First-time Catholic school teachers eager to help young people grow in faith, knowledge


Donna Raymond attended St. Andrew School in Tipton.

So did her three youngest children.

Now she’s back to teach art.

“This is a great school,” she said, “and I feel honored to be part of the staff to provide education to the children in this community.”

Mrs. Raymond was one of more than 80 first-time Catholic school educators who gathered for orientation July 30 at the Alphonse J. Schwartze Memorial Catholic Center.

There are 37 Catholic grade schools in this diocese, ranging in size from under 50 students to more than 600.

The faculty turnover in these schools tends to be gradual, with some educators racking up decades of experience in one location.

But the arrival of new faculty members brings different energy and a fresh perspective.

The missing part

Marsha Thornton will teach second grade at St. Pius X School in Moberly.

She recently retired after 36 years at Northeast R-IV School in Cairo.

She loved her students, their families and her fellow educators, but something was missing.

“All these years, I wanted to mention Christ and the different reasons why we need to be the way we are or what we need to be doing,” she said.

“I couldn’t do that then, but I can now.”

She’s looking forward to spending more time in Moberly, where she lives, getting to know her new students and their families, and helping them grow in faith, wisdom and knowledge of Christ.

“I pray that they’ll be inspired on my watch,” she said. “I pray that God will look out for them and that whatever His plan is, it will work for them.

“And I pray that they will learn from me and that we’ll have fun, too.”

God’s great glory

Tree Schmitz is the new seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School (OLLIS) in Columbia.

“I’m here because God loves me and I love Him, and He wants me to help bring Him to every aspect of these children’s lives,” she said. 

Her academic and work credentials are varied, including master’s degrees in business administration and teaching, a degree in French and an associate’s degree in applied sciences.

“The Lord has put me everyplace,” she said. “Now He has put me here, and I’ll be here as long as He wants it to be.”

She plans on turning frequently to God in prayer while teaching, and encouraging her students to do the same.

“So if a student is having a hard time in class, we’ll stop and ask God to fill us all with an awareness of His love for us, and to fill us with love for Him — so that we can work together as a family, to learn what we’re supposed to learn, do what we’re supposed to, understand what we’re supposed to understand and be what we’re supposed to be,” she said.

She hopes that when her students move on from OLLIS, everything they think, do and are will be for God’s great glory.

“That’s what we’re created for!” she said. “And our job in the Catholic schools is to help them hone all the gifts and skills God has given them, so that they will use them for His great glory in all that they are and all that they do, everywhere.”

Learning and life

Having studied art and sociology in Missouri, Alaska and Florida, Ms. Raymond worked for the Missouri Department of Corrections for 17 years before retiring last year.

She always wanted to be an art teacher, and she relishes the opportunity to help young people at St. Andrew School experience art in many forms and encourage them to be creative.

Kindergarten teacher Logan Kliethermes is also new to St. Andrew School but not to Catholic education.

Having grown up in Mary’s Home and attended Our Lady of the Snows School, she has always wanted to be part of a small, close-knit faculty like the one that taught her.

She graduated last year from Lincoln University in Jefferson City with a degree in elementary education and early childhood.

She’s looking forward to helping her students learn and grow through faith and academics.

“I love seeing how the knowledge the students acquire in the classroom can help them make decisions and achieve their goals,” she said.

Some of the information in this article is from the Tipton Times newspaper’s Back to School Guide and is used here with permission.