Love, laughter and a relationship with the school family

Teachers talk about how, and why, they teach

By Mary Beth Peabody

Just about everyone can recall that one (or more) teacher who had a way of bringing out the best in students, whose presence in the classroom yielded respect and kindness, whose passion for the subject made a learner out of every classmate. Conversations with some of South Jersey Catholic Schools teachers offer some insight about how they do it — from engaging with learners, to dealing with discipline, to helping students grow their faith and maintain strong values.

A conversation with Stacie Colone

Holy Angels Catholic School, Woodbury, Third grade

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Stacie Colone.

The former court stenographer returned to school and graduated in 2006 with a degree in education. Over seven years, she worked as an aide, substitute and full-time teacher in public school, but she said she did not feel fulfilled. Then she heard about a position at Holy Trinity, now Holy Angels Catholic School in Woodbury, where she teaches third grade.

“In Catholic school you can form a relationship with kids and parents,” she said. “You have the freedom to show love and talk about God … and help to mold disciples.”

Colone said she loves the family and community environment at Holy Angels. “At back to school night I tell parents I will treat their children the way I wanted my own [children] to be treated. Parents get comfort and peace of mind knowing their kids are in a safe and loving environment.”

Colone said she appreciates the support she gets from parents. “They are always invited in. And they come.” She said they read stories and continually ask how they can help.

Colone said discipline is not really an issue with younger students. “Third graders want to make their teacher happy,” she said. To minimize extra chatter, she provides structure and clear expectations. She said she also uses a lot of group work and team activities to keep students engaged and interacting, not just in the classroom, but on the playground and when they have specials. She doesn’t believe in calling students out in front of others if they are struggling or not paying attention.

The biggest challenge she sees is the way students sometimes treat one another, likening their relationship to squabbling brothers and sisters. “They can’t get along all the time … but would be the first to stand up for one another, like siblings,” she said. Colone sees these interactions as opportunities to provide character education and talk about feelings.

If she ever needs help, Colone said she feels fully supported. “We lean on each other and help each other out,” she said about teaching colleagues. “And our principal is really supportive. I never feel alone dealing with a situation.”

This year, Colone said she found particular joy watching her first class graduate from the school. “I still see the third grader in them,” she said. “But they have grown into really nice young adults.”

Colone said people ask her why she teaches in a Catholic school for less money than she could make in a public school. She acknowledged the financial sacrifice but said the rewards are worth it. “Love, laughter and a relationship with the school family. I’m not sure people can understand that if they’re not in it. … It’s a ministry. It’s what I was meant to do.”