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home : features : catholic schools

4/12/2017 9:00:00 AM
Teachers' RCIA experience comes into pre-K classrooms
SPEAKING OF SCHOOLS, All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany has a monthly Spirit Day in which students collect items or money for community needs. In March, each class collected a specific item for
SPEAKING OF SCHOOLS, All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany has a monthly Spirit Day in which students collect items or money for community needs. In March, each class collected a specific item for "blessing bags" that will be taken to New York City by Deacon Gary O'Connor from All Saints parish on his annual Midnight Run to distribute items to people who are homeless. First-graders assembled the items into bags and wrote encouraging messages for each recipient—a total of 106 bags.

Just a few years ago, two pre-kindergarten teachers at St. Madeline Sophie School in Schen­ectady joined the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.

For Heather Gaugler and Sherri Hanson, embracing their faith didn't just enhance their personal lives, but also their professional lives.

"We have to be kind to one another," Mrs. Hanson told The Evangelist. "We have to spread kindness."

The teachers, who are both parishioners of St. Madeline Sophie Church, noted that even at the pre-kindergarten level, they have a faith curriculum.

Before RCIA, they said, there was a detachment between the teachers and the lessons. They noted that they even felt slightly distanced from their community when the school had events held in the church.

Now, they can connect their own life practices to the lessons they are teaching.

"I am able to incorporate prayer in my daily life," Mrs. Gaugler said. "The RCIA program encouraged me to really communicate with God."

Her students aren't the only ones benefiting from Mrs. Gaugler's knowledge of the faith. She is able to teach her son, Grayden, about it as well (read a previous story at www.evangelist.org).

"I can understand more about the religion, and it helps me share my faith with the three-year-old students here," she continued.

After a year in Mrs. Gaugler's classroom, Mrs. Hanson gets the students the next year, when they are four. The two teachers have to work closely together, making sure that each student is understood and cared for.

Mrs. Hanson teaches her class about the kindness and love of Jesus. She said that, when she was going through the RCIA process, she was even able to incorporate what she'd learned in Sunday RCIA sessions into the lessons she was giving to her class.

"It focused a ton on the sacraments," she remembered of the process. "I felt it more in my heart and it made it easier to explain to them. It made me a better teacher."

Although already friends before RCIA, going through the process together helped the two teachers' work relationship, they said.

"It was nice to have her as a support person through it," Mrs. Gaugler said. "We give [each other] advice on everything."

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