Making faith real for students

 

In sixth grade, students at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport are assigned to take photos of places where they see God.

They often return to teacher Bob Martin’s third-grade classroom with their cameras.

For someone whose first hope is that his lessons about God stick with children after the school year ends, the visits are a compliment.

“I try to make religion very real to the students. You have to capture them when they’re young,” said Martin, who has taught at St. Paul’s for 31 years.

A parish organist and devotee of the Blessed Mother, he likes to highlight Marian apparitions and miracles that took place in towns such as Lourdes, France, and Fatima, Portugal. Such occurrences stick in a child’s mind and can strengthen his or her faith, Martin believes.

“I don’t want students to become complacent about their faith or forget about it. When I’m with them that’s not a problem because I’m always talking about it,” he said with a laugh. “When God asks me, ‘What did you do in my name?’ I’ll say, ‘I might have been a sinner, but at least I taught the kids about you.’”

Martin is grateful to work at a school that allows him to do so. “I believe this is where God put me. I don’t know how I could operate in a public school. It’d be hard not to let my religious beliefs come through.”

Those beliefs were one factor that drew him to St. Paul’s. But initially, “I had no idea this was such a great school. It’s top of the line in student achievement. I thought, ‘You’re going to have to work hard to keep this achievement level high.’”

He said the school board, faculty, parents and parish pastor, Father Michael Spiekermeier, all contribute toward that goal. “It’s not just me; it’s everybody here. It’s the greatest place to come and work; I don’t know why anybody would ever want to leave.”

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