Linda Simko is no stranger to Catholic schools. She attended grade school at St. Rita in West Allis, Pius XI High School and Marquette University. After graduation, she received a job at Christ King School in Wauwatosa. She has taught there for 36 years, while remaining active at her parish and in other service activities. She teaches middle school literature.
What drew you to Christ King?
Sr. Marie de Lourdes (the former principal at Christ King) called me, and I actually wanted a high school job. I turned her down twice. My dad was on the phone one day, and he said, “It’s that principal again. You’re going to graduate Saturday, you’re going off my insurance and I just think maybe you better think about this one.” So I walked in and I felt right at home right away. It was a very strange thing. It just seemed like I was meant to be here. Sr. de Lourdes was so wonderful and it’s such a beautiful school and I thought, “Just stay here for a while, cut my teeth and then see to move on.” As fate would have it, I’ve just stayed here.
Why is it important for you to teach at a Catholic school?
I can’t divest my curriculum from my faith. I think the study of literature and expressing yourself through writing is tied in with basic morality and psychology and time and history and what makes people tick, and how we can become better people through literature. It’s so crucial to be able then to apply my faith to those stories, to draw stories of faith and present them to my students without restriction, without hindrance. And application to my faith is very important to me. I think if I went to public school, I’d get fired in like a week. Because I couldn’t not say Jesus or God, or something to that effect and bring not just morality, but faith into the subject area.
What drew you to teaching?
I always wanted to be a teacher. I think that’s something you hear from all teachers. I used to play classroom and I wanted a little mini-chalkboard for my room. When I’d study, my go-to method was to teach my dogs so I could study better. I felt called to it. I think it was just always there.
Your faith is intertwined with your job, but how else does faith play a role in your life?
It’s played a definite role in myself as a wife and a mother. But also it connected me to my parish. I started teaching religious education on Sundays and, because of that, I became close to our pastor, who then invited me to be on parish council, which I was for a while. Then, because we started to see (St. Kilian) have a need for marketing and development, I joined the development committee and the endowment committee and I did that for a number of years. Last year through my parish, I started working with the Read to Succeed program through Casa Guadalupe in Hartford. I did that for a year, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with middle school students while their parents took English lessons. Now I do aftercare (at Christ King). I wanted to get to know our little ones better, so I thought I’d do that instead.
When you’re not at school and you’re not grading, what do you like to do in your free time?
I love to garden. Get my hands nice and dirty, dive into God’s earth. But I also write a novel for our school auction. Over the summer I spend my time researching and writing. Usually it will run about 14, 15 chapters; it’s a hundred and some pages usually. I really enjoy doing that. Writing, re-writing, thinking, crafting a story — that takes a lot of my time.
What fictional place would you most like to visit?
I would love to go back to Shakespearean England. I know that’s not fictional, but just the world of characters like Hamlet and those kind of historical kingdoms that were created in his literature. I would love to just soak it all in.
Do you teach Shakespeare?
We just got through with Hamlet and Othello. It’s my favorite. Of all of the things that I teach, I love Hamlet.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
A morning person. Obnoxiously so. In my family, that’s just not a thing (laughs). I’m lonely in the mornings. My family can be around me, but it’s my perkiness. I think that can really gets on people’s nerves.
What is your favorite day of the year?
Thanksgiving. Hands down, Thanksgiving. There’s a lull in that day, right before family gets together and right after all the preparations have been made, where I just sit in my family room and I just smell and listen. It’s the one holiday where the only gift you give each other is gratitude and you count your blessings. There’s no expectations. It’s just pure gratitude.
Why have you stayed at Christ King?
It’s not just a school; it’s a family. The thing that impresses me the most is there’s such a passionate attitude toward the children’s education. Not just that it’s an education, but it’s a faith-filled education. In times of great need and sorrow, I’ve never seen people come together in support of each other like they do at Christ King. I think just spending over half of my life here, it’s not a job. I think it goes even beyond a service. It’s family to me. It’s just as much a part of the family I go home to at night. And now I have kids of kids, so I feel kind of like the grandma of the school in a way (laughs). It’s just the total package for a teacher. You’re able to talk about God freely, openly, and apply that to every bit of your curriculum and nurture these children over decades. I can’t think of anything more of a blessing than that.