Our philosophy is God first, then family, then work.’
For the past 38 years, Linda Schultz has taken her faith to Regis Catholic Schools in Eau Claire in the Diocese of La Crosse. As a second-grade teacher, Linda shares her love of Christ with her students and their families — and, at the same time, finds her faith growing thanks to her students.
“When I started half-time, and my first child was 2 weeks old,” says Linda. “I stayed at the Catholic school because the Catholic Church was all about families. Our philosophy is God first, then family, then work.”
Linda taught in public school systems in Alabama and Indiana, and in a Montessori school in Idaho, before she and her husband moved to Wisconsin for his career in law enforcement. Linda liked the opportunity to share her faith in God.
“The public school did not offer me the opportunity to grow within my faith and to witness Him to the kids,” Linda says.
The opportunity for students to be open and express their faith and understanding of Christ’s love is beneficial, Linda believes. “The students make their faith look so simple. They just think, ‘This is what Jesus wants me to do,’” says Linda.
Teaching has been wonderful for me. Putting me in the Catholic schools was God’s way of saying, ‘You have a deep faith and I need you to witness.’I couldn’t have done that in the public school.”
Witnessing the simplicity found in the actions of children is inspiring. As adults, she believes we often spend more time analyzing God’s instruction than actually doing what He wants.
Spending time in the classroom teaching students the power of prayer and how to count their blessings is just as important to Linda as the basics of academics. She knows a focus of love and positive thinking will benefit the students their whole lives.
As a second-grade teacher, Linda guides her students through making their first reconciliation and first Communion. Her students every year are an inspiration to her in their understanding and joy in these sacraments.
“Each year, I pick up something different as I prepare my students to receive the sacraments,” Linda says.
First reconciliation is often fearful for children. Linda loves to see their uneasiness about telling the priest their sins transform into joy after they receive the forgiveness of God.
“First reconciliation is just awesome,” says Linda. “I love the excitement that comes from the forgiveness God gives us. To be right there in the realms of that journey with my students is something I can be really grateful for. My faith keeps growing each year.”
Linda’s parents taught her the importance of faith. “My father wasn’t Catholic,” she says. “He told us that until we were 18 we had to be practicing Catholics. When we turned 18, we could be something else, but we had to be part of a faith community. He would drive us to 8 a.m. Mass, then pick us up – and he would go with us to church for special occasions and holidays. My dad was also very active in our Catholic school life. He was president of the parent teacher organization.”
Linda and her sister went with their mother every Thursday night to the neighborhood rosary. Each week it was at a different family’s house in the neighborhood.
Faith is an active part of life for Linda. She doesn’t believe we are meant to just sit around and wait for God to take care of everything.
“We were taught, ‘Always do your best and God will do the rest,’” says Linda.
Mistakes are nothing to be ashamed of either. Linda’s students learn mistakes happen, even for the teacher.
“I will be the first to admit to the children I made a mistake,” says Linda. “We all make mistakes and have to start over.”
This is also a message she shares with parents. It’s easy to blame children for a mistake in parenting, resulting from a tired adult over-reacting to a problem or issue. Linda encourages the parents of her students to always admit to mistakes. It doesn’t lessen their authority over their children, but reassures children every person makes mistakes, and models appropriate behavior of how to fix a mistake.
“All of those pieces are so important for a child,” Linda says.
Another blessing Linda finds as a Catholic school teacher is the gifted teachers she works with every day. From student teachers to longtime teachers in the district, Linda finds her colleagues inspiring. It is clear teachers want to be working in a faith-filled atmosphere when they choose Catholic schools over the higher-paying public schools.
The family atmosphere in Catholic schools is a draw for many teachers, Linda believes. She remembers one of her student teachers loved the atmosphere in the school and the classroom so much that she didn’t stop spending time there even when her official student teaching was done.
“She still came back to my classroom every Friday to grade papers and work with the kids,” says Linda.
Her faith has kept Linda steady and stable, even when her life was in turmoil. A battle with breast cancer was a manageable challenge for Linda – thanks to her faith.
“There’s a good side to everything,” Linda says. “You have to look for it.”
Attitude is a choice for Linda, and she chooses to look at the positive and stay happy. She emphasizes to her second-graders that the love of God can be shared just by smiling or holding the door open.
“People just need a simple gesture to show them the world is OK,” says Linda. “I tell my students their smile might be the only smile a person sees that day.”
Having followed the example of Mother Teresa in her daily life, it should have been no surprise to Linda when she won the Mother Teresa Award from the Diocese of La Crosse in 2013, but it was.
“Receiving the Mother Teresa Award was very, very humbling,” Linda says. “The diocese gave me the letters the people wrote on my behalf, and I loved having those letters as much as receiving the award.”
Linda told her father she wanted to be a teacher when she was in kindergarten. She still feels the calling of God every day to witness for him in the classroom.
“I am very, very blessed. If I had it to do all over again, I’d do it the same way,” says Linda. “Teaching has been wonderful for me. Putting me in the Catholic schools was God’s way of saying, ‘You have a deep faith and I need you to witness.’ I couldn’t have done that in the public school.”
For more information about the wonderful schools in the Diocese of LaCrosse, visit diolc.org/schools/