We asked Dialog readers to send us memories of their favorite teachers in Catholic school. The following fond memories are edited excerpts from the accounts submitted by our readers about the teachers who influenced their lives.
- Sister Juliana
In June 1956, at St. Richard’s School in Philadelphia, I got the word that I was to have Sister M. Juliana, I.H.M., as my fifth-grade teacher. Sister Juliana came with a reputation as a very hard teacher with a wicked left hook. I was doomed. But I was wrong.
It turned out to be the best school year ever. She taught me so much. … She taught us to think, ask questions and never give up. She had formulas to help us in arithmetic, which I still use; she combined subjects to make them more interesting: history and geography, religion and grammar.
After we answered a question in religion, we would have to write the answer on the blackboard. Spelling was checked and punctuation checked. This was multi-tasking before it became fashionable.
Unfortunately, Sister Juliana did not finish the year with us. She became ill in May. We were her last class. The last time we met was in 1960 at Camilla Hall. I was standing with my mother when Sister Juliana came over. She looked me and my mother and said, “I’m full of cancer.”
With that she turned and skipped down the hall. That was her last lesson that she had for me. Live life to the fullest and fight every inch of the way. I think that was the toughest battle cancer ever had.
John J. Gipprich Jr.,
St. John the Beloved Parish,
- Sister Marie Consolata
After six years in public school, I wanted to attend St. Elizabeth High in my home parish. I was a bit anxious, however, as I hadn’t had religious as teachers since first and second grades. I discovered that I was doubly blessed with Sister Marie Consolata, who was both our homeroom teacher and our math instructor. She was so loved by all her students that many of them were envious when my class wound up having Sister for homeroom in three of our four years.
My mind is not particularly suited to math, but my mom … expected good grades. I feel pretty certain that with any other teacher C- was about the best grade I could have earned in algebra and geometry. But I was motivated by Sister Consolata’s warm smile and encouraging attitude to achieve B+ in all my math courses..
To this day, whenever I pray the “Memorare,” I think of Sister, as it was her favorite prayer, which we recited at the beginning of every day. We never had her for religion class, but that didn’t matter. Sister Consolata lived the faith in a truly genuine way. We all knew how much she loved teaching and how much she loved us. Whenever she comes to mind, it brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling to my heart.
She is one of the reasons that I heard God’s call to the priesthood, and I thank him for calling Sister Consolata to her vocation as a Benedictine. She touched so many lives, and I am glad that one of them is mine.
Father Tom Flowers, pastor,
St. Jude the Apostle Church
- Helen Doherty
From 1967-1971, I had the privilege of being educated by Miss Helen Doherty at Ursuline Academy high school in Wilmington. The lasting lessons I learned from her are what it really means to be a Catholic school teacher.
Miss Doherty had a natural way of creating a welcoming environment in all her classes. She took time to get to know her students, made learning fun, was endlessly patient, and had a terrific sense of humor. She was an encourager, not discourager, of her students and had a smile for everyone. What stands out so prominently to me is the joy she exuded in her vocation.
At the time, I had little way of knowing that I, too, would choose the vocation of a Catholic school teacher; a path that has brought me great joy for 41 years and counting. She has been my role model in the kind of teacher I hope to be to my students and parents.
Miss Doherty, I offer you a very belated thank you for being the kind of teacher every student deserves.
Mary Jane Quill,
St. Elizabeth Elementary School
- Elizabeth Hetzler
When I think about the women in my life who have been positive influences on who I am today, other than my mom and grandmothers, Mrs. Elizabeth Hetzler is always included in those hallowed ranks.
Mrs. Hetzler was my third-grade teacher at Corpus Christi grade school in Elsmere; now All Saints. My recollection of Mrs. Hetzler always brings a smile to my heart. Every class started with a prayer, not every class day, every class subject. When something was lost, we prayed to St. Anthony and somehow he always came through. Our day was filled with little prayers like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.”
