Like mother, like daughter - two teachers at St. John the Apostle School
Anna Marie Rice said teaching has always been her vocation, and 19 of her 27 years as an educator have been in Catholic classrooms. She acknowledged that public schools pay more, but “my heart is being able to pray with my students, study the Bible, go to Mass, and celebrate the sacraments and the beauty of our faith. I truly feel like this has always been my calling, to teach in Catholic education.”
Ditto for her daughter, Chloe Rice.
The two women teach at St. John the Apostle School in North Richland Hills. Anna Marie is in her seventh year at St. John the Apostle and teaches fourth grade.
Chloe, who loves her kindergartners, is in her third year of teaching, unless you count the years she played school with her little sister. Her mom remembers watching Chloe prop up her baby sister with pillows to create an attentive pupil. Chloe was an effective teacher even as a child, because her sister learned to read by age four.
Teaching at the same school as her daughter is “just the best,” said Anna Marie. “It’s just a gift to be here, to teach with her.” She said seeing Chloe in action, leading a class to recess or stopping to tie a shoe “makes her heart swell.”
Witnessing her daughter at work completes the circle for the proud mother. Anna Marie said, “Everything you did [as a parent] to help them will help someone else.”
Their dual relationship as colleagues and mother/daughter is mutually beneficial.
Chloe’s enthusiasm spills over to the veteran teacher. The excitement Chloe demonstrates as she organizes her classroom and prepares lessons is contagious, renewing her mother’s zest for teaching.
And Chloe appreciates her mother’s support and advice, particularly in her first year when her mom assisted with planning, suggested activities, and shared classroom décor.
As special as it is to teach in the same school, the women most appreciate the opportunity to weave faith into their day.
Chloe said that kindergarteners use Jesus as their example as they learn how to be good listeners and how to treat one another with love and respect. Taking time to pray is always appropriate, and Chloe delights in watching her young students make the Sign of the Cross, bow their heads, and close their eyes for a short prayer when faced with a challenge.
Chloe said Catholic education benefits even the youngest students. “They really get to know what it means to be Catholic — learning about Jesus and how Jesus shared and how He cares for us and how He loves us, and how they can share Jesus’ love with others.”
Fourth grade students, according to Anna Marie, are ready for lessons on how to share Jesus’ love with others through service. The parish has an active outreach program, and her students helped collect, sort, and distribute food, clothing, and baby items to clients before the pandemic limited their interactions.
The community service opens the students’ eyes and hearts. Anna Marie told her students, “We’re doing what Jesus asked us to do. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they came from, we’re doing what He asked us to do. To lend a hand.”
Anna Marie “uses every opportunity to bring God into the curriculum,” even if it’s just to pause and say a prayer of thanksgiving for a beautiful tree. She can’t imagine going an hour without a prayer or a mention of God.
Academics are important, she said, but “My number one goal is to reach them spiritually and to help them grow in their faith walk. I ask my students, ‘Why are we here? To help each other get to heaven.’”