Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Charleen Klister teaches an 11th-grade American Literature class at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta. Klister, who is in her 50th year as an educator, also teaches a writing class.


Dedicated Pius Teacher Shares Love Of Reading

By STEPHEN O'KANE | Published February 14, 2013

ATLANTA—St. Pius X High School English teacher Charleen Klister has had a love of reading ever since she was a young girl growing up in De Pere, Wis.

“I don’t remember life before I could read,” she said, smiling.

Through her literature and writing classes, Klister brings this love of reading to students at St. Pius, and has been doing so as a member of the English faculty for 50 years. She has taught parents, their children, and groups of siblings over the decades and still remains as dedicated to her work as she was on her first day.

For Klister, reading provides valuable lessons in education and in life. Reading allows students to experience different perspectives by looking at the world through the eyes of a particular author or character, she said.

“I want my kids to be able to see the world through their own eyes, but I want them to be able to see it through the eyes of other people, too,” she said. While there is always a focus on the author and the style of writing, there is also the importance of understanding what the author is trying to convey to readers, she said.

Reading also helps students in their own writing endeavors, providing a guide for youngsters to explore themselves.

“I want to help them find their voice,” she said, adding that writing is a special tool for both communication and expression. “To put things into words that represent what you are really thinking and feeling and get that across to another human being? … It’s magic.”

Over the years Klister said the students have remained much the same; they are curious, creative and want to express themselves and explore their imaginations. But now more than ever, kids face a number of distractions, said Klister. With all of the things fighting for a teen’s attention, the urge to pick up a book and sit down for a few minutes or hours to read might not seem as interesting or exciting as it once was. That makes her job all the more important.

“I wish everyone could love to read the way that I do. There is such a pleasure in it. It expands your world,” she said.

Reading was something that was very important to Klister and her family growing up. Her father went to school until the eighth grade but never stopped reading and learning. Education was highly valued, she said.

“It was like breathing,” she said.

Klister hopes that her love for reading and writing is passed along to her students, much as it was passed along to her. The written word can provide an excellent exercise in discovering truth about oneself and the world around you, she said. Even when reading texts that may be considered secular, Klister finds that helping students recognize truth in stories can help their faith lives as well.

“All truth points back to God,” she said. “God is everywhere.”

Klister was the chosen honoree from St. Pius X High School for the 2013 Archdiocese of Atlanta education banquet. And as she reflects on her more than five decades of teaching, Klister recognizes the gift of being able to teach so many students.

“I’m blessed to be able to do what I love to do: teach stories to teenagers and help them find their voice when they write,” she said.