Stephany Nelson is at home in the classroom

A desire to teach

After nearly three years in her full-time job at Merry Maids, Stephany realized what she liked best was training the workers. “I really missed the classroom.” she said. She began attending Western Kentucky University to complete a degree in education. She cleaned offices for Servicemaster and babysat to pay the bills, eventually graduating from WKU in December 2008.

“I led koinonia for two to three years, but when I went back to school, I backed out,” Stephany said. During Lent 2009 she helped with a koinonia at Holy Spirit, in which one of the participants was Jan Lange.

Stephany Nelson, right, poses with Jan Lange, the principal at St. Joseph Catholic School. Lange is the first person Stephany told of her desire to enter religious life.

“I met Stephany at a koinonia retreat, she was leading the music,” Lange said. “A parent from school was on the team and introduced her to me and said she’s looking for a teaching position if we have an opening.”

There were openings for a first- and fourth-grade teacher, so Lange contacted Stephany.

“She’d been through a lot with her family. She had a very strong prayer life,” Lange said. “When you’re hiring in Catholic schools, you need someone who is comfortable sharing her faith with children. It’s not a job, it’s a calling to ministry. I realized how involved she had been at Holy Spirit.”

“I wasn’t sure I wanted to teach at a Catholic school,” Stephany said. “The only concern was I had student loans to pay off. The more I prayed about it, everything else just fit perfectly.”

She was hired to teach first grade in the 2009-10 school year. St. Joseph has two classes of each grade, pre-school to eighth grade, for a total of 345 students. It’s the only Catholic elementary school in Bowling Green, with students from both Holy Spirit and St. Joseph.

“My joy is teaching reading,” Stephany said. “This has been a wonderful experience. It really is the foundation year of school. If they can read in first grade, they’ll grow all the way through.”

Stephany instructs Dominic on his language skills. Dominic came to the United States from Burma.

“Stephany has always been an excellent teacher,” Lange said. “She’s very attuned to the learning styles of her students. She does an excellent job differentiating her methods based on the student needs. The children love her.”

Her concern for her students is evident among the faculty at St. Joseph.

“She almost cared too much at first,” Lange said. “I told her she can’t change what happens at home. She’s come to realize that.”

Stephany has grown in her relationships with her peers and in being a team player, Lange said. “She’s very respected by the faculty.”

 

Saint Joseph as a guide

During Stephany’s first school year at St. Joseph, the Diocese of Owensboro received a new bishop in William Medley. Just a month after he was installed, Bishop Medley came to the school on March 19, 2010, the feast of Saint Joseph.

“His homily was about his call to be a priest and then to be bishop, and that he always said ‘yes,’ like Saint Joseph,” Lange said. “Then he said ‘I hope there are some of you who are called to the priesthood or religious life.’”

For the first time, Stephany thought he might be talking to her. The more she prayed about it, the feeling never went away. She’s felt the impact of Joseph throughout her journey.

The words of Saint Angela Merici are never far from Stephany’s desk at St. Joseph. Saint Peter was the patron saint for Stephany’s classroom for several years, but Stephany changed to Saint Angela last year when she became a postulant.

“It’s been amazing how Saint Joseph has guided me on my way,” she said. She never would have moved to Bowling Green if she hadn’t gotten the job at Family Christian Stores in Louisville. The date of her hire was March 19, 2000. Now she’s teaching at a school named for the foster father of Jesus and joining a religious community named for him as well.

“It’s too real to be a coincidence,” she said.

Comments

  1. C.J. Olinger

    Such an inspiring story! Thank you, Stephany, for sharing and for saying YES to God so many times. Our community is blessed to have you!

  2. Blaine Nelson

    Stephany I couldn’t be more proud if anything than to call you my sister. You have always followed your heart, and look where it has taken you. The fact that so many people will be touched by your love and kindness is a wonderful thing. Love you, Blaine

  3. Cheryl Huber

    Stephany, your story and witness of being called to religious life as a Ursuline Sister is a gift for you from God. You are so deserving and will offer your gifts and talents to others. I will keep you in pray during your studies and continue time of teaching.

  4. Anna Marie Greenwell

    What an awesome life experience you have had, that has lead you to the catholic church. God truly works in an amazing way in all our lives.
    May God Bless you in your Lords work..may he Bless and Keep you in His care!!!

  5. Barbara Crews

    Stephany I really enjoyed reading your story. I feel so blessed Blair had you as a teacher. She truly loves you. I will continue to pray for you as you continue your journey. Have a wonderful summer. Barbara

  6. Ruth

    Stephany . . . thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s good to get to know you better. I love everything you say and do as a first-grade teacher. My first-grade teacher inspired me to want to be just like her . . . and I did teach first grade . . . for three years, and I loved it. You are obviously inspiring your first-graders too! It’s always good to be with you at the Mount. There’s always a room waiting for you in PVH. Blessings on you and your wonderful ministry. Ruth Gehres, OSU

  7. Janie Brasher

    Stephany you are an amazing woman. I feel so privileged to have had you teach our granddaughter Emily Brasher in RCIC about the teachings of the Catholic Church. May God continue to bless your journey in the life of an Ursline Sister.
    In Christ
    Janie

  8. Marietta Wethington,OSU

    Stephany,
    Your story is wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I, too, taught first grade for many years. One of my favorite ministries. Isn’t it delightful to see the sparkle in their eyes when they learn something new and when they discover the joy of reading.
    Thank you for sharing your life with us. I hope you enjoy being an Ursuline Sister as much as I do.
    God bless you as you continue your journey. My prayers are with you.
    Love,
    Marietta

  9. S.Rosemary Keough

    Enjoyed your story, Stephany! God is surely guiding you. I’m so glad you are a part of US! Love, SRK

  10. Brother Gabriel Monarch, O.H.

    Stephany…I so remember my being in the first grade at Sts. Joseph and Paul Parish in Owensboro….1949…those wonderful Ursulines Sisters brings back my eight years in grade school…memories I could write a book…my first cousin is Sister Jacinta Powers, OSU…just wanted to let you know that I will contact our Vatican Community and have a Mass said for your intentions and will have a seven day candle lit for you in St. Peter’s in one of the side chapels…Stephanie you will get your Masters and your entrance into the Novitiate will be a reality soon…God love and bless you…Brother Gabriel Monarch, O.H.

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