Why I've Chosen Catholic Education for my Career

Sometimes you choose a career and sometimes your career chooses you.   

Over the Christmas break, do yourself a favor and watch some of Netflix's The Chef's Table.  One of my favorite episodes is that of Massimo Bottura, considered to be one of the finest chefs in the world.  

Massimo "found himself" through food.  It's as if he can't imagine his life without the art and gift of cooking.  It's part of who he is and the reason why he once said, "I am Massimo Bottura. I close my eyes and I want to understand where I am, cooking is about emotion, it's about culture, it's about love, it's about memory."

How about you?  

It’s about culture, it’s about love, it’s about memory...
— Massimo Bottura

Can you say these same things about your career?  Is there passion behind what you do?  Does it animate your heart and mind as you wake up each day?

Chef Massimo Bottura

Chef Massimo Bottura

For me, it's not as if I chose Catholic education.  Rather, it found me.  My wife will tell you that when I started working in a school, I became happier.  She told me in 1998, "You're happier now.  Maybe it's the bells that ring all day long."  

Whatever it was back in the early days, it's stuck.  I've been a teacher, a curriculum supervisor and ultimately an administrator.  Each role has stretched me and taught me something profound.   Each role provided me  with wonderful mentors who brought me along and challenged me to "be more" for kids and for my peers.  

Each mentor showed me servant leadership which would ultimately become my calling card.

Catholic education has a proven trackrecord.  I often tell parents that Catholic education "works" partly because strong families produce strong children.  The University of Notre Dame, considered to the torchbearer of Catholic education, articulates some of the other details about how and why Catholic education is so effective:

  • The achievement gap is smaller in faith-based schools (Jeynes, 2007; Marks & Lee, 1989).
  • Students in Catholic and other private schools demonstrate higher academic achievement than students from similar backgrounds in public schools (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Greeley, 1982; Sander, 1996).
  • Latino and African American students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to graduate from college than their public school peers (Benson, Yeager, Guerra, & Manno, 1986; Evans & Schwab, 1995; Neal, 1997; Sander & Krautman, 1995).
  • The poorer and more at-risk a student is, the greater the relative achievement gains in Catholic schools (York, 1996).
  • Graduates of Catholic high schools are more likely to vote than public school graduates (Dee, 2005).
  • Graduates of Catholic schools are likely to earn higher wages than public school graduates (Hoxby, 1994; Neal, 1997).
  • Catholic schools tend to produce graduates who are more civically engaged, more tolerant for diverse views, and more committed to service as adults (Campbell, 2001; Greeley & Rossi, 1966; Greene, 1998; Wolf, Greene, Kleitz, & Thalhammer, 2001).  (Source: UND)

All of this might convince a person to pursue a career in Catholic education.  For me, I never entered education because of statistics or academic findings.  I chose it because it spoke to me and gave me an environment where maybe, if I stuck with it, I could make a difference.

That's my hope for you and your career- that you find something that resonates with you and that you find a space to truly impact the world.