Teachers honored as angels among us
by Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – “There is a difference in our schools, and it is you”, declared Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann during a brunch in honor of educators from all over the Archdiocese.
“This is what all of society, not just Catholics, took note of last year – our Catholic schools,” he said.
When most public schools closed and relied on virtual learning during the pandemic, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas remained open.
“You made this possible,” the Archbishop told the group of teachers, which represented 36 of the 42 schools in the archdiocese.
He attributed the success of Archdiocesan schools during the pandemic to the determination of teachers to continue learning in person while following guidelines to keep students safe.
“You put students first,” he said. “You have found a way to make the learning experience in our schools the best possible under these circumstances. “
The brunch, hosted by the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), was a prelude to teachers from the Archdiocese honored at the October CEF Gaudeamus Benefit Gala as recipients of the Michael and Patty Morrissey Angels Among Us Award.
Citing a report from McKinsey & Company, a global research group, CEF executive director Vince Anch told educators polls showed students who learned at home last year were five months behind in math. and four months in reading.
“So that’s just proof in the pudding of the importance [in-person learning] is, ”he said. “And that’s on top of something we have that other schools don’t: faith training.
“It’s what you bring to the table.”
Anch recalled that during the process of selecting an Angel Among Us winner, several board members called him to say that “what our teachers have done this year was absolutely heroic.”
“You went in person every day,” Anch told the assembled educators. “And you did it before the vaccines; you haven’t missed a beat.
“And for that reason, we thought we would honor all the teachers. It was unanimous on our board of directors. Could there be a better honored person? “
Board chair Jeff Jaworski, whose father was a teacher at a Catholic school, thanked teachers on behalf of the board for their efforts during the pandemic.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my father,” he said. “And that means I couldn’t be more proud of who you are and what you do.”
Jaworski emphasized the importance of faith training woven into every Catholic school learning experience.
“I want to thank each of you for all that you have done over the past year and a half,” he said. “But, more importantly, for the things you do every day to teach our children the Catholic faith.
“I remember a time my dad said, ‘Jeff, English and math won’t take a child to heaven, but their Catholic faith will.
“That is what matters.”
Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools, Vince Cascone, agreed with Jaworski and specifically spoke about the fear generated by the pandemic and its impact on our children.
“Our faith in God can overcome this fear,” he said. “What a great example you have been for our students and our families that we do not have to live in fear.
“We can do what we need to do to be safe; we can do what we need to do to protect each other, ”he said.
Bishop Naumann concluded the morning by reflecting on her own mother’s experience as a teacher and director of a Catholic school.
“I saw firsthand the dedication of a teacher,” he said. “And your work doesn’t stop when class ends.
“It starts when you prepare for the next day. “
He reiterated the importance of helping our children develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as part of the educational experience.
“If we do this,” he said, “our test scores will be very good and our kids will excel at extracurricular activities.
“They are going to have a motivation that you don’t have unless you believe in God and see that you are using your gifts in the best way to glorify God.”