Sr. Sophie had been Mara’s high school literature teacher, so it was only logical that she would be one of the first people Mara called to share the good news when her publisher offered her a book contract.
A Shakespeare scholar and poet, the religious sister had worked tirelessly to instill in her students a love for language, and her yearly Christmas poem had been the inspiration for much of Mara’s poetry as well as encouraging her to begin writing a yearly Christmas poem of her own.
Mara realized how difficult it must have been for Sr. Sophie to stand before students who were often there only because English literature was a mandatory class, trying to help them to understand and appreciate the gift of literature, even as she saw their eyes glaze over. Mara wanted her to know that the seed she had scattered had indeed taken root and yielded fruit and to share with her that she would probably never have aspired to be a writer if it had not been for her teacher’s encouragement. Jeanette is also a teacher, but her students are much younger. Jeanette teaches first grade and her students, even when COVID-19 forces them to attend class virtually, are like a bunch of little sponges, listening attentively to everything their teacher says. And because she knows the importance of first teachers, Jeanette works tirelessly, not only with the children, but also with their parents.
Not depending solely on the occasional video parent-teacher conference, Jeanette makes it a practice to keep the lines of communication open with comments on the children’s class work, notes on their progress and even the occasional phone call if something special needs to be discussed.
Jeanette believes in scattering seed beyond the classroom, even though she knows that she might never herself see the results of her efforts as the tiny plants grow to maturity.
In Mark’s Gospel, we hear Jesus tell the story of a man who scattered seed, even though he had no way of knowing how it would sprout and grow. Come to think of it, he might just as easily have been talking about a teacher.
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.