New teachers prepare for a new school year

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Kevin Kelly is leaving a 13-year business career to teach third grade at Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City. He was encouraged by his own school-aged children to return to his original dream, trading a potentially more lucrative path for one that nourishes his heart and soul.

New teachers attend an orientation Aug. 27 at Saint Vincent de Paul Regional School in Mays Landing. —– Photo by Mary Beth Peabody

Kelly said he chose Catholic school because of the foundation he gained during his formative years. “It’s what I’m comfortable with,” he said.

In addition to helping students grow academically, Kelly said he is eager to involve students in community service.

Kelly was among the more than 50 attendees at new teacher orientation on Aug. 27 at Saint Vincent de Paul Regional School in Mays Landing. 

“We are called because of what we believe,” said Father Joseph Capella, who opened the session on Catholic Identity.

Rector at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill, Father Capella asked the group what Catholic Identity in education means to them. Responses included parent involvement, community, communion, service to others, the Creed, truth, Christ-centered, tangible and intangible faith.

“We are the image and likeness of God. … Parents are the first teachers and we partner with them,” said Father Capella, adding that the group had perfectly summarized the rest of his presentation.

Eileen Wilkinson, vice principal of academic affairs at Camden Catholic, followed, focusing on the role of love and reminding teachers they will be remembered most for the way they made students feel in the classroom.

Camden Catholic’s vice principal of student services, Ann Clinton, used Gospel passages to relate the role of teachers to the role of the disciples. “We carry on the tradition of the Apostles to go ‘teach the nations.’… It’s a big responsibility,” she said.

New teachers also attended breakout sessions led by school leaders from diocesan elementary and high schools. Topics included discipline, partnering with parents and professional conduct.

Alaina Seyler, new physical education teacher at Saint Joseph’s Regional School in Somers Point, said the Catholic Identity segment of orientation resonated with her. Focused only on Catholic schools, she said she visited websites of Catholic schools in her area and is thrilled for the opportunity at Saint Joseph’s. 

Jennifer Snyder and Trish Rymas discovered they had similar paths. Snyder is moving from part-time to full-time status at Cape Trinity Catholic School in Wildwood, teaching seventh and eighth grade English language arts, while Rymas is making a similar move at Saint Joseph Regional School, Somers Point. Both teachers are looking forward to being fully integrated in their respective schools.

A recent transplant from Arizona, physical education teacher Skyler Le Fontaine is eager to become part of the school community at John Paul II Regional School in Stratford. A former public school teacher, Le Fontaine said she welcomes the faith aspect of teaching in a Catholic school.

“The view of the human person is very different in Catholic schools than in other schools,” said Father Capella. “We are about the truth. We must lead students to the truth.”

Mary Beth Peabody is Communications and Marketing Manager for the Office of Catholic schools.