Retiring teachers reflect with joy

The Clarion Herald asked veteran teachers who have decided to retire after at least 25 years in Catholic education to reflect on their ministry as teachers. What was their funniest or most memorable moment? What’s special about teaching in a Catholic school? What advice would they give to a rookie teacher?

It’s all here:

Elementary Schools

Carolee Brophy Miller
St. Edward the Confessor School

42 years teaching art and English I honors

“The Catholic school environment is very nurturing. It’s a family atmosphere that continues as former students send their children and grandchildren back to their alma mater for school.”

“To enter any level of teaching, it must be evident that you love children and want them to succeed in the learning process. The climate is very different now than when I started. You must stay current with new teaching strategies and technology. It can be challenging at times, but it’s worth the rewards you see in your former students. It’s not for the money!”




Janice Hensley
St. Matthew the Apostle

36 years teaching math to students in grades 3-5

“On the first day of school, with all the excitement that accompanies it, a child came up to me the first thing in the morning, introduced himself and said he didn’t feel well. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, he did vomit all over my feet! I knew then that it would be a challenging year, and it was!”

“Catholic education gives hope for the youth of our world. Opening their minds to God’s presence in life with daily prayer, religion classes and liturgies, illuminate him and his love for us. It allows us to practice our faith-filled lives and emphasize that we love and serve God by loving and serving others. We have hope that this faith follows them wherever our good Lord leads to better the world.”

“Teaching is a very rewarding profession. The ability to touch so many lives over the years is indescribable. There are days when you ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ only to return the next day filled with heartwarming smiles and enthusiastic minds. My advice to a new teacher is consistency. Young children feel secure when they know what to expect, whether it be classroom routine or discipline. When a child feels secure in his environment, you will get the most you can from them in their behavior and educational performance. Patience is a virtue, and one that every teacher must have. Without it, you will never be the teacher you always dreamed of being, and your blood pressure will go through the roof. Teachers must be flexible. There will be days when you have planned the perfect lesson only to find that an unscheduled event is called, and your class is canceled. Go with the flow or you will drive yourself crazy. You will always be more than a teacher. For many students, you will be their parent, counselor, mentor, nurse, advocate and peacemaker. You will be the one to dry tears from their eyes in time of sorrow, but also share their joy with their contagious laughter. Being a teacher is a calling that is difficult to ignore. God called me to this way of life, and I thank him daily for the wonderful gifts he has given me through this remarkable adventure serving him.”


Carol Hobson
St. Matthew the Apostle School

42 years teaching, 30 years teaching middle school language arts at St. Matthew

“My most memorable experience as a teacher was a field trip to Stennis Space Center. The bus broke down on the I-10 high rise over the Industrial Canal heading toward our destination. We had to unload the children and walk them along the bridge and safely get them into the cars of the chaperones following us. We even made ‘Traffic Watch’ – it was reported on the radio! It was a teacher’s worst nightmare; one I’ll never forget!”

“I love the entire atmosphere – the Christian, caring environment. There’s a palpable connection among the children, faculty and staff. You’re part of a group – a faith-based family.”

“My first year of teaching I came home crying almost every afternoon. I thought that maybe teaching was not meant for me, but it was all I ever wanted to do. So, I refocused and gave it another shot. Now, 42 years later, I think I did OK. You need to be persistent and patient. You must find the good in every student. Let your students know you care about them. Communicate and collaborate not only with students but also with parents. Be flexible – no two days are alike. The rewards are indescribable. Don’t give up!”



High Schools

Jeanette Oliver
Archbishop Chapelle

48 years as the audio-visual coordinator and library assistant

“My most memorable and exciting experience working at Chapelle was in 1982 when we moved into our new and larger library! Another memorable moment was when my daughter Kali graduated in 1989.”

“Working in a Catholic school is special because we have so many opportunities throughout our day to deepen our faith and become closer to God. Working at Chapelle has also given me many opportunities to share my talents and experiences with our faculty and students.”

