“I work in a place where practice starts and ends in prayer and where it’s ok and even encouraged to talk to kids about their lives and their struggles . . . it’s a pretty awesome place.”
By Nancy Dorsey, Staff and Coach of St. James Academy and Author of Celebr8Awesome
People often ask me what makes St. James different. I always puzzle at that question. I mean, clearly, I’m a biased source given that I’ve worked there for the last 12 years. But…the truth is, I do think the place I work is special, and I’m pretty certain that it isn’t just because I work there, but instead because I have witnessed its beauty and its “special” first hand.
For example, I work in a place that when my mom had a catastrophic accident in 2008, they allowed me to go to Chicago and stay with my mom until we could air flight her to Kansas where she would remain in treatment for months. They sent me prayers, love, and support, but they also allowed me not to work and didn’t punish me or dock me countless days or give me any trouble about what I was missing. They understood that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what was most important…taking care of my family. My colleagues and friends filled in for me and taught the lessons I had planned. Even though it was hard for me to be away from St. James, they took care of my duties there.
Our President at the time, Mike Alex, helped make the transfer of our mom from Chicago to Kansas City possible by getting us in touch with the right people in the right places. We will forever be grateful to him for that. Also, he is awesome!
When I returned home with my mom it was to a house full of food made from not only people I work with but people I worked for, that’s right, my bosses even showed up with food. People visited us in the hospital and brought goody bags and treats and my students decorated my classroom for Christmas because I had had them all in class before and they remembered that I loved Christmas and they wanted to do something nice for me!
That’s only one example.
I work at a school that has a no one eats alone policy. I know, I know…so what, right? Doesn’t every school have this policy? In my experience…yes, but also, no. They don’t. The truth is, not only does St. James have this policy but it’s enforced. Not in a mean, administrator “do it or else” kind of way, but instead the students themselves enforce it. They make sure no one eats alone because it is important to them and this concept is reinforced in all their classes by every teacher.
I work in a school where students and teachers regularly witness their faith and their real-life struggle to teach the students in our building lessons. I have heard teachers talk about the death of siblings, their struggles with the loss of a child, the death of a friend or parent and I’ve listened to students do the same. During a pro-life service, I listened to one of our teachers talking about her own special needs child and how over 50% of the children with this same condition are aborted. She talked about how her daughter has taught her more than she could ever learn in a book and that every day this young girl teaches her the importance of life. That teacher witnessed to our students not only the sanctity of life but also that you don’t have to be perfect to be loved and you don’t have to be perfect to make an impact. P.S. I ugly cried when I listened to this…
I work in a place that has lost 4 students. 4. Horrible tragedies, but I watched and participated as the students and teachers picked each other up and lifted each other up right out of those tragic and difficult times. I watched two incredibly strong kids give the eulogy at their best friend’s funeral. I can barely type those words and not cry but also, not feel enormous pride.
Yep, St. James is pretty special, I’d say.
When my dad suffered a major cardiac event at a sub-state volleyball game, and we tried to nurse him back to life, I saw a 17-year old girl get a whole gym to pray the rosary. A rosary I am convinced saved my dad’s life. Again, countless meals wound up at my house, in the hospital and that day half of our volleyball team went to my house to play with our kids so our mom could join us at the hospital.
I work in a place where the President of my school, Andy Tylicki, showed up at that same hospital in a tuxedo because he left an important event to make sure my sister and I were ok, given what had just happened to our dad.
I work in a place where two students with Down’s Syndrome have been named Homecoming king. One of their happiest moments and one of our students as well.
I work with people, teachers, administrators, facility managers and coaches whose main goal is to get one another and the students in our building to Heaven.
That my friends are pretty awesome, I’d say…
I work in a place where we hold private graduations for families who have a parent who is gravely ill and can’t make it to a public ceremony as big as a graduation.
Yes, it’s a pretty awesome place.
I also work in a place where teachers get there early and leave late to help kids with their school work or to talk to them about life. Or they hold study sessions at Panera or have guest speakers come in and talk to them about chasing their dream and finding their passion or how to have a side hustle that will make them some money. Or they host a special prayer service or rosary for someone in our community in need.
It’s hard to believe I work in such an awesome place with such awesome people.
I’m not going to tell you that we are perfect. Is anyone or anything? I think not. We are human beings and we make mistakes. We don’t do everything right. But, man oh man…I work with people who try. And those are the kind of people I want to surround myself with.
I was reminded of just how awesome St. James is most recently when a member of our staff and her daughter, a former member of our staff suffered a tragic loss. A loss unimaginable and unbearable to all. I work in a place that “employed” these people and taught several of their kids. I work in a place where they canceled school the day of the funeral so that our staff and students could be there for their co-worker, fellow student, and friends.
Not many schools would do that. My school did so without hesitation.
I work in a place where practice starts and ends in prayer and where it’s ok and even encouraged to talk to kids about their lives and their struggles.
I work in a place where in the darkest of times and the most challenging of times we do what needs to be done and we pick each other up, dust each other off and keep working to make the best of a tough situation.
I’d say…that is the very definition of awesome. I’m not writing this to suggest we are any better than anyone else. I am only writing this because I am asked this on a regular basis and I often feel like I don’t have the right answer and I think best in writing. I am writing this because I really believe I work in a special place with special people.
I am writing this because I celebrate awesome…and St. James is pretty darn awesome!