Sisters have fun helping Hispanic students with their reading

A handful of Ursuline Sisters who are all former teachers were thrilled to get the opportunity to work with an after-school reading program aimed to help Hispanic children.

West Louisville Elementary School, about five minutes from the Ursuline Motherhouse at Maple Mount, received a grant for a jump-start reading program to help improve the reading levels of Hispanic children, said Sister Julia Head, assistant congregational leader with the Ursuline Sisters.

West Louisville Reading Tutors 2013

“The day that I went, Elana, a third-grade student, shared a book that she picked out,” Sister Julia said. “I read and reviewed any difficult words, she read and we reviewed difficult words and concepts (such as how to explain “a blow to their confidence.”) Then we went to the computer, and she knew to find the number of the book, typed it in, and on the screen appeared five questions related to reading comprehension for that book. She was delighted to make 100 percent and to gain 5 Accelerated Reader points,” she said.

“For me, it was a delight to see her enthusiasm,” Sister Julia said. “May there always be books and reading.”

Several sisters began volunteering at the school last year to bag nutritional food for some students to take home on the weekend, to ensure they have healthy meals at home. Sister Susanne Bauer helps in that ministry and signed up for the reading program after receiving an email from Sister Julia. The reading program ended with fall break in early October.

“I enjoyed it,” Sister Susanne said. “The ones I worked with, they wanted to read the books themselves, then they went to the computer to answer questions and they got so many points. They were very motivated to read.”

She worked with various ages, from second- to fifth-graders. When she worked with multiple children, they could play phonics games or with dialogue cards, she said.

Sister Susanne was an Ursuline Sister of Paola (Kan.) prior to the 2008 merger with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph. She was a teacher or principal for 34 years in Kansas and Oklahoma, then served as a teacher’s aide for eight years. She hadn’t been in a classroom since she left Kansas for Kentucky in 2009.

“It was great,” she said. “The kids seemed to really appreciate the help we were giving them. They were really good.”

Other sisters involved in the program were Sister George Mary Hagan, Sister Luisa Bickett, Sister Mary Gerald Payne and Sister Sharon Sullivan.

Sister Luisa served as a teacher and pastoral minister in Chile for 18 years, then served in pastoral outreach to Hispanic families in Beaver Dam and Horse Branch, Ky., from 1984 until she retired to the Mount in 2011. She was excited to work with Hispanic children again.

“We would listen to the children read, sometimes we would read to them and then asked them questions,” Sister Luisa said. “I found they read well.”

She had fun working with the children.

“I miss the Hispanics a lot,” she said. “One little girl said she remembered me from Beaver Dam.”

By Dan Heckel


  1. Patricia (Pat)Wilson

    Once a teacher, always a teacher! I volunteered in a similar program here in Murray a few years ago and loved seeing the eagerness of the children to learn to read. It was a blessing for me, for sure.

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