Jeanne Livers wants her colleagues in Catholic education to be brazen in knowing that they’re amazing.
“We’re ALL amazing because we are all sons and daughters of the King!” Mrs. Livers, a junior-high math teacher at St. Joseph Cathedral School in Jefferson City, told Catholic school teachers of the Southeast Region of the diocese.
Before she was finished, she had them all up and dancing for joy.
“That’s one of the many things I love about teaching in a Catholic school,” she said. “I consider it a safe space for me to share my faith.
“I do some crazy things every now and then,” she stated. “I always say, you never want to let them get bored. People will remember what you’re teaching if you figure out a way to make them smile while you’re doing it.”
Mrs. Livers was the keynote presenter at the Jefferson City diocese’s Southeast Regional Professional Development Day, held Sept. 11 at St. Joseph School in Westphalia.
Teachers and administrators from Holy Cross School in Cuba, St. Mary School in Frankenstein, Holy Family School in Freeburg, St. George School in Hermann, St. George School in Linn, Immaculate Conception School in Loose Creek, Sacred Heart School in Rich Fountain, St. Patrick School in Rolla, Visitation Inter-Parish School in Vienna and St. Joseph School in Westphalia participated.
The theme was “Teaching is a work of the heart.”
Mrs. Livers kept participants busy, engaged and laughing throughout her two-hour block between Mass and lunch.
“In Catholic schools, we don’t just teach, we minister constantly,” she said.
She focused on several of a subject that’s close to her heart: The art of discernment.
Namely, how best to navigate the forks that all people encounter in the road each day and on a large scale at pivital moments in their life.
“Pray, pray, pray!” she exhorted. “Patiently wait on the Lord! Pay attention to what the Spirit tells you, and then proceed.”
Her topics ranged from candy to karaoke songs to “Winnie the Pooh” characters.
She talked to her fellow educators about acknowledging the fear and anxiety in their lives without letting it deter them from fulfilling God’s purpose for them.
“You counterattack with prayer,” Mrs. Livers stated, “understanding that the answer to our prayers might not be immediate ... or even what we expect.”
She shared Bible stories and heartwarming anecdotes from her own experience to illustrate the importance of listening to God and trusting in his brilliantly laid plans.
“The enemy will try to convince you to stay in your safe space so you won’t do the will of God,” said Mrs. Livers. “Don’t you believe him!
“Pray, wait, listen, then take that leap of faith, knowing that you are covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, and no power in hell can keep you from becoming all you are meant to be!” she stated.
She spoke of wonderful people and experiences she had encountered at some of the most difficult times in her life.
She lavished joy on how God has led her, sometimes against her will, through each phase of her existence, to the destinations he desires for her.
For the past nine years, since her retirement from satisfying work for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, that has meant teaching at St. Joseph Cathedral School.
“I’m really enjoying myself here,” she said in an interview with The Catholic Missourian. “I don’t need to hide any of myself. I can be as loving as myself, as silly as myself, as strict as I need to be. Because I’m me.
“The kids accept me, the school accepts me,” she stated. “Of all the jobs I’ve had, the ability to evangelize with every fiber of my being has made this the best job I’ve ever had.”
“Come to church”
Mrs. Livers talked about how her parents, her siblings and she encountered the Catholic faith and were initiated into the Catholic Church when Mrs. Livers was a child.
She went to eight years of Catholic school and forged deep friendships that she doubts she could have experienced anywhere else.
Her family was very poor while she was growing up.
She inherited her mother’s passion for math and set about cultivating it in college, later pursuing an advanced degree in computer programing.
Mrs. Livers never intended to become a teacher, although that’s what her mother thought she’d eventually do.
Spencer Allen, who was principal of St. Joseph Cathedral School and is now principal of Helias Catholic High School, invited her to take it on, part-time, in retirement.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she said. “If teaching is truly what you’re called to, it can be a source of tremendous satisfaction.”
She loves her students, who all know that she expects greatness from them and is willing to help them achieve it.
“My husband calls it the ‘grandma effect,’” she noted. “He says, ‘They look at you and they don’t want to disappoint you.”
Not that they’re perfect, or that she expects them to be. But they’re comfortable with her reminding them of the reason for their existence.
“Every once in a while, we have a little ‘come to church meeting’ in our classroom,” she said. “We talk about how we need to love one another, and what that looks like here in school.”
She said she never stops praying for her students.
“Sometimes, I tell them, ‘I’m praying for you to do well, that this will be of real benefit to you,’” she said.
With God’s help
Mrs. Livers became comfortable sharing her faith while helping to lead prayer group meetings during her time in the Capitol.
She has given talks at Cursillo weekends, parish renewal retreats and at women’s ministry events at several locations in the diocese.
She once showed Mr. Allen her notes from a women’s day of recollection she led at St. Stanislaus Parish in Wardsville. He encouraged her to share her insights with more and even larger audiences.
She was nervous going into this fall’s teachers’ event in Westphalia, as she had never presented for such a long period.
She prayed for two weeks while preparing, then dove into the day headfirst.
“One lady caught me at break and she said it was the best professional development day ever,” she recalled.
“Then I knew that God was answering my prayers.”