: my husband is the principal) and the impact those actions have had on the students. Those who think teenagers are completely self-centred certainly haven’t seen the creative projects these kids have participated in, for example a Pasta Challenge (where they brought in more pasta per capita than any other area high school) and Soles4Souls, where a large number of shoes were donated to be distributed to those in need. The efforts of the school’s Lifeguards (no, they don’t work at a swimming pool, they try to raise awareness about value of life from beginning to end) have also been extremely impactful, including a baby food drive supporting a local Crisis Pregnancy Centre and a blood donor clinic.
With a track record like this, in addition to the strong academic and extracurricular programs that every parent wants for their children, we are so excited that our girls will be continuing to learn from Ontario’s Catholic teachers when the time comes for them to attend secondary school.
The impact of Catholic teachers extends past the students’ graduation as well: the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) did a study in 2013 that showed graduates of Ontario’s public Catholic school system volunteer, donate, and vote at very high rates.
When I stop looking at my to-do list long enough to pause and be thankful for my blessings, the fact that my entire family spends our days within Ontario’s publicly-funded Catholic school system, surrounded by Catholic teachers who make such a difference, is very high on my list, and I know I’m not the only one. Please visit Lessons For Life to find many other experiences.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Ontario Catholic Teachers. Opinions are, as always, my own.