  “Work hard, always do your best, enjoy your students, and remember ‘Deus Providebit – God Will Provide!’”



Judith Mollere
Ursuline Academy

45 years teaching, 41 at Ursuline students in grades K-6 religion, science, social studies, computer, English, music, English as a foreign language and speech to a deaf student

“I think my funniest experience as a teacher was being mistaken for a bag lady by a gentleman at a local shelter. As part of a cross-curriculum project (English, writing, art and science), our fourth- and fifth-grade students planted, cultivated and harvested vegetables. As our motto is ‘Serviam, the product was donated to a local shelter. Arrangements were made for me to deliver the bags of veggies to the shelter. The first time I arrived at the shelter, I rang the doorbell. A gentleman came to the door, the top portion of which was glass, wagged his finger at me and left. I rang the bell again. He returned to the door but refused to open it. He walked away. Refusing to be deterred, I knocked rather heavily on the door. The gentleman returned and said rather loudly, ‘We don’t give out women’s clothes until 11.’ I don’t guess I could blame him as I stood there in my long shirt and peasant blouse surrounded by plastic bags. As he began to walk away, I replied rather loudly, ‘This is the produce for the kitchen that our students raised in our school garden.’ He ran to open the door with a rather pink face. We were on best of terms for subsequent deliveries.”

“In a Catholic school, you can teach students the true meaning of courtesy as respect for everyone as an image of God.”

“As for advice, truly love your students, especially the ones who are hardest to love. Form a three-way relationship, with the student at the center and teacher and parent(s) working together for the benefit of the child. Know your students, their needs and their likes and fears. Always think of yourself as a lifelong learner. Be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.”


Sue Westphal
Academy of the Sacred Heart

40 years teaching, 37 teaching students in grade 1-4 reading, writing and math

“I think teaching children is one of the most rewarding professions (I’m sure most teachers say this, but it’s true). My best memories as a teacher always involved a child being successful in class and feeling excited about learning new things. Sometimes their success came quickly, and sometimes success took lots of extra effort and hard work. But it was great to see a child’s determination pay off. … The innocent things kids say that are hilarious. The children have no idea that what they are saying is funny.”

“I love that Sacred Heart is Catholic, and I feel that my faith has grown because of it. Everybody has ups and downs in life, and having faith and hope is essential. During some very tough times, Sacred Heart, with its community of caring people and its strong spiritual beliefs and philosophies, gave me what I needed most. Sacred Heart is so much more than a school – it has been a second home to me, and I have made many lifelong friends. It will not be easy to retire from this wonderful place.”

“Do all things possible to make each child feel good about himself/herself. A child’s self-esteem needs to be nurtured and protected. Have patience, and remember to take a deep breath when patience is dwindling (and it will dwindle). Look for new ways to teach and keep it fun. Also, enjoy TGIF parties with friends!”


Joe Schiro
Pope John Paul II High School

40 years teaching and coaching at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Montana, Archbishop Shaw High School, Archbishop Hannan High School, St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Hammond, De LaSalle High School, Brother Martin High School and Pope John Paul II High School; taught social studies, physical education, speech, law and science courses to students in grade 8-12.

“I especially enjoy teaching social studies to high school seniors. They are about to face college and life in a way that will hit them right between the eyes. It is important to prepare them for the independence they will soon gain. With independence, comes more responsibility.”

“I’ve taught in the public and parochial sector. There’s less ‘family’ in the public system, who are more focused on preparing for standardized tests. There is respect in both settings, but I like to get to know all of the student.”

“I like to keep the material very current. The kids enjoy the experience that I am able to offer. My rapport and sparkling personality – that’s a joke – make my classroom an enjoyable one where kids can open up and talk to me. I keep my class at a level all can understand, rarely teaching right out of a textbook, in a non-threatening environment. I tell all of my students that there are no wrong answers so they will open up.” 

