Other Side of the Desk — Aquinas College - Nashville, Tennessee

Other Side of the Desk

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sister Margaret Joseph Ference, O.P., ’19, an M.A.T. candidate, pictured during Math class with students at St. Benedict at Auburndale in Memphis. Photo courtesy of St. Benedict at Auburndale Catholic High School.

Each Fall a new batch of Aquinas students enters the classroom – not on the campus, but in elementary and secondary schools across Tennessee. These budding educators are not new to the classroom, however, having spent many hours in observation and classroom teaching in preparation for this moment. But excitement is still in the air.  

“I did not expect teaching to be so much fun,” commented Sister Alma Marie Learner, O.P., ‘19. Sister Alma Marie’s placement at St. Benedict at Auburndale in Memphis included sections of Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, and Forensics. But her priorities are evident. “When we go into a classroom we are there to teach the students, not a subject matter,” Sister said. Mentoring by Aquinas faculty has had a profound effect upon her outlook on teaching. “The instructors at Aquinas do not just preach about how to be a good teacher, they live it. I have known their attentive care and support.”  


Photo courtesy of St. Benedict at Auburndale Catholic High School.

Aquinas student teachers become part of the entire life of the school, leading clubs and service projects outside of normal school hours. At St. Benedict, filling boxed for St. Mary’s Villa and praying the Rosary for the unborn are just a few of the ways students live Catholic Social Teaching.

Photos top and left courtesy of St. Benedict at Auburndale Catholic High School.

Classmate Sandra Dunn, ‘19 headed north to Clarksville, Tennessee for her placement at Immaculate Conception School in Fourth and Fifth Grade. “Each student brings such a unique gift to the classroom,” Dunn said. “I want to be there to listen, bring forth their talents, and above all help them to recognize how much they are loved,” she added. Her experience at Immaculate Conception “fostered a deep appreciation for the Dominican tradition” in her teaching.

“Teaching is a delightful mission, because human beings are touched and set free as they are loved in the Truth.”

Sister Mariam Assaf, O.P., ’19 is an M.A.T. candidate in Elementary Education. Sister Mariam, originally from Australia, comes to teaching with a background in Human Resources. At St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Sister Mariam reflected, “At Aquinas we are not just ‘taught’ but we are ‘educated.’ ‘Educate’ comes from the Latin word educare which means ‘to lead out.’ In every class, course, assignment, field experience, presentation, research project, and exam– our sisters and lay professors at Aquinas ‘led us out’ into the light of Truth. Teaching is a delightful mission, because human beings are touched and set free as they are loved in the Truth.” 

Photo courtesy of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School.


Graduate students coming from other professions often seek to put their knowledge to work in the rewarding profession of teaching. The Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) is a program just for this purpose. But it is more than a profession at Aquinas: teaching is a vocation. Sister Mariam explains with enthusiasm, “To be a part of Catholic education is truly a gift and a mission. A gift, because educators are called and entrusted to first receive God’s tender love and mercy, and it is a mission, because educators serve as collaborators with Christ in his work of salvation!”

Sister Martha Ann Titus, O.P, a college supervisor for Aquinas College’s student teachers, works closely with Catholic and Metro-Nashville public schools. These partnerships are essential. “We are most grateful to the principals and teachers for giving of their time and expertise in the vocation of teaching,” she said. The cooperating teachers “are able to mentor the student teachers by their example and generosity,” she added, recognizing the trust these educators place in the Aquinas students teaching in their classrooms. “Through the teachers’ generosity, the teacher candidates learn what it means to give to another in truth,” Sister Martha Ann said. “This is a valuable experience in preparing our teacher candidates.” 

While Aquinas students of the Class of 2019 find themselves in the final stages of teacher certification, they look on to graduation. Meanwhile, a new cohort was inducted to the program in October. 

Sister Mary Rachel Capets, O.P., ’00, Interim Dean of the School of Education, left, and Sister Mary Agnes Greiffendorf, O.P., ’02, President, right, with inductees to the Aquinas College Teacher Education Program on October 31.


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