Holy Family Teacher Puts Trust in Catholic Education

| February 5, 2014
Carol Shiflet with Holy Family students

Sixth grade teacher Carol Shifflet holds class at Holy Family School in Syracuse.

BY CAROLINE K. REFF

Carol Shifflet has taught her students many important lessons over nearly four decades of teaching at Holy Family School in Fairmount, NY. One of the most important, however, is quite simple: trust her.

“Each year, it’s important for me to establish a class that has trust in me and a trust for each other,” said Shifflet, who currently teaches 6th grade. “That kind of trust allows kids to buy into their education and realize that the sky is the limit for them. It makes them say, ‘I can do this. I can accomplish something great.’ It’s a philosophy that has evolved over my years as a teacher. It’s not always easily doable, and it doesn’t occur overnight. But when it does happen, it’s well worth it.”

“Each year, it’s important for me to establish a class that has trust in me and a trust for each other. That kind of trust allows kids to buy into their education and realize that the sky is the limit for them. It makes them say, ‘I can do this. I can accomplish something great.’” —Carol Shifflet

This kind of insight is one that only comes from experience. Shifflet gained hers within the walls of Holy Family. In 1974, the new college graduate was eager for any job that would put her in a classroom, especially at a time when teaching jobs were scarce.

“When Sister Rosaline from Holy Family called to offer me a job teaching 5th grade, I jumped at the opportunity and was grateful for it,” she said.

Shifflet didn’t necessarily intend to spend her entire teaching career inside one school — no less a Catholic school — but, looking back, she knows it was the right decision.

“Of course, I thought about applying for jobs in the public schools, but it was never quite right for me. I enjoy everyone here — my colleagues, the parents, and, of course, the kids. I feel fortunate that I am able to pray with them every day and focus on their faith,” she said. “The older I get, the more I appreciate how special Catholic education is and how important the values that come along with it are to my students. Character building, good manners, respect for yourself and others, and, of course, the Catholic faith — these fill a big place in our students. It’s something I know they will take with them long after they leave Holy Family School.”

This school year marks Shifflet’s thirty-sixth at Holy Family, having taken three years off when she had her son. The veteran teacher has lost track of how many children have passed through her classroom doors since she began, but she is often reminded of the impact she’s made when former students greet her in the grocery store or stop into the school to say hello. Some even come to Meet the Teacher night — as parents of her current students!

While the day she first walked into Holy Family School seems like a lifetime ago, Shifflet has no plans to retire. She will continue to serve as a trusted teacher and a true example of the satisfaction that a career in Catholic education can bring.

“I will retire when I don’t love it anymore — when I don’t have the enthusiasm necessary to greet these kids every day,” she said. “But, I have a lot to do until then, so I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon.” n

Caroline K. Reff is a freelance writer in Syracuse, NY, and editor of Pillars magazine.

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