Colleen Gredell feels she found her calling in life.
Without doubt, it’s Catholic education, said the fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Keokuk Catholic Schools in Keokuk, a town where she’s taught in parochial schools for 22 years.
Her school’s emphasis on faith, the family atmosphere and parents’ support “make teaching really enjoyable.”
Gredell said she and fellow teachers strive to build on the foundation of faith that students receive at home. At school, children take part in charitable projects such as collecting food and toys for people in need, and assist Church of All Saints in Keokuk by changing hymnals and inserting bulletin inserts. “Our faith isn’t just something we read about in a book; it’s the actions we do.”
She hopes getting students involved in small ways in their parish at a young age encourages them to volunteer later in life, too.
As a model for students, she serves as a eucharistic minister at Church of All Saints and often takes Communion to a local nursing home on Saturday evenings. “My faith is very important in my life. I can’t imagine not having that.”
So Gredell tries to work faith into daily lessons. Keokuk Catholic Schools starts each morning with prayer, and she asks her students to share their individual intentions in class. When she hears a medical helicopter from an Iowa or Illinois hospital fly over the school, she sometimes pauses to lead students in the Lord’s Prayer. Even a recent language-arts lesson about suffixes led to a brief discussion on the word “commandment” and God’s laws, she said.
Gredell grew accustomed to blending faith and academics as a child, when her parents, who were strong supporters of Catholic education, sent her to parochial schools in Anamosa and Keokuk. The schools offered a well-rounded education — in spiritual, intellectual, academic and social formation — that she aims to help her students receive as well.
“That’s one of the reasons I came here,” she said of Keokuk Catholic Schools. “It’s where my heart is.”