By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Special to the Bulletin | Published February 8, 2018
TYRONE—During the solar eclipse last August, Colleen Hagert’s kindergarten and first-grade students at Our Lady of Victory School in Tyrone watched live on video in their classroom and modeled the phenomenon with a globe, ball and flashlight. They wrote essays and created artwork on the celestial occurrence and reflected with gratitude on God’s masterwork as the creator of the universe.
In her seven years at Our Lady of Victory, Hagert has striven to combine language arts with social studies and science whenever possible to create a more integrative, immersive learning experience for her eager young pupils.
“For the solar eclipse they were really interested, they just loved that,” said Hagert, who teaches a combined kindergarten and first-grade class.
“I’d say that has been a highlight this year to them and watching that was so fascinating, watching it on a screen. They were just in awe. We combine science with language arts so they are writing about it and experiencing it.”
And in seeing their remarkable progress through the school year, Hagert too is filled with a sense of wonder, faith and gratitude in living out the teaching vocation that she discovered in childhood.
“I just really enjoy the openness and eagerness the children bring to the class. They just want to learn everything,” she said. “I enjoy that it’s different every day and the enthusiasm they bring to the classroom.”
For her tireless, passionate work, Hagert was recognized as the OLV honoree at the Catholic Schools 11th Annual Archbishop’s Banquet for Catholic Education on Jan. 27. A teacher of more than 25 years, she first taught in her native Canada and later in Minnesota.
“I was very humbled and touched that I was recognized. It meant a lot to me that I was recognized for the work I do at OLV,” said Hagert, who became a U.S. citizen last fall.
“I think it inspires me to continue to work hard and continue to strive to find innovative teaching methods to meet the individual needs and learning styles of my students. I’m always looking for different ideas.”
Having served as an elementary catechist and middle school and fellowship volunteer at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Newnan, Hagert incorporates a faith dimension throughout the curriculum. And children are invited to share their own faith experiences, such as sibling baptisms.
With the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, “we spoke a lot about how Dr. King chose to live a life that was what Jesus asked us to, doing the right thing, speaking out for others, speaking out against what was wrong, how that was hard but the right thing to do. They really got that. And we tied that in to them. How is it hard for you sometimes to do the right things? What can you do and why is it important to make the right choice?” she said. “I try to tie into experiences that have happened to my children in the past, from my life. I can bring things to the classroom to help them understand. We tie Jesus into our day as often as we can.”
Hagert grew up in a “very strong Catholic home” where her parents instilled the importance of service. She attended Catholic school in Montreal before her family moved to Ontario where she attended public high school. Always knowing she wanted to work with children, by graduation she realized she wanted to be a teacher.
“My parents wanted me to do what makes me happy. We impressed that upon our daughters too. It’s not about taking a job where you might make the most money. It’s taking a job that would make you happy.”
Hagert moved to Georgia for her husband’s job at Northwest Airlines when it merged with Delta. At OLV, she has appreciated the nurturing community that draws 108 students from across the south side of Atlanta.
“Something I noticed the first time when I came to OLV is the warmth of the staff and how welcoming and helpful they were to me,” she said. “Because we are a smaller school and wear many hats, we are ready to support each other.”
Hagert’s colleagues selected her for the recognition.
“She’s a leader, positive, works well with us, gives input when needed, just overall a great employee, great colleague, a great teacher to have on staff,” said principal George Wilkerson. “She has a strong work ethic and above all is dedicated to her kids she has in the class. She works late, comes in on the weekends, does anything and everything for those kids.”