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DifferenceMakers: Katie Schneider - St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School


Please tell us about yourself. My name is Katie Schneider and I am a 1st grade teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School in East Lansing.  I have taught first grade here for 13 years.  I earned my undergraduate degree in education from Western Michigan University as well as my Masters in Technology in Education.  

In your experience, what do Catholic schools do best? I think Catholic Schools integrate not only religion, but faith and spirituality into the course of the day, which in turn, helps form the entire person of each student.  We can pray throughout the day and ask for guidance.  We can make a connection between math and the sciences and our religious beliefs.  Our faith is intricately woven into everything we do and is in the forefront of our planning.

Please finish the sentence: I believe in Catholic education because…we not only get to work together to strengthen and deepen our faith, Catholic School truly work to develop the entire child in all areas, including spiritually!

Describe your school from a teachers' perspective. The teachers at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School work to develop the whole child—spiritually, emotionally, cognitively, socially and physically. We get to know the students as people, just not as students in their classroom.  We truly do work together to form a family-like atmosphere. 

What drew you to teaching at a Catholic school? I grew up Catholic and began my Catholic education in 3-year old Sunday School.  I attended IHM-St. Casimir School from Kindergarten through 8th grade and then completed high school at Lansing Catholic, and I was encouraged from a young age to participate actively at my parish.    

Upon graduation from Lansing Catholic and then Lansing Community College, I attended Western Michigan University and become actively involved at St. Thomas More Student Parish.  Between my involvement at St. Tom’s as well as through my education program at WMU, it become apparent to me that being Catholic is truly part of who I am as an individual.  To have to suppress or not acknowledge that, would be denying part of who I am.  Catholicism and Catholic education helped in shaping who I was (am!) and I also felt, and continue to feel, driven to share that with others.  Thus, I knew that teaching in a Catholic School needed to be a part of my future.

What is your favorite part about teaching? What are your biggest challenges? What are your greatest rewards? My favorite part of teaching is being able to witness the students develop in all areas of their lives. I watch as the light bulb clicks on as they understand the connection between addition and subtraction. I get to witness them go from sounding out simple words, to reading entire books independently. I watch them incorporate the virtues into their everyday decisions.  By staying in one school for many years, I get to watch their development beyond the days they are in my class. I see these students enter as pre-schoolers and then graduate as 8th graders and see a glimpse of the type of people they are becoming!

My biggest challenge in teaching is reaching every student right where they are and motivate them to move to the next level.  I have students come in with all different backgrounds in reading, math science, religion, etc. and my goal is not only meet them where they are, but find out what interests them so they can progress to the next level.

There are so many rewards of teaching!  I love when students come back and share where they are or what they are currently doing. I rejoice with my students as they show progress each and every quarter of the school year. Any gain a student makes, no matter whether academic, spiritual, athletic or whatever, makes me proud and honored for having known them!