“To be entrusted with the teaching of the young is a great gift and grace of God.”- St. John Baptist de la Salle
St. John Baptist de la Salle, patron saint of teachers known for his innovative approach to training and mentoring high-quality educators, inspired my initial vocation to teach and has sustained my current mission to serve as Dean of Students. I first received this “grace of God” in 2013 when I took my first job as a teacher at Coates Elementary School in Herndon, Virginia. In 2021, my wife, two children, and I moved to New England for a new kind of opportunity within my vocation as an educator. While I may no longer be in the classroom with students for six hours a day, I have a beautiful opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives through mentoring their teachers.
A teacher’s first year in the classroom is one of the most difficult, unforgettable, and rewarding experiences of their career. As director of SBCA’s New Teacher Mentoring Program, is my job to create the correct blend of modeling, coaching, instruction, collaboration, and encouragement to support these teachers in developing the skills and knowledge to become the teachers that God wants them to be. As a classroom teacher I considered the needs of each individual student and discerned how God was asking me to help them grow. Similarly, every teacher is unique and needs something different to be successful. Through our teacher mentoring program, new teachers can access tools and resources they need to help all students meet their full potential academically and spiritually.
Instead of teaching ten and eleven-year-olds (besides my wonderful time with them in P.E. as their P.E. teacher), my days now consist of observing classrooms, engaging in thoughtful discussions with teachers based on these observations, and providing targeted resources and professional development. My goal is to support the fruitful fulfillment of our teachers’ vocations to guide their students to appreciate their education as a noble pursuit.
I have now been part of the SBCA community in this role for a little over a year, and I can honestly say that it has been life changing for my family and I. I am blessed to witness our staff’s dedication, knowledge, skill, creativity, and love for their students on a daily basis. It is a beautiful thing. Our teachers welcome advice and ideas with open arms and I see marks of improvement each and every time I step into their classrooms. The vocation of a teacher extends well beyond the classroom, and I think it is critical for our teachers to find a balance between grading papers and writing lesson plans while finding time to focus on their spiritual life. Using the life of St. John Baptist de la Salle as an example, my goal is to help our teachers find this balance by taking the following points into consideration:
- Take moments of reflection: a moment of silent prayer or mindfulness goes a long way for inner peace and clarity.
- Incorporate spiritual values into teaching: incorporating compassion, empathy, and gratitude can create a more meaningful and fulfilling teaching experience.
- Read spiritual literature: personal growth and development is just as important as professional.
- Connect with nature: Taking a break and stepping outside during the day can help find peace.
While my job as an educator has changed over the years, I take pride in helping our teachers make a difference in our students’ lives. Even in my new role, I am still learning and growing. But what I do know for certain is all you can do in this life is follow the plan God has for you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
AUTHOR: Alex Newsome, Dean of Students