Teachers return to their old stomping ground

MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

American novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote “you can’t go home again,” but he never attended Resurrection Regional Catholic School in Rhawnhurst.

Six teachers in the school, who account for almost one-fourth of the faculty, graduated from the former Resurrection of Our Lord or Our Lady of Ransom, two neighboring grade schools that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia merged under the Resurrection roof in 2012. Two of the teachers joined the staff just this fall.

As a group, they agree that their reunion did not happen by chance. They attribute it to the legacy of family and community values that Resurrection and Ransom have long embraced.

“It’s very unusual,” said Annemarie Garvey, who is co-principal of Resurrection Regional along with Joan Stulz. “I used to do full-time staff development (for the Archdiocese) all around the city. You sometimes have one or two in a school, but six is highly unusual.”

Garvey and Stulz don’t specifically seek out alumni to fill faculty job openings, but younger grads have been gravitating toward the school, which serves 444 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. There are 25 teachers on staff.

“It speaks to our sustainability in a sense in this day and age when many Catholic schools are fighting just to stay open,” Garvey said.

Teresa Lamberti, a third-grade teacher, is the senior faculty member among the alumni. She graduated from Our Lady of Ransom and taught there for 11 years before moving to Resurrection with the merger. Resurrection graduate Kate Holloran is in her 10th year as a kindergarten teacher at her alma mater.

Lauren Coleman teaches second grade and is in her third year at Resurrection. Casey McCann also teaches second grade and is in her second year at the school. Shane Dougherty (seventh grade) and Alexandra Sticco (first grade) are first-year teachers at Resurrection.

“I spent nine years here in school, so it’s like a second home to me,” McCann said. “And we have teachers here who taught me, so that’s really cool.”

As a teacher, “you kind of see the other side of things,” Coleman said. “You get to know them and have different conversations with them than you had when they were your teachers.”

Individually, the alumni teachers followed unique but sometimes overlapping paths before reuniting at Resurrection. Dougherty, the lone man in the group, graduated from Father Judge High School and Temple.

“I love Philadelphia and love this neighborhood, Rhawnhurst,” he said. “It was kind of weird at Temple not having religion around, so this was a welcome return for me.”

Lamberti, after finishing her studies at OLR, graduated from St. Hubert High School and Gwynedd-Mercy College. She earned her master’s degree from University of Phoenix. McCann also graduated from St. Hubert and earned her bachelor’s from Penn State. Her time away from home in small-town State College, Pennsylvania, reinforced her appreciation for her old Northeast Philly neighborhood.

“That was a whole new experience,” she said. “I did my student teaching up there, but I missed home. I know I made the right decision (to come back). I love it here. All of my friends and family are around. I have a sense of community here.”

Like Dougherty, Coleman stayed relatively local, attending Little Flower High School and Chestnut Hill College, where she’s now studying for a master’s degree. Sticco graduated from Nazareth Academy and West Chester University. She was in the minority among her college peers in seeking a career in parochial schools.

“At West Chester, with the public schools around, not many (students) were looking at Catholic schools,” said Sticco, who did her student teaching in Montgomery County at North Penn, one of the largest public districts in the state.

“After the first day (there), I told my parents I wanted to teach at a Catholic school,” she said.

Their salaries may be less than their public school counterparts, but these teachers say they earn in less tangible ways.

“There’s a sense of community. It’s like you all have the same belief system and you bond through that,” Coleman said.

“I’m originally from St. Martin parish (in Oxford Circle) and my family moved here in 2002,” Dougherty said. “This parish took me in. It’s so great to come back and give back to a place that gave so much to me.”

The teachers have a natural bond with their students, too. Sticco remembers how the annual May Procession was a big occasion when she was a student. As a teacher, Sticco wants to encourage more participation and grow the program. Similarly, Coleman would like to see the annual Spirit Day grow to its former glory.

Coleman and McCann were teammates on the Resurrection swim team and are now helping to coach the team. Dougherty wants to help the baseball team next spring because he helped start the program in his own playing days.

“I hit the first ever home run for ‘Reso’ baseball, but I also set the record for the most strikeouts,” he said.

Even on a casual basis, the teachers can inject their mature, yet familiar perspectives into class lessons and one-on-one conversations.

“I think the students hearing about your experiences (at Resurrection) is pretty neat, too,” McCann said.

Garvey expects those day-to-day interactions to have a lasting impact on the children and the institution.

ldquo;To have them come back here is an honor to our legacy,” Garvey said. “It’s a credit to the fact that this was their neighborhood school and they want to keep it going.” ••

MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

Hall pass: Resurrection of Our Lord teachers (from left) Alexandra Sticco, Lauren Coleman, Casey McCann, Teresa Lamberti and Shane Dougherty are alumni of their school. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO