By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 16, 2012
Students line up to have their work checked by paraprofessional Sue Schendl as she encourages the youngsters in their assignment. Her smile is contagious as the students return to their desks smiling and determined to finish their work.
Schendl became involved in Catholic education to continue the tradition that formed her as a young woman, as she saw the benefits of a strong academic and spiritually encouraging program.
She initially began working as a substitute teacher at St. Catherine of Siena in 2005 and, for the last six years, has been working full-time as a paraprofessional, becoming directly involved in the process of educating the youth of the archdiocese.
Originally from Parma, Ohio, Schendl moved to Georgia with her family when she was about 12 years old. She is an alumna of St. Pius X High School, Atlanta, and St. Joseph School, Marietta, where she is now a parishioner with her children and her husband, John.
The respect for Catholic education was first displayed by Schendl’s parents, who firmly believed in its importance as well. The sacrifices her parents made for her Catholic education left an indelible mark on her, and she makes the same sacrifices for her children today.
Currently, three of her four children are attending St. Catherine of Siena, and her oldest is preparing to graduate from Blessed Trinity High School later this year.
She feels the freedom to openly express one’s faith in the school setting is something that sets Catholic schools apart from other avenues of education.
“The number one difference is that you can talk about God. You can pray for people. You can live your faith and not be afraid that you are going to be censored or get in trouble for what you believe,” she said. “That freedom is something that sticks out as a difference.”
“Once you move beyond the faith aspect of Catholic education, you get into the academics,” which are very strong, she said. Catholics schools do an excellent job of preparing students for high school and college with the challenging and rigorous academic programs, she said.
While teaching was not something she envisioned herself doing when she was younger, as her college degree in business shows, she believes educating youngsters was always important. For several years she taught in parish school of religion programs, and eventually realized that she could not play as prominent a role in her children’s lives if she continued a career in the business field.
“I was set to work in the business world,” she said. “I knew that I couldn’t be there like I wanted to be for my kids if I stayed in the business world. It was just too demanding.”
While Schendl knows that it is the collaboration of people that makes Catholic education successful, she was humbled by the recognition of her school and fellow educators at this year’s education banquet.
“It was such an honor. I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said of the banquet. “It makes you feel very important. … And to be voted by your peers is very humbling, because all of them here have taught me so much.”