She’s in a class all her own

By Sean Schultz | For The Compass | August 27, 2014

As school year begins, Kelly begins second decade of volunteering at Resurrection School

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]ALLOUEZ — A decade’s worth of first graders at Resurrection School agrees: Pat Kelly is a classroom gem. She’s been their “writers’ workshop” guide in Jodi Sullivan’s class for the past 10 years and is about to launch into Year 11.

Your Catholic Neighbor: RoseMarie (Pat) Kelly (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: RoseMarie (Pat) Kelly (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

She is definitely experienced in working with children. Not only in the 10 years of first graders who have sat with Kelly while she guided them in the skill of writing, but also by raising her own family of eight children. She had four children in her first four years of marriage. “I don’t advise that,” she said with a smile.

Three of her children live in Green Bay; one in Milwaukee and Peshtigo and one each in New Jersey, Minnesota and Nevada. Today she counts with pride 22 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Kelly, who will turn 89 shortly after the 2014-2015 school year begins Sept. 2, handles the little ones gently, yet firmly, as she guides them through writers’ workshop sessions twice a week. She credits first grade teacher Sullivan with prepping them, not just in language skills but in respect.

“They are so appreciative of the time given to them,” Kelly noted. She spends one hour twice a week in their classroom. “You have to think the way a child might think to pull out their ideas,” she said. “I’m totally out of myself for that hour.”

Sullivan, who has taught at Resurrection since 1999, said her students eagerly await Kelly’s arrival, spotting her coming down the hallway and telling their teacher, “She’s here!”

“The kids are supposed to come with a topic that they want to write about,” Kelly explained. “I ask questions to stimulate them. You have to have an imagination to do this job.”

She won’t settle for a simple “I went to the beach.” She tells them, “How would you like to hear this story? It needs more.”

Kelly said she enjoys the age level of first graders “because their lives aren’t complicated.” Her job is to draw upon the children’s imagination, experience and creativity and she is rarely disappointed. “I help them with their ideas, writing complete sentences, and I do some editing and check on their spelling,” Kelly said.

Sullivan said her students “light up with ideas” under Kelly’s tutelage. And their abilities flourish. “At the start of the year, they go from barely writing sentences to writing pages” by the end of the school year.

Kelly turned to school volunteering after her husband, Paul, died in 2002. He formerly owned the Bond Pickle Factory in Oconto, she said. Before coming to Resurrection School, she did math tutoring at Green Bay Preble High School and volunteered at St. Vincent Hospital. Then she called Resurrection to inquire if a teacher needed help. The bond began.

She and Sullivan have an excellent working relationship. “She’s a darling girl and I like her a lot,” Kelly said of Sullivan. “She preps them to be appreciative and mannerly.”

Kelly reflects on her own children and knows they didn’t get this one-on-one attention when they were in elementary school. “This is payback for me. Mine didn’t all get this kind of help.” In fact, Kelly recalled one daughter who needed help with homework, saying to her, “Mom, you’re so busy I hate to ask you.” Kelly remembered that “I felt terrible” hearing those words.

Her own children, now ranging in age from 67 to 53, began their school careers at St. Matthew Church in Allouez, but transferred to Resurrection as soon as the school opened in 1963, when her fifth child was in school, now 51 years ago. The Kellys were one of the parish’s charter families.

Last year, when Resurrection was celebrating its 50th jubilee, the founding families were featured. Kelly, who came to the event alone, was touched when one of her former writers, then a fourth grader, took her hand and walked up the aisle with her at church so she wouldn’t have to go alone.

She is a role model to the children for living life as a faithful Catholic. They see her at Mass every Sunday and know that she prays. When she misplaces or loses something, as she did an earring not long ago, they are apt to hear her beseech her favorite, St. Anthony, with these words: “Tony, Tony, please come around! Something’s been misplaced and can’t be found.”

“I call on him a lot,” said Kelly, who worries that young Catholics are falling away from the church. “I raised all of my children to be Catholics, but I recognize the struggles in the church today and I worry about it,” she added.

She calls Pope Francis “a revelation” and noted that while many things in the church could be changed for the better, “he won’t be able to do it all.”

But Kelly does her part by guiding the little first graders she has come to love.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: RoseMarie (Pat) Kelly

Parish: Resurrection, Allouez

Age: 88

Favorite saint: Anthony of Padua

Words to live by: “I ask Jesus, ‘Hold my hand during the day.’” (From a reading in “Jesus Calling,” a devotional by Sarah Young.)



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