“(New teachers need to) have tolerance, perseverance. Be open-minded and ready for compromise. Yes, you’re the teacher, but you have 35 (give or take) sets of eyes and opinions. Listen to them all. Like adults, kids go through things that we aren’t privy to and have bad days, too. Be specific: I’ll respect you if you respect me. Set your rules from day one. A teacher is a teacher, in and out of the classroom. (Teaching and coaching) are intertwined. The field is an extension of the classroom. I will miss greeting the kids each morning and seeing them off at the end of each school day.”


Gabrielle G. Macaluso
Brother Martin High School

29 years as a library science teacher and assistant principal at Brother Martin

“Some of the most memorable experiences that have taken place through the years are when Brother Martin graduates approach me in a public setting, reintroduce themselves, usually with their spouse and children present, and thank me for their experiences while being a student at Brother Martin. They usually point out one specific example of how Brother Martin changed their lives and how appreciative they are for their high school experience. Just walking away from those conversations knowing that I may have made a difference in one student’s life is very rewarding.”

“Being a ‘Partner in Mission’ in a Brothers of the Sacred Heart school has developed me into the person I am today. Working together with our families to ‘raise’ their sons in a faith-filled setting where they each receive personal attention, are provided opportunities to achieve their own academic excellence, become self-disciplined young men who graduate knowing first and foremost that God loves them – that’s what makes a Brothers of the Sacred Heart school so special.”

“(Young teachers should) remember, it’s all about the kids!”


Patrice Cedor
St. Scholastica Academy

38 years teaching English and speech to students in grades 8-9 and 11-12

In her first year as a teacher, she came to campus for orientation, and a tall junior approached her and said, “If you are looking for the freshmen, they are in the gym.” She had to tell the students that she was, indeed, a teacher.

In her first class lecture in speech class, she had forgotten her note cards and got lost in the middle of the presentation. She thought she had blown her first lecture, but the students in the class were very nice and good mannered about it.

She says teaching in a Catholic school has allowed her to “learn more about practicing my faith and sharing it with my students.” She advises students that being really effective in any job comes from loving what you are doing. Her tenure at St. Scholastica has allowed her to see the girls after they graduate and attend their weddings and their babies’ christenings. She has taught the granddaughters of her first students.


Denise Falgoust
St. Charles Catholic High School

34 years teaching, the last 30 at St. Charles Catholic, where she has taught computer science, computer literacy, Algebra I, Algebra II and dual enrollment for college Algebra. She also coached the swim team for 13 years, winning five state championships.

“My teaching and coaching philosophy is modeled after one of my favorite Bible verses, Corinthians Chapter 13: ‘Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.’ I have always had high expectations for my students, but the winning recipe for success was hard work while having lots of fun. I wanted them to understanding the power of combining practice with laughter. It was not always easy, but I always chose kindness. I have loved them all and will treasure all the memories. I am proud that I gave it my best. In all things I am grateful, and I hope that God sees me as a good and faithful servant.”

“I really enjoyed teaching in a Catholic school because I could practice and share my faith with my students. There is truly a family atmosphere at SCC.”



David Wright
Jesuit High School

45 years geometry, AP Calculus, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus and Finite Math

“I always enjoy the reactions of students when I tell them as a math teacher, I hate correct answers, because that means the learning stops. As mathematicians, we are interested in the methods needed and the validity of the solutions obtained using these methods, rather than the actual answer itself. I give them just enough information so that they can get started in problem solving, but I’m looking for them to screw up so that they can learn from their mistakes. We call it ‘eating dirt’ in the classroom. This is best done with their peers in small learning groups scattered around the room.”

“Teaching in a Catholic school is so much more than just a profession. It is truly a ministry. That is why I came to Jesuit, to become involved with the formation of the complete human person. I love being there when students are awakening and becoming self-aware, wanting to make a difference in the world.”

“(New teachers should) make their classroom a safe place to make mistakes and allow their students to learn from these mistakes, while allowing them to gain self-confidence and self-respect and respect for their fellow learners.”



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