Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Sister Christine: ‘I had many happy experiences as a teacher’

SCHOOL DAYS:  Sister Christine Wochos enjoys a note from a former student. She and  other Sisters who taught  appreciate reconnecting   with past pupils.   Would you like to send a greeting? We have a webpage just for that! (Renae Bauer photo)

No matter where the classroom was,  she enjoyed every school day

A child is like unto a delicate flower,
Neither can be forced to grow.
But given the proper atmosphere,
Care and time,
Each can be encouraged
To realize its own
Individual potential to blossom.
~ Unknown

by Renae Bauer

This poem came to mind after Sister Christine Wochos reminisced one March day about her 50 years of teaching.

Even though she has not been in the classroom for 10 years, Sister still hears from former students, like Stacie, who asked that her last name not be used. As her milestone birthday approached, Stacie decided to reach out to people, such as Sister Christine, who had had an impact on her life. Stacie was in Sister’s fifth and sixth grade classrooms, and she fondly remembers Sister reading to the class at the end of the day. “The book titled ‘Boris’ by Jaap ter Haar was my favorite. You inspired me to read to my own children long after they could read themselves,” wrote Stacie. She goes on, “Thank you so much for inspiring this gift and love for reading within me and my children.”

Such notes of appreciation are always well received, says Sister Christine, who makes a point of responding to such notes if an address or phone number is provided. The correspondences and phone calls bring back a flood of fond memories.

“I looked forward to going to school every day,” she says. “Each day I had something different in the classroom,” such as repositioning an object or writing poems, sayings, or quotes on the chalkboard. “I thought it was important that every day the child would have something different in the room.”

For Sister Christine, the goal for each student and subject was to make the experience memorable. “For Advent I would turn all the lights off in the classroom before students arrived – and tape the switches down so the children wouldn’t flip them on. They entered into darkness to experience what the Israelites experienced.”

When teaching about Jesus’ first miracle, changing water into wine, Sister put red Kool-Aid in the bottom of a container so that when the child playing Jesus poured water into it, the water turned red.

She was also a strong believer in learning by doing. Her students regularly studied for tests by creating their own questions. These were incorporated into games such as her version of Jeopardy and a spinoff of Wheel of Fortune, renamed Wheel of Peanuts.

In addition to religion and academics, Sister Christine’s students learned the importance of ministering to others. “We wrote letters to people, beautiful letters,” says Sister. “When somebody’s loved one died we wrote to the family. People just loved them. They came back to me and said, ‘You don’t know how much those letters meant.’ We also sent cards every year to the veterans” at the Wisconsin Veterans Home in King, Wis.

There are so many more stories from Sister Christine’s teaching years. She remembers helping students celebrate All Saints Day and memorize poems, presidents and so on. She fondly recalls teaching one summer vacation Bible school in Montana. Each story reflects the joy of the storyteller -- Sister Christine -- who has shared her God-given gifts with countless students.

“I loved teaching,” she says. “I loved teaching religion, I loved teaching science and the language arts. I had many happy experiences as a teacher.”

Students’ kind acts are reminders of God’s blessings

“Sister Ruth Ann is the glue that holds the St. John School (Little Chute) community together. When I talk to former SJS students who are in high school now, they always ask how Sister Ruth Ann is doing. Sister makes us all laugh, and her smile is contagious. When I graduate next year, she will be a teacher who I will always have a special place for in my heart because she always pushes me and every other student to be the best person we can be.”  ~  Krista

“When I receive such letters from present or former students and/or parents, I feel blessed, truly grateful, and humbled. These acts of kindness remind me of how important it is to reach out to others with kind words and deeds. Blessings come in different ways. Each day we should be grateful and be expressive of the many ways God continues to bless each of us. My prayer response would be from Numbers 7:24: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.’ ” ~  Sister Ruth Ann LaBine

Caring about students extends beyond the classroom

“Hi, Sister Mary: I am a kindergarten teacher at St. John the Baptist School in Howard now, but I remember you being my 7th grade teacher at Trinity Catholic. I hope you are doing well. My class wanted to send you letters as part of our Catholic Schools Week fun. It sure was nice to see your picture come up as someone we could write to! I’ll always remember the notes of encouragement you put on my homework and those silly ‘cheese things’ you’d put on your glasses to cheer on the Packers. Take care and God bless!”  ~  Maggie

“My first reaction when I received the kindergarten students’ letters and note from their teacher was ‘Wow’. I taught Maggie, and I was so happy to hear that Maggie was a teacher.   I often wonder what my former students are doing. Either to hear from them personally or see their parents and learn what their children are doing is rewarding for me.”  ~  Sister Mary Berg

Stay in touch -- This story originally appeared in the Sisters' newsletter. Subscribe to our FREE printed newsletter (issued five times a year) and our FREE e-spiritual reflections (weekly). We enjoy hearing from you so visit our “Send a Greeting to Sister” page and say hello. Thank you and God bless!

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