by Caroline Ahmad
As a part of a Diocese-wide St. Thomas More Fellowship Program, St. Paul’s Choir School gained some new faces last year. Joe Nemec, Bridget Beck and Caroline Ahmad started their first year of teaching at St. Paul’s in September of 2022.
The St. Thomas More Fellowship Program is a new initiative in the Archdiocese of Boston. Inspired by the Saint’s wisdom and discernment, the program is a national search for faithful college graduates seeking to shape the next generation. Equipped with faith, education, and determination, the fellows are transforming Catholic school teaching – and they are being transformed in the process.
As a way of reflecting on what the first year of teaching brings, we asked our Thomas More fellows to share their insights from their experience as new teachers. They have filled in the blanks to the sentence: “What I love about St. Paul’s is….” below!
In the words of Joe Nemec, Physical Education and Executive Functioning Teacher:
That it is High-Energy
It's difficult to imagine that a school with 46 middle school-aged boys would be anything short of high energy. This rings true at St. Paul's, and the boys' high energy and creativity make it a delightful place to work. Although one may be worn out after a long day, the work is meaningful and fun.
That it is Personal
For most of college, I did not envision myself becoming a teacher, ever. But after a month working at St. Paul's, I got to know each of my students and their families personally. A great joy of this personal encounter is watching your students grow firsthand.
That it is Faithful
St. Paul's is a transparently Catholic school. Whether their sons will receive a rich and faith-based education does not need to be a question in the parents' minds, as each member of the faculty and staff strive to uphold the sacred doctrines of the Church.
That it is Difficult
As counterintuitive as this reflection may seem, I posit that in the course of Divine Providence, the difficulties we encounter in our day-to-day living serve as mechanisms to impel us toward betterment. Momentary trial and discomfort ultimately seem to strengthen us when we approach challenges with a proper mindset. As a first year teacher, these trials have been felt. But it is ultimately these trials that have encouraged me to be a better teacher for my students.
Our 2022-2023 Chorister Guardian and ELA Teaching Assistant, Bridget Beck (who is now a full-time ELA teacher at Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy's Columbia Compus!), shared:
That it is Fun
The boys are so funny and clever! It has been a delight to learn with them. Through my experience as a teaching assistant in ELA, I loved listening to their insights on the characters and crises in the literature that we read. Their thoughts were always fresh and drew out so much in our class discussions.
That it is Collaborative
Each week, I met with the team of ELA teachers at St. Paul’s – Catherine Barrilleaux, Amalia Amburn, and Viviane Callahan – and our meetings are the highlight of my week. The ELA teachers are excellent at brainstorming solutions to help our students make progress in reading fluency and critical reasoning skills. I learned from my fellow ELA teachers constantly. Plus, they’re really fun.
That it is Beautiful
The music is beautiful and as Chorister Guardian, I got to be right there for it!! At the beginning of last year, I listened to the Choir while they recorded their album, Gabriel Faure: Requiem & Other Masterworks. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
From our middle school Latin teacher and Admissions Associate, Caroline Ahmad:
That it is Exciting
St. Paul’s students are genuinely so excited to learn and that makes even the ordinary moments of the day exciting for me as well. Whether it's philosophical dialogues, learning new strategies in chess or scientific research projects, every student has something that makes their eyes light up. All of our faculty here are excellent at cultivating this excitement for learning in our students.
That it is Forgiving
Before each class, my students and I say the School Prayer together. My favorite line from our School Prayer is “Blessed are all who teach and all who learn.” It so beautifully encapsulates the idea that everyone in our school community relies on grace from God. As a first year teacher last year, it was a learning experience, both for myself and my students. But with each little hiccup, I learned to ask for forgiveness more readily and they learned that even teachers make mistakes!
That it is Innovative
At St. Paul’s, we are committed to bringing the fruits of a rigorous Classical and authentically Catholic education to our students. And yet, this lens is melded with a well-spring of our own creativity and innovative teaching methods. I love seeing how my fellow teachers are so willing to experiment and create new ways of approaching the curriculum they’ve been teaching for years.
If you’d like to see firsthand what these three fresh perspectives describe, we welcome you to our Fall Open House on October 15th, 2023 from 12:00 - 2:00 pm at St. Paul’s Choir School.