She was also a wonderful teacher. I learned my times tables, good penmanship and how to diagram sentences in her classroom.
I will never forget the day Mrs. Hetzler had to leave the classroom and said she was going to “trust” that we would sit with our feet flat on the floor and hands folded on top of our desk until she returned.
Of course, the class became very unruly. Apparently, Mrs. Hetzler peeked in the door before entering and saw I was the only one still sitting with my feet flat on the floor and hands folded on top of my desk because after she brought order back to the chaos, she singled me out and told me that God had blessed me with the gift of fortitude.
I had no idea what fortitude was and looked it up in my Webster’s dictionary as soon as I got home. I still didn’t really understand what it meant but sure was proud that she thought I was strong!
Mary Ann Pierson,
1967 CCHS graduate
- Iona Gomez
During my tenure as an undergraduate at the Catholic Fatima College, Madurai, India, my choice was Professor Iona Gomez, head of the English department.
Professor Gomez evaluated our performances with incisive insight and prior to her next class came up with positive comments and guidelines focused on enhancing our progress in the subject of our volition.
In context of her academic acumen she earned the respect of students from other departments, too!
Our professor had a penchant for adhering to time slot and it was a daily occurrence to observe that her final sentence coincided with the bell.
She was my Mother Bird! She protected me from jealous individuals.
Once our physics professor delivered us a pep talk on discipline as we had upset her. I said, “Thank you,” at the end. She mistook it as an act of impertinence.
A complaint was made to my professor who in defense explained to her that I meant no offense but it was a matter of habit and calmed her down.
Professor Gomez served till her retirement. The day of her demise was one of the saddest in my life. The legacy she bequeathed to her students will never be buried beneath the sands of time.
- Sister Georgine Marie
Sister Georgine Marie, a Franciscan, is my all-time favorite, the best of the best.
Go back to the 1950s. It was a warm sunny day in Wildwood. I was sitting on the front porch of my aunt’s hotel. My aunt would invite sisters from St Paul’s, or seminarians from Wilmington, and priests to have a weekend at the Jersey Shore. I had just finished second grade at St Joe’s on the Brandywine.
My little brother and I were on that porch, waiting to go to the beach. A car arrives and out comes the nuns from St Paul’s. One sister says hello to me, and asks my brother for his lollipop. Tom says no, he wasn’t going to share, it was his. Tom was only 4. Sister laughed and continued inside.
Moving to the beginning of school. The bell rang to have the students get in line to begin the day at St Joe’s. I was in the middle of the line. I tilt my head to the left and I see Sister Georgine Marie at the same time she sees me. Mutual smiles of recognition.
I had Sister for four years at St Joe’s, time enough to know she was a great person. Sister Georgine made the students feel important. In many ways, she was way ahead of her time in the classroom. Everything about her, in the class, outside of class, told you Sister believed in her faith and her faith sustained her.
Sister was firm, but fair. Everyone was treated equally. I may have had a head start knowing her, it made no difference. My mom and dad would get calls if I did something wrong, or if Sister needed help in the classroom.
Over the years, we have kept in touch. We are still in touch with memories to last a lifetime.
- Geri Talley
Mrs. Geri Talley was the best teacher I have ever had. Mrs. Talley works in the Emmaus program at St. Mark’s High School, and when I was a freshman it was the very first year of the program. We only had one or two rooms to learn techniques and to take exams in.
Mrs. Talley’s courses and techniques have made me a better overall student, allowing me to earn higher grades on tests, and to gain more knowledge through note-taking and study skill techniques.
Now, Mrs. Talley and her staff have grown the Emmaus program to use a majority of the rooms on the third floor to help students like me, who have a learning disability, overcome their disadvantages and become overall better students.
David R. Pike
- Mary K. Shenvi
Mrs. Mary K. Shenvi is my ESL (English as second language) teacher and this is my second year of being her student. Mrs. Shenvi has been my favorite teacher with no doubt.
