By Mary Beth Peabody
Just about everyone can recall that one (or more) teacher who had a way of bringing out the best in students, whose presence in the classroom yielded respect and kindness, whose passion for the subject made a learner out of every classmate. Conversations with some of South Jersey Catholic Schools teachers offer some insight about how they do it — from engaging with learners, to dealing with discipline, to helping students grow their faith and maintain strong values.
I chose to teach in Catholic school because of my faith.
A conversation with Janice Schumann – Wildwood Catholic High School, Wildwood – Literature, Religion
“I chose to teach in Catholic school because of my faith,” said Wildwood Catholic’s Janice Schumann. If you live with faith it should be like talking, breathing. … I integrate it in all my lessons,” she said. With freshman literature, junior religion (morality) and senior world religion classes, that’s a lot of lessons.
An educator since 1980, Schumann taught special education in a public school and spent time in professional development at Stockton University. She has been at Wildwood Catholic since 1996.
Schumann said she recognizes the importance of being able to share her faith with students and families who might not be as engaged in their faith as others. She welcomes questions and open discussion in her classes. “Students want to explore. They ask a lot of questions. I’m looking at life through a different lens. I want to make faith a dynamic part of their daily life. … In a Catholic school you can discuss everything through the perspective and lens of the church.”
In addition to talking openly about faith, Schumann integrates music, meditation, Scripture and yoga into her classroom environment. She believes in laughter and humor, and she feels supported by the school community.
It’s an “incredibly supportive teaching environment. Teachers are there because they want to be. [Principal] Joe Cray is fun, energetic and professional.”
A priority for Schumann is making sure her high-schoolers spend time with young students at Cape Trinity Catholic. The schools share a building, which Schumann sees as a treasured benefit for both. “Even the ‘scalawags,’ those who grumble in the classroom, melt and rise to the occasion with the younger students,” she said.
Schumann said she especially sees the fruits of her labor when she runs into former students who thank her for the foundation she gave them. “Even some you thought wouldn’t remember you in a positive way,” she said.
To Schumann, Wildwood Catholic students and families stand out. She said she reminds her students of the sacrifices their parents make so they can go to Catholic school
“Our students are small in number, but big in heart. They care for each other and push each other to succeed. Families like that aspect. … they are there for the caring, the discipline, the academics. Parents like that we want students to be the best workers, to try to make the world a better place. ”