Catholic Schools Week — Why I chose to teach in a Catholic school

Courtney Cecil

While reflecting this Catholic Schools Week on why I chose to teach in a Catholic school, there was one word that perpetually emerged in my head. That one word was “value.”

According to www.merriam-webster.com, value is defined as “the monetary worth of something” and “something (such as a principle or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.”

From pre-kindergarten to graduate school and now in my sixth year of teaching, Catholic education has been a constant in my life, and something that I have always valued. And while monetary values are placed on Catholic education every year, when looking back on my own Catholic education, it is impossible to associate a number that would accurately account for the value and values that I received. My Catholic education was priceless.

It is that very Catholic education that drove my decision to become a Catholic school teacher. The values instilled in me during my own Catholic education are the very foundation of the teacher that I am today. The value I cherish the most would be the opportunities that I was given to grow my own faith. Whether through daily prayer or weekly Mass, the opportunities were always present.

I want to instill that value in the students I teach and in the players I coach. Prayer in the morning, before lunch and at dismissal are key moments that I look forward to having daily with my students, but my absolute favorite moments of faith foundation are the ones of complete and utter spontaneity. It was just weeks ago that the nation came together as prayer warriors for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. It was the unplanned, candid request of a student in my class to take a moment to pray for his recovery that reminded me why I do what I do.

Along with faith formation, another value that I want to instill in my students is excellence. From a young age, being a well-rounded student-athlete was ingrained in me by my teachers. Whether it was in math class as I struggled with the quadratic equation, on the basketball court as our team took the city championship or in Mass as I overcame my fear of public speaking, my teachers persistently showed me that they valued my development as a whole person.

A few years ago, as I was sitting in a professional development (still struggling with my math concepts), I understood the dedication that my teachers had for me. There, my former teacher, Mrs. McCarty, showed me the steps to complete a math problem that the instructor asked us to solve.

In that moment, I realized the magnitude of her dedication to my own personal excellence. It is with that same gravity that I want my students to know that I value their success. In my classroom, there is a canvas that reads, “When you succeed, I succeed.” Just like those who have gone before me or work alongside me, I became a Catholic educator to live that very statement as my personal mission. I want my students to know that they are valued as students, athletes, math geniuses and beyond.

So, this Catholic Schools Week, I want to thank every Catholic school educator, especially those who believed in me and showed me irreplaceable values through their faith example, their pursuit of excellence and their service. It is with great honor and joy that I get to be counted among them! For it is because of great teachers like them that I became a Catholic school educator.

Courtney Cecil teaches at St. Gabriel School.

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