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.
“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 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.
“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.