By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Janet Eaton, principal of St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon, Missouri, knows that teaching at a Catholic school can be a challenge at times. Still, she insisted enthusiastically, “We have the best job in town!”
The week before school was to officially begin at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City, the 29-year veteran of Catholic education offered encouragement, counsel and motivation to teachers and staff at an in-service, “Great Teachers, Great Rides, Great Results: Six Characteristics of All-Star, Spirit-Filled Teachers.”
Lee Morrison invited Eaton to speak at the Aug. 19 presentation in St. Patrick Parish hall, having been impressed with her presentation skills at a diocesan principals’ meeting in 2014 and at a National Catholic Education Association convention a few years before that. “She walks and talks with the Holy Spirit in all she does … it’s a delight to have her here,” Morrison said.
Eaton endeavored to relate to the Regina teachers and give them practical insight, all the while encouraging them in the days leading up to the start of the school year. “The school year is coming! The students are coming! It’s always exciting to think about what it will be like,” she said with energy.
She explained that students are seeking a spirit-filled classroom, which is established by the teacher. She asked the teachers to consider what traits were essential for creating a positive environment. “Think about your favorite teacher. What qualities did they have?”
Secondary school English and psychology teacher Abbie Gould, 24, didn’t have to look too far for her example. “It was Miss Lacina,” she said, gesturing toward longtime Regina kindergarten teacher Julie Lacina at a table nearby. “She was my kindergarten teacher. She inspired me. She still does.”
Teachers suggested energy, a helping attitude, enthusiasm, humor, engagement, respect, trust, positivity and kindness as being essential for a spirit-filled classroom.
Eaton said teachers can help make these qualities part of the culture of the classroom by modeling these traits. She encouraged teachers and staff to pray together and share their personal faith with students in the classroom. Teachers should set high standards for the students and remain consistent.
She also suggested that what goes on behind the scenes is important in a school. She explained the difference between friendships and cliques, and advised the teachers and staff to avoid forming cliques at all costs. While friendships are welcoming, based in common interests and acceptance of differences, cliques tend to be breed gossip and alienate people. Even when established cliques do not exist, teachers should be aware of and avoid areas where activities like gossiping take place.
Outside the classroom, teachers often feel as if they are celebrities with no privacy, Eaton said. Teachers and staff gave knowing nods. Although this requires teachers to be “on” most of the time and avoid acting unprofessionally, it can also be seen as an opportunity. Recognizing and greeting students and parents outside of the classroom can help to build trust and help the student feel more comfortable and appreciated at school.
She said it was essential for teachers to be able to find the joy in little moments while teaching. Even when teaching is hard, it is essential to be able to enjoy the work as a whole, as students pick up on positive and negative energy.
Celeste Vincent, Regina Elementary principal, appreciated Eaton’s passionate presentation. “She presented a message of hope and inspiration for a great year. She reminded us that the students placed before us are waiting to have an enriched experience and her hope for us is that one day we will all be remembered fondly by our students as the educator who made a difference. We do have the best job in town!”
– know that classroom culture comes first
– have high expectations for each other and for the students
– love learning
– can shift gears and adapt when necessary
– are professional all the time