Mrs. Shenvi has been very helpful, considerate and caring. She has given me a lot of help with academic writing and English pronunciations. I feel her passion of teaching every time I walk into her class.
It could be frustrating to work with non-English native speakers sometimes, but she is always understanding and patient. She is willing to check though every paper I write for any subject. I can talk to her about my struggles, and she is always there.
She supports international students to involve them in different activities and programs.
I am very thankful and proud that I have a teacher like Mrs. Shenvi. It is such a blessing that I have her in my high school life.
- Sister Mary Zita
My favorite nun, teacher and friend was Sister Mary Zita. She was a Franciscan sister. She was my teacher for second grade and fourth grade.
As a child I was very sickly. One semester I couldn’t attend school and Sister Zita helped me after school to get me back up to speed with the other students. She did for me what a mother would do. I always felt that she always looked out for me.
When my mother was in the hospital having an operation, Sister Zita took me to visit with my mom. She asked me if I wanted to bring her a gift. She gave me money to buy something in the gift shop. I picked a little ceramic bird.
My mother kept it on display until she went to heaven and today I have it to remind me of the wonderful woman, nun and a true saintly friend in my life.
I treasure the memories I have of Sister Mary Zita. God sends us special angels in our lives when we need them and Sister Mary Zita was my angel and I feel very blessed to have had her for the years she was with me.
- Patricia Delaney
I am appreciative to every one of my educators throughout my 18 years as a student; always in the Catholic educational system, including seminary.
One teacher stands out. At St. Hedwig Elementary School, I was taught by only one lay teacher, Mrs. Patricia Delaney. It was the school year 1964-65 and she not only was unique because she had bright red hair, as compared to my other teachers who were veiled sisters, but she impressed me with an episode in compassion.
A classmate, Irene, was from an immigrant family whose mother died earlier that year from heart disease. This was the first experience of losing a classmate’s parent for my class. I and many in our fourth grade were empathetic in even the thought of losing a parent and, of course, in what our classmate was suffering.
Mrs. Delaney was exceptionally kind throughout the year to Irene, but as Mother’s Day was approaching she saved the day.
On an early May morning, Irene emotionally broke down. We all witnessed a life-learning experience that day when Mrs. Delaney lifted Irene and caressed her, wiping the tears away of this motherless child.
Mrs. Delaney is a parishioner of St. Matthew Parish in Woodcrest and keeps in contact with me. She eventually retired from teaching to be a mother in her own home.
She made many of us enthusiastic about learning. The greatest lesson she taught my classmates and me was compassion.
In this “Year of Mercy,” Mrs. Patricia Delaney, my favorite teacher, comes to mind.
Father Joseph J. Piekarski,
Pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish,
- Sister Elaine Williams
I have attended Catholic school since kindergarten and am in my junior year of high school. I can easily say that Sister Elaine Williams, my eighth-grade algebra teacher (Christ the Teacher School) was one of the best teachers I have ever had.
The material she taught was very advanced, and she made it very clear that doing well in her class would require a lot of hard work and studying. Looking back, I can see how helpful this method of teaching was for me in the long run. I had no problems transitioning to a high school level math course because she had prepared her class well. She saw the level of work we could achieve, and she pushed us to reach that level.
Her willingness to help extended far beyond the classroom. Every single day during lunch, students could go to her for help, and every single day she would spend her lunch working with them. Her effort to ensure that her students understood the curriculum was truly phenomenal.
Sadly, Sister Elaine passed away the summer after I graduated from eighth grade. However, her inspiration reached all her students, many of whom are my classmates who continue to excel in math.
St. Elizabeth High School
- Jack Kramer
One of my favorite teachers was “Señor” Jack Kramer, my Spanish teacher at Salesianum School.
I remember asking him what the verb enojarse meant. His face suddenly turned red and he proceeded to throw a mini tirade. To this day, I still remember that enojarse means to “to get angry.”
Well played, señor! Well played!
Salesianum School, Class of 1989