By Terry D. Wright
For the Daily Call
PIQUA — Sister Mary Alice Haithcoat noted her 23rd year as a Sister of Charity in Piqua Catholic School on Aug. 28, having arrived in Piqua in 1991, and celebrated it in her usual way — by teaching children critical thinking skills, comprehension, achievement and success. Sister Mary Alice, who has been a teacher, vice-principal, and principal during her long career as a Catholic nun was originally from Cincinnati. Since gaining her education in the Queen City, Sister Mary Alice has taught all ages of students from the second through the eighth grades and substituted for students in kindergarten and the first grade.
“I am a member of the Sisters of Charity,” said Sister Mary Alice but noted she was of a different order than the Sisters of Christian Charity whose order came to Piqua originally in 1878, and taught in St. Boniface School from that year forward for many decades.
The long time educator, Sister Mary Alice, gained degrees from noted Ohio colleges. “I went to Mt. St. Joseph for my bachelor’s degree in education,“ said the slight of build and soft spoken nun, “and Xavier University, in Cincinnati, for my MA in education.”
Sister Mary Alice said that she enjoys teaching math and language arts a great deal. “The second-graders are so full of enthusiasm for learning new things,” she said. “They are eager to learn, full of energy and I find it enjoyable and exciting. I enjoy watching them grow in knowledge and learning. They are like sponges soaking it all up,” she added softly flexing her petite hand adding emphasis to her statement.
Sister Mary Alice’s 11 second-graders are as energetic as she. Bailey Cooper announced that she enjoyed reading a great deal. “Sometimes when you read a book you want to read the book because it has funny parts,” said Bailey. “Students are expected to know so much more than they did in past years,” said Sister Mary Alice. “For instance, many children come to school already knowing many things because of technology. Technology is good and does wonderful things,” said the sister. “Technology helps the children learn faster. Many of the children come to Kkindergarten today already knowing how to read,” she said.
Student Myah Jefferis, in sister’s class, said her favorite subject was lunch because they served really good food in the North St. campus cafeteria. But, when pressed a little harder, Myah had to admit that she really liked writing. “I like writing because you can write stories of any kind and mostly about animals,” she said while identifying her great love for animals. Pupil Avelynn Rich noted that math was her favorite subject. “I like doing math story problems,” said Avelynn “because you have to think about the numbers coming up.”
Sister Mary Alice noted that academic subjects compete with many other activities and programs today such as gymnastics, soccer, music lessons and much more. “Our parents are really good here, however,” she said, “in keeping their children on a schedule so that homework gets finished before activities.”
Now it was time for math and Colton Belt asked his teacher if he could get a timer to time himself while doing his math problems. Sister quickly agreed and Colton dutifully set the timer and quickly returned to his seat and began the figuring. Another student raised her hand and said she was having difficulty with a specific page and the instructor explained it again. Still another hand shot up from a student still not quite understanding. The same process was explained by Sister in a little different way while the teacher slowly approached the child reminding her about past instruction and prompting the pupil to repeat the steps she had learned, which forced the youngster to quickly grasp the concept and begin the computation on her own.
So goes most days for Sister Mary Alice, tackling one small problem after another until the children understand and achieve by their own critical thinking skills toward comprehension, achievement and success.
Terry D. Wright is a freelance writer for the Daily Call. If you have a teacher or school staff member from any local school you would like the Call to feature, contact Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org.