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Episode Two: “Not a terrific 7th grade teacher”

In which a young teacher learns and grows

Young Sister Mary Paul McCaughey may have thought she had this teaching thing down pat...

though she never says this directly. She was fresh off her big success with the fifth graders at St. Dominic School in Quincy, Ill., and heading to a 7th grade classroom at Holy Angels School, Aurora, Ill., for her first ministry transfer.

Not a problem.

That is, until it was.

“I was not a terrific 7th grade teacher,” she admits, and, when pressed, admits to the struggle. “I assumed they were more mature than they were. I learned from that. It was a good and humbling experience to know that your skill and craft as a teacher has to keep growing.”

That important lesson became a foundation for the rest of Sister Mary Paul’s ministerial journey and a key to successful future ministries, including her current one. Now she passes on that and other lessons-from-experience to her students at DePaul University, where she is coordinator of the Catholic Educational Leadership program in the College of Education.

“Grace and punting”

She describes leading for mission as “an art and science,” and admits candidly it also requires a lot of “grace and punting” to encourage leadership and transformational change in others who then go on to change the world.

When asked who awakened the leadership capabilities in her, Sister Mary Paul has a long list—and a great story.


“I was completely shy—a dork”


The shy dork

“I was completely shy—a dork” she says. Nevertheless, this shy dork was—inexplicably, she claims—elected homeroom rep her freshman year at Marian Catholic High School. That was the beginning. The sisters were great mentors, very nurturing, she says, naming Sister Thomas Aquinas, Sister Mary Blaise, Sister M. Antonette, Sister M. David, and Sister M. Gael, who never looked over her shoulder but allowed her to develop her own skills in her own way.

Like Sister Mary Paul, you have your own story of growth and leadership. Can you identify it?

Enjoy more of Sister Mary Paul's story...

If you enjoy following Sister Mary Paul's story and want to help deepen the impact of her mission and that of so many other Springfield Dominican Sisters, please consider a gift to our spring appeal. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Episode Two: “Not a terrific 7th grade teacher””

  1. DONNA LAMOUREUX

    I’m loving the pictures and stories from my friend, Sister Mary Paul….thanks for sharing her journey with all! God bless SMP and all of my beloved Springfield Dominicans, especially during this health crisis.
    Love,
    Donna Lamoureux

  2. Barbara Fuhrwerk

    I was the first principal of St. Dominic School from 1963-1969. We started on shaky ground as the school itself was not finished when the first classes arrived. By the time we had our first 8th grade class, and with the help of very fine parents, we made a name for ourselves in the city.

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