Teacher Spotlight: Sister Pat Gloriod

by Sister Mary Flick, CSJ

Read more about our sisters in the classroom in our latest issue of Connections

Like so many educators, Sister Pat Gloriod will tell you that the desire to be a teacher came early in life. But there also was the religious life caveat. “As soon as I knew I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be a sister, she said.” The CSJs were known to be good teachers, so I wanted to be one.”

Forty-five years later, she still comes to the classroom each morning, excited to be there. Over those four and a half decades, she has taught all eight grades in a half dozen Catholic schools, spending a quarter century with seventh and eighth grade students. For the past 13 years, she has been teaching at St. Vincent de Paul Parish school in the farming community of Dutzow, Missouri. She currently teaches nine first graders. Her shift from eighth to first grade seemed to her a practical move. “I had to move down and see where they came from,” Sister Pat jokes.

Sister Pat began teaching in 1969, among the first Sisters of St. Joseph to earn her degree before she started teaching. “It is one of the greatest blessings,” she admits, “because the sisters before us didn’t have their degrees first.” Though she never wore a habit in the classroom, many of the women who entered the community with her ended up as teachers. Knowing their gifts to be elsewhere, many later moved into other ministries. But not S.Pat.

What first attracted S. Pat to the teaching profession is the reason she remains in the classroom today. “It’s the curiosity of children,” she says. “It excites me. Especially watching the children learn how to read. I give them the tools, they get excited. It’s contagious.”

Much has changed in education through the years, especially with the advent of technology, S. Pat says. But one thing remains the same: the way students learn. “We learn because we get excited about something. We learn the things we want to learn first.”

That learning comes through different means today. Yes, S. Pat still reads from books – three or four each day – having her students look at the pictures, and the words, too. But the internet brings the needs of the world closer to home than ever before.

“If I show my students a picture of starving babies, it doesn’t mean as much as if I show them a video of a tsunami and the homes and villages it wiped out. It’s more tangible, more visceral. The more sensory knowledge they have, the more likely they will be to carry that learning into adult life and develop a responsibility for the brothers and sisters they don’t even know.”

“When students see people who need help in the news – it’s an immediately available teaching tool,” S. Pat says. “We pray for them. And we have service projects – collecting food for food pantries, or old shoes to benefit a water supply project. And we take care of our earth, asking each other, ‘What can we do to make the world better?’

“I like to tell my students that education is like a closet with hooks and hangers,” she says. “They are taught many things, but if there is no hook for it, it will fall on the floor – unless I help them renovate their closet!”

For S. Pat, that renovation comes with a personal touch. “Education is about relationship,” she says. “I can tailor what I teach to the child. I am not teaching subjects, I’m teaching each child. I make sure it fits. If I don’t speak to each child personally each day, I’m missing the opportunity to engage them in the process of education. I want each child to not only learn a subject, but integrate it into her life. This is how they develop a sense of accomplishment and pride in themselves, how they grow.”

But education in the classroom must be reinforced at home. “Students need to have someone to talk to about what they learn – a parent or grandparent figure in their life, a person who cares about him or her. Without this mentor, they don’t grow to their full potential.”

That full potential also is encouraged on the playground, particularly when confronting children’s most immediate issues, around name calling and settling arguments. S. Pat says, “I help them process their experience and ask them, ‘How do you treat someone whose opinion is different from yours?’” Here the CSJ charism of unity and reconciliation sometimes has its most dramatic place. “Beyond racial or religious differences, there are differences of opinion,” S. Pat says. “First graders are concrete. I tell them everyone has a right to their opinion: I have no right to put someone down. I tell them I don’t believe I’m better than anybody else.

"I guess I get that from my mom. I guess she instilled the CSJ charism in me before I met a sister. She told me, ‘You’re no better than anybody else, but just as good.’ If I firmly believe that, I don’t worry about color, religion or economic status. I’m willing to listen to and give every person the right to his or her own opinion and beliefs – and make sure we don’t step on each other. Every person I meet is the most important person there is.”

That focus on relationships and on unity amid differences, are hallmarks of the CSJ charism. “Whether we sisters are in a classroom or not,” Sister Pat says, “we are all teachers.” 

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