As a youth, Karen Schumaker said, she was “blessed” to go to Catholic schools.
A graduate of the Aquinas school system in Fort Madison, “I felt that since I had received such an excellent education at Aquinas that it was important to give back in whatever way I could.”
So 31 years ago, she took a teaching position at Aquinas Catholic Elementary. Now, she’s a second-grade teacher in West Point at Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary, which formed in 2005 after the Aquinas system merged with Marquette schools in the West Point area. “I love teaching about religion. I can’t imagine not being able to discuss the real reason we celebrate Easter and Christmas, or not talking about how God wants us to treat each other as Christians.”
When students have conflicts with each other, Schumaker reminds the children, “What would Jesus want you to do?” And as someone who grew up in a family that stressed the importance of Mass, she works to foster students’ love for the eucharistic celebration. During certain liturgical seasons, “I’ll ask, ‘Did anyone notice what color Father was wearing on Sunday?’”
In return, second-graders will point out, “I saw you at church!” As a song leader, choir member, eucharistic minister and religious education teacher at Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison, she believes, “You don’t just talk about your faith. You live it.”
When she sees older students helping younger children on the playground, for example, she feels her former second-graders have embraced that message. “I hope they’ve developed a love for their faith and want to spread it with others.”
Holy Trinity encourages doing so. “It isn’t like a school; it’s one big family. The parent involvement is wonderful … You can share your faith with each other and offer a values-based education.”
Schumaker recalls someone once telling her, “’You’ve never said you have a job.’ I don’t. I say, ‘I get to go to school.’ It’s always been a blessing to come do what I enjoy and know that I am making a difference.”