What Catholic Education Means to a Franciscan Sister High School Teacher

Web Admin

March 14, 2021

Franciscan Sister Mary Ann Spanjers shares on what it means to be teaching in a Catholic school today.

Sister Mary Ann Spanjers

  • San Miguel High School, Tucson, Arizona (part of the Cristo Rey Network Sponsored by the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools)

    Sister Mary Ann with the juniors participating in an immigration outreach “El Otro Lado” meeting at school, March 2020 before the Covid shutdown.

  • Junior theology teacher of “Christian Morality” & “Catholic Social Justice”
  • Moderator of Club Pagasa (a social justice outreach and fund raiser for a Christian Brothers’ boarding school for boys in jeopardy in the Philippines)
  • Member of the Campus Ministry team including the Senior Kairos Retreat
  • School Vocation Contact person for the Lasallian district of San Francisco and New Orleans

Teaching theology in a Catholic School is an opportunity to develop relationships with youth unlike any other. There is a mutuality that develops thanks to the time we spend together, the discussions, sharing, prayer, interactions, questions and trust that happens in the midst of it all. God is at the center of who we are as individuals and as a community. Discovering more about ourselves and our relationship with God and each other is a gift!

My students at San Miguel come from economically struggling families. Many of them are first generation immigrant students from Mexico along with Native American students from the Tohono O’odham nation. They work in businesses around Tucson which helps pay for their tuition. They are wonderful, faith-filled teens who work very hard and know how important education is to help them and their families break the cycle of poverty. I have incorporated a service-learning aspect into our Social Justice course. The students readily join me for the Tucson March for Life in January, the walk for cancer research, the March for Our Lives, as well as volunteering at a variety of places for those in need in the Tucson area. Of course, all of this was before covid-19; but as we immerge from this pandemic I am discovering that the students continue to do outreach in helping their families, others who are poor and their classmates in many creative ways.

I am blessed to teach with a wonderful faculty, including three Lasallian Brothers. We have been teaching virtually since this pandemic began on March 13, 2020. It has stretched me more than I ever expected. The guidance and support of the school has been without pause. The commitment we have to educating our students has only increased. The school day is a virtual block schedule 8:00am-3:30pm. I have learned and am growing in internet expertise to create interactive classes with formative assessments that challenge the students to deeper learning and understanding. One thing the students and teachers continue to rely upon is God’s presence; we pray at the beginning of every class “Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God” and for God’s strength and comfort. Many of my students have experienced the loss of family members due to covid-19. Their faith and hope-filled attitude inspires me every day!


Article Comments:

Steve Kuper 03/14/2021 @ 9:09 am

Great story (from a fellow XHS-Appleton grad.) I enjoy following the work that all of you do in AZ. I also was interested to learn that your HS is part of the Cristo Rey Network. I was facilitating Social Innovation through Marquette University when the Milwaukee Cristo Rey was started. It was a beautiful experience watching businesses and corporations fro the Milwaukee area sign on to become part of this social innovation experience. Thank you for your work! And give a shout if ever back in Appleton. Coffee on me.


Sister Jan 03/14/2021 @ 1:30 pm

Keep up the great work of Catholic Ed. I loved it for 50 years. Now my “Seniors” and the grieving are educating me! Working at the other end of the life spectrum .Also meeting many many former students from GB to reminisce about the teaching years.


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