Catholic schools are an excellent choice for children, educators say, not only because of their high academic standards – but also because Catholic schoolteachers are faith-filled professionals called by God to do His work.
“Our staff aren’t here looking to get rich,” said Debbie Vallas, principal of Christ Cathedral Academy. “Our teachers’ purpose in life is to step outside themselves to nurture others and help children develop the character they need to be leaders of our society and our Church.”
Catholic schoolteachers, she explained, are warm and nurturing, have positive attitudes, and are at Catholic schools for all the right reasons. “They could earn more at public schools. They aren’t here just to collect a paycheck. For them, teaching at our school is not a job but a ministry. We emulate Christ as we serve the children we teach.”
Orange County offers many highly ranked, academically excellent schools, Vallas noted. “But Catholic schools teach children morals, values, a social conscience and to be of service to others.
“We nurture the whole child,” she added. “We partner with parents and children to develop the whole person, with all the attributes they need to care for others, be successful and contribute to the world.”
Faith is the foundation of Catholic education even among the youngest students (at Christ Cathedral Academy, preschoolers are as young as 2 years old), said preschool director Patti Abeyta. “Faith is your foundation. It is there for your whole life. Once you have that foundation, you always know it’s there. It’s like an anchor in your life.”
For preschoolers, “laying that foundation involves having simple discussions about how God made the world, so we shouldn’t litter it; we shouldn’t call our friend names because that would make Jesus sad,” Abeyta noted. “God made everything and all of us, so we’re going to treat everyone kindly and with respect since they are part of what God gave us.”
Rev. Peter Weigand, president of St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, D.C. and a contributor to The Washington Post, wrote in 2012 that above all, “Catholic schools allow and encourage a young person to seek a life of truth in a fraternity of prayer and integrity, as children learn more and more each day, as the minds of students, teachers, and parents intertwine.
“We Catholic educators believe that all education is a means of finding God and that academic excellence gives a young mind the freedom to pursue God. This tradition goes all the way back to Pope Innocent IV, who wrote: ‘Scripture and science should walk hand in hand with sanctity in the cloister schools, and this twofold light, while it serves to enlighten people, at the same time merits for monks an increase of glory in heaven.’”
At Catholic schools, spirituality is the No. 1 focus. Values such as integrity, honesty, a positive attitude and loving others as Christ did are emphasized. “We encourage good habits like a strong work ethic, being kind and helpful to others, forgiveness and reconciliation, and looking outside themselves to help others,” Vallas said. “These are life skills. When they go out into the world, they can accept challenges in a positive way and make good decisions. They can be leaders.”