A Lifelong Commitment to Catholic Education
All of the teachers at Our Lady of the Lake are dedicated, caring professionals. Some of them are so dedicated that they returned to the school they attended as children, so they could pass along the gift of Catholic education to the next generation. In fact, nearly a third of today’s teaching team at OLL School were once students in the very same building, a rare level of commitment and continuity that helps reinforce the school’s strong culture. What about this place is so special, it made all these teachers into “lifers”?
Jenny Millett has taught a number of different grades at OLL, and gotten to know all aspects of the school. Now the Principal, she can tell you exactly what drives her love for this place: “This is home for me,” she says. “I am also a member of the community, and it’s important to me that this area continue to thrive. I am so excited to have had the chance to experience the past here, and I am looking forward to all of the great things that Our Lady of the Lake will continue to do.”
Other teachers, like Lauren Zbiegien, Assistant Principal and Second Grade Teacher, also speak to past experiences and a sense of community. “I knew since I was in grade school that I wanted to teach second grade (here)”, Zbiegien says. “My closest friendships were formed here. So many visitors leave our school stating they can’t believe how welcoming and comfortable our school is. I want all of our students to feel that sense of community that I remember feeling when I was a student.” Katy Butauski, OLL’s art teacher, seconds that thought, saying “I have been a member of Holy Cross/Our Lady of the Lake since I was Baptized so it is like a home for me.”
Other teachers give credit to the culture of inclusion and care that Catholic Schools, and particularly Our Lady of the Lake, support. Pete Dautovic talks about the ways in which that culture is not only good for students, but good for teachers, as well. “I love the catholic school environment. I think teaching in a Catholic School gives teachers and students a unique opportunity to infuse faith into all academic subjects and all areas of the school. The interaction with the kids is by-far the highlight of the job. The students have so much energy and positivity. They help keep you young.” And indeed, all of these teachers have stayed “young” in their energy for their teaching. They continue to come into the classroom with enthusiasm and joy every day. What makes this possible?
It seems there is something special about a faith-filled environment, grounded in the Catholic mission of education, that lets both teachers and students experience something more, and supports and renews them. Korie Rossman, a 25-year veteran at OLL School, talks about this when she says “My favorite subject to teach this year has been religion. It’s a great opportunity to see the true child. They love to share their stories with each other.” Rossman goes on to share how a strong teacher was an influence for her as a child, and motivated her decision to return to Catholic education. “My sixth grade teacher, Sr Jeanette, was a true example of a Christian role model,” she says. “She was very sincere, fair, and caring toward her students. I strive to be as good a role model as she was.”
Meghan McGarry, OLL’s Pre-K Teacher, gives another example of what makes this faith-based environment special for her and her students when she says “I think it’s special that I can see some of my students at Mass on Sunday’s. It’s so exciting to watch their faces light up when they see you. I am proud that I can be a model of the Catholic faith for our children who continue to grow in their faith.” It’s this extra level of caring that makes the school experience so valuable for students.
Lauren Zbiegien reinforces the importance of caring when she shares a lesson taught to her in her early years as a teacher, by a wise and experienced colleague at Our Lady of the Lake. “She said, “Lauren, teachers can have all the best technology and teaching tools, but what students want is to feel loved. If they know you love them, then they will be on the path to success.” It’s true that Our Lady of the Lake School prides itself on having advanced technology in every classroom, as well as nationally recognized curriculum. But maybe its greatest gift is the depth of commitment and caring seen in its teaching team. And that teaching extends beyond the classroom.
As youth minister, Rita Testa gets to both teach electives in the classroom and spend time with the students in ministry group. That means fun outings, service projects, parties and activities. You’ll often hear her saying, “I love these kids!” and it’s clear that she means it. She can tell you all about the students who have come through her ministry group, about their interests and their passions, where they’re working or going to college today – and many of them keep in touch, years later, stopping by to visit or to volunteer. That seems to be the connection – the connection that keeps teachers and students coming back to Our Lady of the Lake, that has made so many teachers dedicate their lives to Catholic education, and that continues to make Our Lady of the Lake School a very special place.