For Catholic Schools Week, principals, teachers and parents wrote reflections about what it means to serve students and families during this time of pandemic.  This essay is by  Mark Crimans, the vice principal and a music teacher at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kensington, Maryland.  

Intimidated. Proud. Apprehensive. Inspired. These are a few words that Catholic school teachers such as myself have used to describe the position we have found ourselves in during the pandemic.

“Overwhelmed” was how I felt back in March when the school buildings first closed, and everyone went virtual. “What does ‘virtual school’ even mean?” I wondered. 

I think it’s safe to say, we are all well-versed in that now. At the time though, I was scrambling to convert all my lesson plans to an online platform. I was focused on the students, the lessons, and me.

“Reset,” I told myself during the summer. I reminded myself that I chose to become a teacher in a Catholic school to connect with students and families in a meaningful and spiritual way, not just to cram facts into students’ brains. I knew I could still serve in the midst of the coronavirus.

“Energized” by the students on our first day, I saw firsthand the joy in the students’ eyes. The emails of relief and encouragement by parents flooded in. The community was ecstatic to have a familiar schedule and routine. Holy Redeemer was blessed to be able to provide in-person learning to the entire student body with a virtual learning option.

In the photo above and below, first graders at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kensington work on a polygon geometry exercise in class. The coronavirus safety measures at local Catholic schools include mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. (Photos courtesy of Holy Redeemer School)

“Uplifted” by the outpouring of support from the parents, principal Tommy Corrigan and I began planning how to involve parents in school activities while maintaining the integrity of our classroom cohorts. Even though the parents aren’t allowed into the building to help in their usual capacity, the community is strongly rooted in our school. Parents have organized activities such as candy jar guessing contests, fundraisers, and faculty breakfasts and lunches.

“Normal” is not a commonly used word these days. However, after the first few months of wearing masks, shorter classes, and increased recesses, school fell into a normal rhythm. With a great deal of flexibility from the teachers and a generous time commitment from our priests, we were able to schedule classes to attend Mass separately, regularly and safely.

Mark Crimans teaches a music class to eighth graders at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kensington.  (Photo courtesy of Holy Redeemer School)

“Fulfilled.” Now, students are learning academics and attending Mass. Parents are organizing take-home dinners, decorating the exterior of the school, and providing help in myriad ways. Teachers are enriching students’ minds, bodies, and souls. While Mr. Corrigan and I keep the lines of communication flowing between all three stakeholders, the Holy Redeemer community is working together in new ways with a deeper understanding of togetherness. 

The word that most teachers now use to describe their chance to serve during this pandemic is an honored and revered word in our Catholic faith: “Called.”