University: Lewis University
What do you do?
I teach Math to the 6th grade and Science to the 7th and 8th grade. I am the coordinator for our Adult Mentor Program, which is a program where an adult from the community is paired up with one of our students. Once a week, the adult comes into school to have lunch with his or her mentee. I am also the coordinator for our Embrace-A-Family support program; most of the work for that happens around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am also willing to do whatever else may be asked of me!
Why did you choose to become a Lasallian Volunteer? Have your hopes about the Program been realized?
I chose to become a Lasallian Volunteer because I wanted to gain teaching experience while giving a year of service. I wanted to make a difference in my student’s lives. In college, I was a part of many ministry activities and they made my college experience so wonderful and helped me grow in my faith. I wanted to continue to grow in my faith. I also wanted to gain life experience by being in a new place with new people. I had heard so many good things about the LV program and I knew in my heart this was something that I was called to be a part of. On my application, I wrote, “I know that the children may not come from the most privileged backgrounds and they may not have had the most prosperous opportunities, but I am sure that they will make me want to come to work everyday.” My hopes about this program have definitely been fulfilled. My students are the reason I love coming to work everyday. I am gaining teaching experience while making a difference in their lives. I have also gained so much life experience being on my own for the first time in a new place. I am so happy I chose to accept this calling to the Lasallian Volunteers.
If you could project ahead a few years and look back to now, how do you think your experiences with those you serve and with the Brothers will have changed you?
I think I am becoming an all-around better person by working at The San Miguel School and by living in a Christian Brothers community. I do not know where exactly I will be in a few years, but I know I will be teaching somewhere. If I am able to teach at a Lasallian school, I will be extremely blessed, but I don’t know if I would have thought to work at a school with a Lasallian mission until now. I love the sense of community that I feel all of the time when I am at school, at our community house, and when I am getting involved at different events with other Lasallians in the area. I have grown as an educator, learning new things from my students and my colleagues every day. I have learned so much from the Brothers I have interacted with, especially living with Brother Michael Reis and working with Brother Lawrence. They are both so wise and open to everyone and everything. I am grateful that they are in my life as I am on this LV journey. I have no doubt that when I look back on my LV experience as a whole, I will feel happy.
As a teacher, my main goal is to make sure my students are learning. I love watching their faces change when they are learning something new; it is almost like I am seeing their brains work. They start at the furrowed brow “what in the world are you talking about” face, change to the inquisitive “OK, I see what you’re saying, but I’m still not sure” face, and then finally arrive at the happy and relieved “understanding” face. Once I see that face, I know the student is ready to apply their knowledge. I also love when a student who starts off struggling finally shouts, “Ooooooh! I get it now!” It’s the greatest feeling in the world when a child finally understands something and is now confident with what they are doing. I don’t think I can pinpoint one moment when I knew I was making a difference, because there have been several wonderful moments. It’s the little things that the students say that show me that serving at San Miguel is where I am supposed to be. One student made me a card that said, “I hope you don’t leave next year. You teach math so well that’s why I understand everything.” Another student was writing a letter to his sponsor and included, “I remember I hated science but Miss Myrtle has made it one of the best.” Another student came in one morning with a candy bar for me and when I asked him what it was for he said, “It’s just for being a great teacher.” I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. Having the students learn from me and having them be so appreciative of the fact that I am here has shown me that I am making a difference.
Why would you recommend the LV program to a college senior considering volunteering?
I have never been able to say, “I love my job,” until now. Yes, at first, I was scared to be so far from home for the first time in my life. I was nervous about having so many responsibilities at school. I was skeptical about living in a community with people I didn’t know, including Christian Brothers. But now, I can honestly and happily say that joining the Lasallian Volunteers is the greatest decision I have made in my life. It’s still tough being away from home, but the positive experiences I am having here outweigh the things I may be missing. I am so happy coming to San Miguel every day and I love the work I am doing with my students. I enjoy coming home every day and spending time with my community members, who I have grown to love like family. I would encourage anyone who is considering a year of service to join the LV program. You would be doing God’s work by serving the poor and receive support as you are doing so. You would gain so much experience along the way; both career experience and life experience. I have grown so much so far this year, and I cannot wait to keep learning.