She went to St. Elizabeth’s, gave the talk, and got a standing ovation.
There were 15 young girls in Sister Anne Michelle’s class at Mount Saint Joseph. Eventually five took their final vows. For one year Sister Cordelia Spalding was the class novice mistress. Sister Cordelia, now 88 and a resident of Saint Joseph Villa at the Mount, remembers the young novice from Saint Paul quite well. “I remember she was able to take directions,” she says. “And she got along quite well with her classmates.”
Sister Anne Michelle says her class was the first class to go through the juniorate program at the Mount. For one year Mother Superior Mary Wilfred Hayden was juniorate mistress for the class.
Today, Sister Anne Michelle is the only class member still a member of the community.
After earning her degree at Brescia, Sister Anne Michelle began her teaching career in 1964 at Saint Joseph Grade School in Central City, teaching first and second graders for three years.
It was on to Flaherty Public Schools in Meade County for three years, teaching second and third graders and then to Saint Peter’s in Union County for three years, teaching first and second graders.
Sister Anne Michelle returned home to Daviess County for two years to teach second graders at Immaculate Grade School before journeying to Nebraska City, Neb., where she taught third graders for two years.
Her first tenure at Saint Paul’s in Grayson County came next, teaching first and second grades for eight years.
After a 12-year stay teaching first graders at Mary Carrico in Daviess County, Sister Anne Michelle returned to Saint Paul’s 10 years ago and has been teaching grades kindergarten through second ever since, also serving as head teacher (principal) and chief fundraiser for the school.
Saint Paul’s Grade School is a phenomenon. With 28 students in grades kindergarten through eight, an average of 3.1 students per class, it is one of the smallest schools of its kind in the nation. The entire staff consists of Sister Anne Michelle; two other teachers, Michelle Robinson and Joan Butterworth; a teachers aide, Janice Darst; a secretary, Deanna Kipper; and a part-time, retired nurse, Barbara Tilford, who also teaches third and fourth grade religion and serves as the school librarian.
Those who work for Sister Anne Michelle make up a small admiration society. “Sister is special to the school,” says teacher Michelle Robinson. “She has more jobs than three people put together. Not only is she my boss as principal, but she is also a mentor whom I can ask teaching questions and how to handle classroom situations.”
Sister Anne Michelle has also been a major influence in Michelle’s personal life. She says, “Sister’s biggest influence in my life has been with my Catholic faith. I began teaching in August of 2000 as a Baptist. I was intrigued by the Catholic faith and would ask many questions. She would answer or find the books so that I could find the answers. In April 2007, I became a Catholic along with my children, Zackery and Jessica. Sister is now my son’s religion teacher. Our faith and enthusiasm have grown, thanks to the support of Sister Anne Michelle, and my husband is now in RCIA class and will soon join Saint Paul Catholic Church.”
Teacher Joan Butterworth says, “To me, Sister is the backbone of St. Paul School. I feel that everyone looks up to her, respects her, and realizes that her faith is first in her life. She only wants what is best for every student and does what she can to help them succeed. She feels that the students’ religious studies are the most important because that is what will get them through every crisis in their lives. Reading, writing, and math are important, but she stresses how important it is to put God first.”
Joan says Sister Anne Michelle is one of the best friends she has – a friend who listens when she goes to her with her problems. She says, “I can share my happy times, family times, and wild or weird ideas and she will laugh with me. Her religious beliefs mean a lot to me. I find her strong, faithful, and very caring. Many feel that she is strict, but to me that is her strength in the Lord that follows through in everything she does. I am honored to be her friend and co-worker.”
Longtime school secretary Deanna Kipper says, “Sister Anne Michelle and I went to school together. She is a lot of fun. And she has brought respect and fairness to St. Paul School.”
Keeping the school open is a year-to-year challenge.