Just about 20 years ago I was working two part time jobs. I was a campus minister at a church in Rhode Island and as an assistant manager at Blockbuster Video (it was as fun of a job as you think). I knew my time was coming to an end at the parish (but never at Blockbuster) and I started looking around for jobs. I went to college for a degree in Youth Ministry and was a product of public school so the idea of teaching in a Catholic school never crossed my mind.
A friend after Mass one day told me that Bishop Stang High School was hiring a Theology teacher and Campus Minister. My first response was, “What is Bishop Stang?” As a Cranston, R.I. girl, anything beyond the Braga Bridge seemed like a different time zone. I looked at the ad in the newspaper (yes…job advertisements in the newspaper and not a website!) and I thought I would apply. A few days later I received a phone call from the principal saying they would like to interview me which was set up a few days later. A few days after my interview, while I was working a shift at Blockbuster, I received a call offering me the job. I told them I needed to pray about it. When I told my manager at Blockbuster about the call , she said, “What are you crazy? Call them back and tell them you want the job! You can’t work at Blockbuster forever!” And so I did.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I said yes to being a teacher. I had no education experience. That first year at Stang was one of the most trying years of my life. I felt I was maybe five minutes ahead of my students. Every time they had a question that I did not know the answer to I would write it on my hand and ask our chaplain. I would sit in the classroom of another teacher who also taught my class and take notes on what to teach. I do not know how I made it through, but I know that at the end of that first year, I truly understood what it meant to be a part of the Stang family.
Each year in education brings its own challenges. Whether it is prepping a new curriculum, learning new education standards, keeping up with technology, or a pandemic, there is always something that keeps you working late into the evening and during your vacations. I still find the most challenging part about being a high school teacher, however, is loving these kids for four years and then letting them go. And as long as that continues to be my biggest struggle, I know that I am in the right place.
Being an educator is a tiring job. Being a Catholic educator is just as tiring but it also means that you have a community, rooted in Christ to help you through those challenging moments. In the almost twenty years that I have been at Stang I have lost my dad, my brother, and students. I have also made amazing friends, gotten married, become a homeowner, survived cancer, and grown tremendously in my relationship with the Lord. Being a Catholic educator during some of the most pivotal moments in my life has shaped me. Being a teacher at Bishop Stang has made me into the person I am today. I have a better understanding of who God is asking me to be. I know when I fall short of those expectations, but I also know that God’s mercy extends past His expectations. I know that each
student, co worker, parent and guardian that I have met so far in this journey has been a reminder of His calling for me.
As a public school kid who loved high school, I could never imagine that teaching in a Catholic school could be that profound, but I can firmly say that my experience as a teacher at Bishop Stang High School has been the most life-shaping experience. Praying with my students, with my colleagues, my Stang family, makes the difficult times bearable and the good times more rich. Former president George W. Bush once said, “Catholic schools carry out a great mission, to serve God by building knowledge and character…By teaching the word of God, you prepare your students to follow a path of virtue.” Yes we prepare our students to follow a path of virtue, but it has also directed my path as well.
Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.