Why did you become a teacher? Why work in a Catholic school?

The Visitor asked a sampling of Catholic school teachers across the diocese why they became educators and why they chose to teach in Catholic schools. Here are their responses:

Amy O’Neal

Amy O’Neal, a third-grade teacher at All Saints Academy in St. Cloud, arranges books Aug. 21 to get them ready for her students. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

Grade 3; teacher for 25 years
All Saints Academy, St. Cloud
St. Paul Parish, St. Cloud

Q: Why do you teach?

A: Ever since I was young I wanted to be a teacher, and I truly cannot think of a better profession for me. I used to spend hours playing “school” with my cousins and friends. I was born to be a teacher and, 26 years later, I get up every morning and love going to my job knowing there will be a group of young students waiting for me to spend their day with them.

I now have five children of my own, and three still in school. Being a mom has made me many times more a better teacher. I relate to parents and students on a much different level knowing the struggles they go through in their home lives, with academics, sports, friendships and the pressure of social media and technology. It is a much different world teaching today than 26 years ago; however, there is not a day that I am not grateful for the profession I chose.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: I teach in a Catholic school because the students and parents are very invested in learning and they come to me with strong family values and a willingness to be a “team” in their child’s “whole person.” The “family” feel of our school, mostly smaller class sizes, the ability to share our beliefs and faith, celebrating feast days and holidays that celebrate Jesus — why would I teach anywhere else? My own children attend Catholic schools in St. Cloud and I’ve watched them read at Mass, sing in the choir, participate in peace and social justice activities, volunteer at the food shelf and Place of Hope, go on mission trips to Tanzania. I want those possibilities for all my students.

Teaching in a Catholic school was my first choice when I first started teaching — there is nowhere else I would rather be.


Corene Bjorkedal

Corene Bjorkedal

Grade 4; teacher for 27 years
St. Andrew School, Elk River
St. Andrew Parish, Elk River

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I love being a teacher, and I believe I was called to teach. I was 10 years old when I felt the first tug to be a teacher. I was struggling in school as a fourth-grader and my teacher, Sister Margaret, helped me to see my full potential. She made a significant impact on my life by helping me learn. She taught me what it looks like to love and teach as Jesus does. I strive to be that kind of teacher every year for the students in my classroom.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: Our motto at St. Andrew is “Building the kingdom of God here and now through the witnessing of a lived faith.” Being able to model and share my love of God and my Catholic faith with my students is one way to build the kingdom of God here and now.

When the students enter my classroom in the fall, we already share a common bond. We all love God, and we know that God loves us. While striving for academic excellence, we remain anchored in our faith. Every day we pray together, learn more about God and the Catholic faith and share God’s love with others. What a gift!


Laura Ismil

Laura Ismil

Kindergarten; teacher for 20 years
St. Henry’s Area School, Perham
St. Ann Parish, Wadena

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I have been blessed with many great teachers in my life, both as a student and with those I work with. My parents also were educators. Their laudable example of the teaching profession has helped to boost my desire to teach well. I teach because it is fulfilling to see the growth in students each year. It is the daily interaction with students, the goals achieved, and knowing that in a small way I made a difference or helped a child to learn something new that fills my heart with renewal each day I walk into my classroom.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: The last 10 of my 20 years in teaching have been in kindergarten at St. Henry’s. Teaching in a Catholic school has increased my faith and my ability to teach to the full measure of our diocesan mission — to be the heart, voice, and hands of Christ. Prayer, service work and participation in the liturgy is such a central part of the curriculum that even the youngest of learners know of God’s goodness and love for them. Catholic schools not only provide an excellent education but also celebrate belonging and faith.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” — Matthew 18:20


Abbie Detloff

Abbie Detloff

Grade 2; teacher for 5 years
Sacred Heart Area School, Staples
Sacred Heart Parish, Staples

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I decided to go into teaching because I love working with children. I have always loved spending time with them and as I got older I discovered the joys of helping children learn something new and have the opportunity to accomplish something they didn’t think they could do.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: The first time I had the opportunity to teach was when I helped out in a first Communion class. I loved being a part of the students’ journey towards receiving Communion for the first time. I loved seeing the look of excitement on their faces when they received the Body and Blood. This experience is when I decided I wanted to teach at a Catholic school and hopefully have some role in teaching the sacraments. I believe it is important to teach at a Catholic school because we are able to teach students how God is such a huge part of their lives, not only in religion class but in every part of their day. This connection is something I hope will help them succeed throughout their lives and will help them build a strong foundation for their relationship with Christ.


Brian Hurd

Brian Hurd

Grades 6-8 social studies and computers; teacher for 16 years
Mary of Lourdes Middle School, Little Falls
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Sartell

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I spent time in several different careers before going back to St. Cloud State University as a non-traditional student to earn my teaching license. After subbing for a year, I was offered a position at Mary of Lourdes Middle School. I couldn’t believe my good fortune in being able to return to Catholic education. I spent eight years learning at St. Francis Xavier School in Sartell, and the values I developed during that time have served me well in my life journey.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: The experience at Mary of Lourdes has been immeasurably satisfying. The faith-based environment, high academic standards and small class sizes are all very important to me, and to my students and their families. I have been teaching sixth- through eighth-grade social studies for 16 years, and computer to sixth and eighth graders for eight years.

I believe we are all lifelong learners, and I have worked hard to inspire my students to cherish learning as I do. I teach because I enjoy touching the future. I am so blessed to be able to make a positive difference in the lives of young people every day.


Denise Wik

Denise Wik

Grades 6-8 English and language arts; teacher for 38 years
St. Mary’s School, Breckenridge
United Methodist Church, Fairmont, North Dakota

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I love being able to focus my teaching on what is really important. Studying not only the words but the layers of meaning behind those words, especially through topics like the Civil Rights Movement and the Holocaust. I am inspired by the classroom discussions generated from those writings. Many are told through the eyes of those who chose to live their faith and make a difference. Finally, being allowed to search for the strength in each student and seeing the difference they can make in this world is the reason I continue to teach.

Q: Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school?

A: I started out by teaching five years in a public school system. I loved teaching but felt that something was missing in our educational system. After getting married and moving to a new community, I was presented with a choice — I was offered a job at the public school and at St. Mary’s Catholic School. I discovered that St. Mary’s was a school committed to educating the whole child and making faith the focus of that education. So having reached a fork in the road, I chose Catholic education. I have never regretted that decision.

About The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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