Jacob’s current teachers are getting ripped off. PolacheckTraining Wheels, Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck, Special to Parenting

When Jacob was little, at St. Monica School, I was a conscientious parent volunteer. Need help guiding the kids to glue down cotton balls in the shape of the letter “C”? I’m there for you. Trip to the pumpkin farm? No problem.

I read to the kids in the library and poured them juice at snack time. I wiped down kindergarten tables and escorted them to computer class. And each time I visited the classroom to help, I thanked Jacob’s teachers for all they were doing. Usually, I left exhausted after my two hours of helping out, which only built my appreciation for what these teachers were working on six hours a day, every day. This led to appreciative notes and sometimes, original poetry, honoring the teacher.

But now that Jacob’s in high school, I am a parent slacker. Some of this is because I’m now working more than I was when he was tiny; some of it is because we have two more children than we had when he was in kindergarten. But most of it is because I would be no help at all in Jacob’s current classrooms. I can imagine the conversation with Jacob’s pre-calculus teacher.

“Hi, Mrs. Supanich. I’m here to volunteer in the classroom.”

“Great. Why don’t you go over to that small group and explain the derivative as the slope of a curve?”

“Um. Don’t you need any help gluing? I’m better with gluing. I’ll look around for some construction paper.”

The faculty at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay is beyond outstanding and I hardly ever tell them that. Somehow, they are managing to provide Jacob with an extremely academically rigorous education while at the same time keeping him grounded in his faith.

Dominican’s faculty is turning our son into a smart, confident, value-based young man, and Bill and I are helping with this how?

Not with academic support, that’s for sure. Jacob said he now thinks in Spanish when he’s in that class, while I can barely pronounce my order at a Mexican restaurant.

Hearing him explain a physics assignment on the phone to a friend makes me aware that, really, I have no idea how gravity works, and perhaps I should be alarmed by this, since I use gravity on virtually a daily basis.

Catholic Schools Week always brings me to different versions of the same emotion: gratitude. I am so thankful for these Catholic schools we have chosen for our children. I am thankful for the academic rigor they provide, but I am even more thankful for the focus on prayer and faith that underlies the curriculum.

When Jacob was in preschool, my husband and I diligently did our research in choosing an elementary school for him. We toured schools; we looked at test scores; we asked about curriculum. But I clearly remember the day we decided on St. Monica School for Jacob.

A friend of mine, whose twin daughters attended the school, was talking about St. Monica’s junior kindergarten teacher and said simply, “In Mrs. K’s classroom, my girls knew they were loved.” We registered Jacob the next day.

The idea that Jacob would be loved won us over. It still wins us over; it’s why we chose Dominican, too.

Parents we knew with children at Dominican didn’t tell us Jacob would be loved. Instead, they told us that Jacob would be known at Dominican. They explained that the school was small and the faculty tight, and that as each child is educated there, the faculty truly gets to know the child. And knowing the child brings out who that child is called to be.

But it sounded to us that if Jacob would be known at Dominican, he’d likely be loved as well. And he has been.

Underneath the slope of a curve, inside the reasons leading up to the Civil War, within the conjugations of verbs, and beneath the chemical formulas, there is love. The parents I talked to were right, and the love at Dominican has its basis in how well the faculty knows each child.

So, Dominican faculty, thank you for all you do for Jacob, and for all Dominican students. Thanks for table tennis club at lunch and dodge ball at halftime games.

Thank you for your leadership at liturgies, for making retreats with the students, for being unafraid to help adolescents see both history and current events through the lens of faith. Thank you for your dedication to academics, your attention to detail, your high standards. Thanks for teaching Jacob all those things we can’t teach him ourselves.

And if you ever need help gluing cotton balls or pouring juice, don’t hesitate to call.

(Scobey-Polacheck, her husband Bill and their children, Jacob, Liam, Teenasia and Jamie, belong to St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Milwaukee and St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay. E-mail her at ascobey@hotmail.com.)