Tiger Talk! April 20, 2020

Dear School Family,

I hope this email finds you happy, healthy, and safe. As we continue in the hope and promises of this Easter Season and enter into the second month of distance learning, I just want to thank you all and tell you how impressed I am with what I am seeing. This is unchartered territory, and this school family has shown true grit and resilience. No decisions have been made about a date to safely return to school. However, if you follow the news from our governor, we have to plan for the possibility of not returning before June. I want to assure you that I am working tirelessly from my home office and that Mr. Shields is working diligently alone at school on both parish and school needs. We continue to strategically plan and remain just an email away, if you need us. We are here for you and pray for you always!

I have had the privilege of joining online classes and will do so even more over the next few weeks. Your children are amazing! My staff is incredible! We are on track with attendance and a plan for student promotion at the end of this school year. We have attended multiple online professional development webinars, collaborated greatly with each other, and learned so much in these past few weeks. It’s wonderful! I attend teacher level meetings in a new way, via Zoom or Google Meet. I am in regular contact with our diocesan office and principals with at least three administrator meetings per week. Terrific things are happening in our school and throughout our diocese! Good days will come again when we are finally together.

I ask that you take a minute this week to reach out to a teacher, just to say hello or thank you. They have been asked to do something unprecedented for elementary school teachers. They have to teach in a completely new way, and they have done it with excitement, joy, and a total leap of faith.

I had hoped to make this next very special announcement in person, but I do not want to wait any longer. I have the pleasure of announcing the retirement of 4 incredible women who have over 100 combined years of Catholic education to be proud of. I know these fantastic women so well that I could write pages about all of them, but they are all humble, and we will celebrate them in our own way (as a school family) as soon as we are able to do so. These brief statements that follow will in no way match my tremendous love, gratitude, and admiration for their amazing work. I am blessed to call these incredible women my friends. I speak on behalf of our entire parish school community when I say, “Thank you, you are very loved, and you are forever our family, no matter where you go!”

Kathy Potts has been at St. Anthony’s so long (32 years) that her name is synonymous with our Kindergarten. Kathy taught both of my children and her own children (You can all imagine that now). Kathy has helped me over the years on many committees and tried to attend every single event we have had at our school. She is so well-planned as a teacher that I can walk into her classroom and start teaching for two weeks before I would even have to call her. I love hearing her talk to her students about Jesus as their friend. She teaches religion across all curriculum areas and instills a strong foundation for that faith formation that will occur over their next 9 years with us. Kathy has cried in my office because she cares so deeply for every child and their success. I always try to reassure her that this is “just” Kindergarten and they have so much time to grow. But for Kathy, there is no such thing as “just.”  She will find a plan, a sticker chart, a buddy, a mentor, or whatever it takes for a child to be a success (at the age of 5). Nobody has a larger collection of back-up plans for children. I will miss hearing her voice encouraging little learners, and I can’t imagine finding a new Kindergarten teacher that will require so little effort on my part as an administrator. Kathy, Enjoy your much deserved retirement and especially those grandchildren! Tell John you are the captain and judge of the house now!

Mary DeJoseph has been Kathy’s teacher assistant for 30 years. It is only fitting that they retire at the same time. I can’t imagine Mary without Kathy or vise versa. Our Kindergarten next year will be transformational. We will take that beautiful classroom and give it new life and new energy. As sad as I am about these two ladies leaving me, I am thrilled that they will not be separated. They have been a duo for so long. They finish each other’s sentences. Mary steps in and takes over a classroom, and the students are not even aware. That is what a fine oiled machine that classroom has become over the years. Mary has flourished as a teacher assistant over the years. When a licensed/certified teacher comes in to substitute for Kathy, their job is made easy. It is basically just a formality. That teacher becomes the assistant to Mary, who can run the classroom singlehandedly. The role of assistant has changed dramatically in my 19 years here. Photocopying and setting up centers and activities were the assistant’s typical  responsibilities in the past. Now, Mary teaches small groups and works 1:1 with our struggling learners and those who simply can’t sit still in class. Mary takes walks with students, refocuses students, and does all of the setting up for the multiple activities and lessons throughout their day. She never stops moving. She rarely sits, unless she is organizing papers to go home. I will miss Mary, and I thank her for her dedication to her position as it has changed so drastically in her time with us. Mary, Enjoy retired life and time spent with family and friends. I’m sure they will be thrilled to have you all to themselves again.

This year we will also celebrate the retirement of Isabella Spitelle, who has worked more than a quarter of a century in our building (29 years). Isabella is one of the most faith-filled and kind people I have had the pleasure of knowing. She also has seen her role as teacher assistant change with the times, and she has adapted with grace as she does in all things. Isabella has supported our school, our church, and our Kinghts of Columbus. She has organized many Chess tournaments, pasta dinners, essay contests, and declamation contests over the years. She is our best baker! John McMillan, our technology coordinator, is very sad Isabella will not be baking for us on a regular basis. Something tells me she will still be a presence in our school. She won’t be able to stay away! I know she can’t!  Isabella is so good at her job that we asked her to be the teacher assistant for two classes this year. She has done so, and she has done an amazing job in both classrooms. I truly will miss her. Every time I see Isabella she smiles at me in a new and youthful way. It was our little secret for a while. I tell her to stop smiling and she laughs. I know she is smiling because of a job well done and a retirement so deserving. I tell her I will miss her, and she knows how sincere I am. Enjoy your beautiful family, Isabella. Keep baking!

Last but certainly not least is Ellen Tannenbaum with 35 years of teaching in a Catholic school. Everywhere we go, Ellen sees another student she has taught. They are everywhere, and they all adore her.  I have told Ellen that she was a blessing to me personally but she has been a blessing to our entire school family. Those of you who know Ellen know that she is the most humble person you will ever meet. Ellen came out of retirement in 2015 to work at St. Anthonys when my son was diagnosed with cancer and I took a leave of absence. She took over teaching for Bob Shields as Math Specialist so he could take on the role of Interim Principal. That changed the trajectory of our little school family for the best. I can’t imagine my job without Bob Shields in the main office, and we could not have been luckier to find Ellen. She was supposed to be there to finish out a school year and she has been with us for almost 5 years. Ellen is one of the most intelligent people I know. She has a mathematical mind and teaching strategies that I can’t even comprehend. That is the one classroom I feel unworthy to substitute in. I feel like the children know they are being ripped off. Haha! I admire and thank Ellen for her unwavering tolerance and acceptance of all children and her grace and calming nature in all things. I have learned so much from you in our brief years together. I wish you good health and happiness in your new home. You are one of the strongest yet gentle people I know. Thank you for joining our family. You will be sincerely missed. Thanks for saving the best for last; St. Anthonys.  Maybe one of your many former students will want to teach Math for us 🙂  

Please join me in heartfelt gratitude by saying, “Thank you and God bless Kathy, Mary, Isabella, and Ellen! You are all so loved and appreciated for your years of service to others in this most precious mission of Catholic education.”

I end this Tiger Talk with the words of Pope Francis.

 

“Teaching is a beautiful job; as it allows you to see the growth day by day of people entrusted to your care. It is a little like being parents, at least spiritually. It is a great responsibility.” 

 

Love and blessings,

Mrs. Judy White

 

Please pardon any typographical errors from my dining room/home office 🙂