Daughter’s St. Cecilia Education Inspires Dad’s Career Change

August 12, 2019

This article originally appeared in the August 9, 2019 issue of the Tennessee Register. 

Mike-Thornton

Photo by Andy Telli.

By Robert Alan Glover

When Mike Thornton’s daughter was a student at St. Cecilia Academy, it changed his life.

Through his involvement at the school as a parent, Thornton’s faith and spirituality blossomed, and prompted him to give up his career in the construction business and become a teacher.

His first job as an educator will be teaching math this year at St. Cecilia.

“I guess you could say that I’m going from working in construction rental, leasing job site trailers, and building classrooms, to now being in one,” Thornton said.

His 27 years in the construction business included “high stress, a lot of travel, and putting in a lot of hours, which may be the result of how I am wired, but at least I was able to provide for my family,” Thornton said.

Thornton found an antidote to the stress of his job in his faith as it deepened through his association with St. Cecilia.

Thornton converted to the Catholic faith when he married his long-time sweetheart, Wendy, 25 years ago.

For many years however, “I was a ‘sleepwalking Catholic,’ someone who basically went to Mass and that was about it, until I joined the Dominican Dads club at St. Cecilia,” Thornton recalled.

The Dominican Dads are an early morning prayer group that meets on Fridays from 6 to 7:30 a.m., for adoration and coffee, adjourning in time for the fathers to get to work.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me, and what I want to say to those other sleepwalking Catholics out there is that they need to rediscover their faith, because what happens when you work like I did, is that you lose your sense of direction,” Thornton said.

Another dividend of the Dominican Dads club was its access to a Cursillo retreat weekend. “It re-establishes your relationship with God, and helps you realize that he is present and in control of things,” Thornton said of Cursillo.

“Things are going to work out the way that he wants them to, and years ago I would be the last person who would really have wanted to do this,” Thornton said.

Thornton, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Memphis, decided to take a different career path.

“I chose to attend Aquinas College and earn a master’s degree in teaching,” Thornton said.

He applied for a teaching  position at St. Cecilia because, “I was grateful for what they did for my daughter, Keely.”

The Thorntons oldest child is now a junior at the University of Notre Dame, and son Cade is a senior at Montgomery Bell Academy.

“I could have stayed with my old company … but it had been sold, so we decided to take a big pay cut and move on,” Thornton said.

“I’m in a good frame of mind; I will be teaching algebra and a statistics course for juniors and seniors and have already met a lot of my new co-workers” when student teaching at St. Cecilia last year, he said.

When St. Cecilia, the all-girls school that was founded in 1860, opens for the first day of classes on Aug. 15, Thornton will begin his new career in the classroom.

“I am just trusting in God and hope that things will work out,” Thornton said. “But if my wife, Wendy, wasn’t on board with this I couldn’t do it.”

Andres Montana, vice-principal of students and administration at St. Cecilia, has known Thornton since his daughter came to the school in 2013.

“I think he made a great leap of faith in electing to pursue his master’s degree in education and then come here,” Montana said. “He’s a very unassuming guy, and he’s joining the oldest consecutively run Catholic high school in Nashville.”

Article reprinted with permission.

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