By By Denise Valadez, Ed.D. Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Spirituality, & Accreditation     1/24/2019

Faith grounds me in all that I do and is an integral part of who I am as a person, mom, wife, daughter, sister, and school leader. 

Growing up, I had extremely strong models of the faith in both my mom and my grandfather. I attended Catholic elementary school and high school, never missed Sunday Mass, was involved in various activities and ministries at our Church and had an active prayer life. I was held to high moral expectations. I was taught to put others before myself and serve with an open and happy heart; a practice I exercised as a teacher and principal, and will continue to practice in my new role as Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Spirituality, and Accreditation. 

My vocation as a Catholic school educator began as an after-school coach at my elementary alma mater.  Although I was a young coach at the time, that experience solidified my desire to become a Catholic school teacher.  I always knew I wanted to teach, however, I could not imagine teaching in a “God-less” classroom. 

As a teacher, I relied heavily on our Catholic teaching as a foundation for both behavioral and academic expectations.  I found multiple opportunities to pray with my students throughout the day, which created a strong bond between us.  The power of prayer and the ability to weave the faith into every aspect of our day afforded me the opportunity to not only be a model of faith for my students, but also to build their trust.

As a principal, I tried to build a true community of faith for my staff, students, and parents.  While my “classroom” was much, much larger, I continued to instill the same practices I did with my students. Like the bond I created with my students through prayer, the same occurred with my staff. We prayed together often and shared in various faith formation opportunities, which helped to not only strengthen the bond amongst us as a staff, but also the Catholic identity of the school itself.

As an associate superintendent, one of my areas of responsibility is spirituality.  My life-long love of the faith, paired with my experience as a Catholic school educator, has fully prepared me for the enormity of this task. Catholic schools are truly special in that students not only receive an incredibly strong academic foundation, but more importantly, they receive the spiritual formation that helps shape them as morally upstanding individuals, who will be able to successfully navigate today’s world. 

Catholic educators are truly blessed to be able to share their faith openly with their students. This is so important, given the crisis the Church is facing today. Now more than ever, we need to instill in our young people a strong sense of faith and provide for them meaningful faith-formation opportunities. There is no better way to do this in the school setting. 

One of my favorite saints is St. John Baptist de La Salle.  He dedicated his life to the service of children and established a network of schools that integrated religious with secular instruction, valued parent involvement, and hired teachers who viewed their profession as a vocation and who were mission focused.  He was very much focused on providing young people with a high-quality education grounded in the faith.  My students knew how much this saint meant to me, as did my staff, as I was constantly seeking his guidance and intervention on school-related issues.

My prayer for Catholic school educators is that they continue the good work they are doing with our students, persevere in the face of adversity, and be strong faith models for our young people. 

St. John Baptist de La Salle,

Pray for us!