York is very blessed in its quality school choices. There really is not a bad choice when it comes to choosing the best education for our children here in York. I imagine not too many small towns across the country can say that for itself.

As a middle school teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic school, I want to take a moment to talk about what this little parochial school offers to its students.

The purpose of St. Joe’s is to prepare its students for a life that glorifies God. We do this by engaging with God in our lessons and activities each and every school day.

Mrs. Tina Gocke has been teaching at St. Joe’s since the fall of 1998. She chose to send both of her children to St. Joe’s. Her youngest just graduated high school this year.

“My children were surrounded by caring teachers who challenged them with high expectations. By providing these expectations, my kids were prepared for the rigor of higher learning,” she commented about her children’s experiences. “They learned valuable study skills and how to organize their classroom assignments and study time around extracurricular activities. All of this was combined with the added benefit of a Catholic education. They received instruction daily and were surrounded by the opportunities to live their faith everyday regardless of the class content.”

The value of faith that is instilled in students at St. Joe’s brings a lifetime of benefit to the lives of our students.

Students attend mass every morning before classes start. I’m not Catholic myself, so the first time I attended mass with my students was a tad scary for me, but as the year came to a close I realized one of my favorite parts of the day is mass. I am a born and raised Christian, but the Catholic traditions are different from my Baptist traditions.

Every day through mass, I begin with a reflection on how I can best live my life in a way that glorifies God and I am given the chance to pray for my students before we dive into the day. What once terrified me about working in a Catholic school has since become my favorite part. Students are taught the roots of what grows our faith during mass. This daily part of our routine makes the education unique.

Mrs. Jessica Luebbe, the third-grade teacher at St. Joseph values her place at St. Joe’s because of the extra mile we go to serve the students. When asked what she valued most about St. Joe’s she said, “At Saint Joseph we are always trying to find a way to give that little something extra to our families and to the community. In working with families and students, it is my biggest priority to find ways of building positive relationships in order to connect with every student in the building.”

Our classes are small at St. Joe’s. Last year, out of the four grades I taught, my biggest class was 13 and my smallest was 3. In my experience and in my colleague’s experience, this provides a unique opportunity to interact with students in a more individualized way. One of the largest strengths of St. Joe’s, in my opinion, is the individualized education we are able to provide to each of our students, whether they need challenged or whether they need some extra TLC.

“I like that we get to have so many unique experiences with our students,” said Ms. Teresa Kathman, the middle school science and math teacher at St. Joe’s. “The smaller class sizes allow us to try new things many times throughout the year. We also can include some things that just may not work well with a bigger class.”

Another advantage that grows out of a smaller student body is our ability as staff members to know each and every student in the building. On my morning duty days, I could most always be found chatting with the younger students. It has been fun getting to know these little guys, and I’m excited to see them grow and even more excited to eventually have them in one of my classes.

Mrs. Becky McGowan, the school secretary at St. Joe’s, sent both of her sons to St. Joe’s and is currently watching her grandson attend. For her, she feels that her son’s Catholic education instilled respect and faith at a young age, which grew them into young, respectful men. In her comments about watching her son’s grow up at St. Joe’s, she remembers their teachers having high expectations, but the payoff continues to impact them in their adult life.

“Some days were hard with homework and religion, but I feel that taught them they had to work hard to be successful in life,” said Mrs. McGowan. “I do not regret my decision to send my children to St. Joseph school and I hope more parents will continue to do the same.”

Her boys especially loved the annual Catholic Schools Week, which brought a lot of fun into the school year. Ultimately, it was the kindness and care shown to her boys that kept her committed to the school and continues to keep her committed as she watches her grandson attend as well.

Being part of the St. Joseph parish provides a unique level of support. Parents and parishioners never hesitate to provide the school with whatever we may need. During the end-of-the-year awards assembly, I got a little emotional as I thanked the parents sitting in the audience. Diving into my first year of teaching was horrifying in so many ways, but the level of support I have received from parents has been overwhelming. Before I even started teaching at St. Joe’s many parents and parishioners had reached out to me to welcome me to the family. Our Home and School and Pot of Gold committee work endless hours to keep our school going.

According to Mrs. Diane Fletcher, St. Joe’s music and band teacher, “The support and encouragement that our parents as well as members of the parish give is unmatched. I have been so thankful for their willingness to step up and help with building a set for a program for the students as well as help to provide other resources to enrich classroom experiences.”

Perhaps the most valuable thing we bring to the table of education is the amount of love we all have for our students. We worry about them as if they are each our own child. When I have a student begin to drop in their class performance, I immediately start searching for an answer. We know our students well, and it doesn’t take much for us to notice a red flag.

The family atmosphere continues to be, Mrs. Lori Haarmann’s— St. Joe’s 4-5-year-old preschool teachers—favorite parts of St. Joe’s. When asked what she valued about the school, she said, “I have always loved the family atmosphere at St. Joe. I really like that the little kids know the big kids and vice versa. It makes the school seem like a close family.”

Mrs. Haarmann recalls specifically seeing the family atmosphere at work during the school field day. As she observed the day’s activity, she saw the older kids interacting with the younger kids in such a positive way. During field day, eighth graders were put on teams with children kindergarten through seventh grades. Meshing the kids together provides an opportunity for the younger kids to be mentored while also providing the platform for the older kids to demonstrate their own responsibility and maturity.

When you become a part of St. Joe’s, whether it is as a student, staff member, or parent, you are brought into a family of love and support. A year ago, almost to the day, I sat in the library to interview for the position I now occupy. I was nervous beyond words, but Mrs. Rochelle Geiger and Msgr. James Reinert decided to take a shot on me. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to join the St. Joe’s family, and I am excited to see what this next year brings as we welcome Mrs. Mary Jo Leininger to our family.

My hope in writing this rather long-winded column about St. Joe’s is that the community, especially the St. Joe’s community, is reminded of the value we bring to York in offering a faith-based education that’s packed full of love and commitment to our students.

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