Aquinas Graduates Emerge with In-Person Teaching Experience from Tennessee Catholic Schools

February 01, 2021

This Fall, Aquinas College teacher candidates completed their clinical placements in person in Tennessee Catholic schools. Now, Aquinas graduates continue to apply what they have learned as they teach in schools across the state. These rising educators worked with children in the Catholic dioceses of Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis in the most difficult days of the pandemic. The experience was invaluable.

“The need to focus on the dignity of each person and to accompany students, colleagues, and families has become even more vital,” said Sister Matthew Marie Cummings, O.P., professor of education. Sister Matthew Marie is a college supervisor of Aquinas student teachers.

“The student teachers have risen to this call, engaging students and families to continue a sense of community during a time of isolation,” Sister Matthew Marie said. In one class, high school math students did group work outside using sidewalk chalk to solve problems. In another class, students and family members shared memories and expressed gratitude for veterans on a digital Veterans Day Commemoration Wall that enabled collaboration during isolation and encouraged family discussions. Sister Matthew Marie comments on educating during the pandemic, “The principles haven’t changed. We just have to be more creative in how we engage others.”

Some teacher candidates were assigned close to home. Sister Isabelle Marie, O.P.,’20 completed her student teaching at St. Rose Catholic School in Murfreesboro. Sister now teaches fifth grade at St. Rose, having graduated in December with a B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies. Alison Derner teaches third grade at St. Ann School in Nashville while pursuing her Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) at Aquinas.

Sister Anna Joy, O.P., is an M.A.T. candidate teaching at St. Paul Catholic School in Memphis. Like her classmate Mrs. Derner in Nashville, Sister Anna Joy will complete her graduate degree requirements after a year of full time teaching at St. Paul’s, in May. Sister Felicity, O.P., also completing her M.A.T., teaches high school social studies at St. Benedict’s in Auburndale, just outside of Memphis.

Sister Mary Lawrence, O.P., principal of St. Paul’s, commented that keeping school open during the pandemic has required lots of listening, empathy, and good communication with families and teachers. At St. Paul, learning is only in person. “I am so proud of our students and families, that we have come this far together in helping our children learn. We hear the children frequently say, ‘Oh please let us stay in school!’ They are so happy in school.”

Sister Rachel Marie, O.P., M.A.T., ’20 completed the practicum at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga. “My Aquinas education has really helped to shape my perspective as a teacher in the classroom,” Sister Rachel Marie shared. “I know that my call is to teach the whole human person who is in front of me. It is a gift to teach young people and to guide them to deeper knowledge of themselves and of the Lord. Aquinas has prepared me to embrace this gift with reverence and enthusiasm.”

Photo credit: Dru Schenk

Related Links