St. An­thony’s Prin­ci­pal Still Pas­sion­ate About Catholic Ed­u­ca­tion

Escalon Times - - LIVING - By MON­ICA CANE 209 cor­re­spon­dent

St. An­thony’s Catholic School Prin­ci­pal Mary Lou Hoff­man started her Catholic ed­u­ca­tion ca­reer as a teacher for St. Luke’s Catholic School in Stock­ton and was there for 16 years.

She then went on to teach another nine years at St. Mary’s School in Wal­nut Creek. While she loved her work as a Catholic ed­u­ca­tor and adored her stu­dents, af­ter awhile the long com­mute be­gan to take a toll.

“At first the com­mute was okay,” she said. “It was about an hour and fif­teen min­utes each way and it gave me time to think and pray but then the com­mute got worse. Traf­fic was hor­ren­dous and it just wasn’t fun any­more.”

When a po­si­tion for prin­ci­pal of Man­teca’s St. An­thony School sud­denly opened up, Hoff­man wasn’t en­tirely sure if she was ready to make the tran­si­tion from teacher to prin­ci­pal but de­cided to ap­ply. To her sur­prise she was of­fered the

po­si­tion which brought her great re­lief in re­gards to no longer hav­ing to com­mute but also brought great con­cern as to her new role as prin­ci­pal.

“I had many tears in the be­gin­ning be­cause I felt like I didn’t know what I was do­ing,” Hoff­man said. “I re­mem­ber sit­ting on the floor cry­ing won­der­ing what I had got­ten my­self into.”

Hoff­man may have felt like she didn’t know what she was do­ing but she be­lieved that God did and there­fore prayed for guid­ance and God an­swered. “I just prayed re­ally hard and God di­rected me.”

The an­swer to her prayers led Hoff­man to “take the bull by the horns” so to speak and en­roll in a Mas­ters pro­gram for pri­vate school ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco. Through the pro­gram and sup­port of her fam­ily, Hoff­man gained the skills and con­fi­dence needed to be a strong leader for the teach­ers and stu­dents of St. An­thony’s School for the past 11 years.

While be­liev­ing ed­u­ca­tion in gen­eral is very ben­e­fi­cial, Hoff­man be­lieves that the ad­van­tage of Catholic ed­u­ca­tion is the free­dom there is for teach­ers to in­still faith in their stu­dents by talk­ing about God, al­low­ing stu­dents to ex­press their faith as well as pray­ing with the chil­dren for their needs.

“In this day and age it’s re­ally im­por­tant for chil­dren have that type of foun­da­tion, a ba­sic love of God and of their church (along with their ed­u­ca­tion),” she noted.

Another ad­van­tage of Catholic ed­u­ca­tion for teach­ers is that they are typ­i­cally not re­quired to teach things to stu­dents that are con­tra­dic­tory to their per­sonal be­liefs as may be the case with other teach­ers, in other schools.

When it comes to faith ed­u­ca­tion Hoff­man said, “I think what we are re­quired to teach is just com­mon sense and ba­sic. We start out sim­ple with the lit­tle ones and then go into more depth as they get older. There’s no con­flict or con­tra­dic­tion. It’s just the doc­trine in the church and it all falls in line.”

Hoff­man re­calls that dur­ing her ele­men­tary and high school years, get­ting a good Catholic ed­u­ca­tion not only es­tab­lished a strong foun­da­tion but was af­ford­able as most of the teach­ers were re­li­gious teach­ers verses lay teach­ers as is to­day.

“To­day we have all lay teach­ers with B.A. de­grees and Mas­ters, which is won­der­ful but it makes the tu­ition cost for Catholic ed­u­ca­tion much higher than be­fore,” she said.

St. An­thony’s does of­fer a tu­ition as­sis­tance pro­gram and schol­ar­ships for stu­dents in or­der to help with the fi­nan­cial as­pect while teach­ers fo­cus on help­ing stu­dents grow men­tally, emo­tion­ally and spir­i­tual through their ed­u­ca­tion and with Catholic val­ues.

“I think be­ing a catholic to­day you have to be strong in your faith, you have to un­der­stand your faith and you have to fol­low the rules of the church,” Hoff­man pointed out. “I think for the younger gen­er­a­tion that’s prob­a­bly very dif­fi­cult be­cause so­ci­ety has changed so much over the years. Their views are dif­fer­ent and their mo­rals and stan­dards are dif­fer­ent. I’m from the old school and so I be­lieve in dis­ci­pline, struc­ture. I be­lieve that your faith and fam­ily should be your num­ber one pri­or­ity”

It’s these pri­or­i­ties of faith and fam­ily along with ed­u­ca­tion that the staff hope to in­still in all of their preschool through eighth grade stu­dents.

“If we can make an im­pres­sion or help just one stu­dent over that hump, then we’ve ac­com­plished a lot,” Hoff­man said.

Although ad­mit­ting she is old school Hoff­man is def­i­nitely in touch with new school tech­nol­ogy such as Face­book which al­lows her to keep up with St. An­thony’s grad­u­ates.

“Face­book is a great way to keep in touch with our grad­u­ates. They let us know how they are do­ing and how they are still grounded in their faith.”

Rec­og­niz­ing that even stu­dents who have re­ceived a catholic ed­u­ca­tion veer and ex­plore dif­fer­ent venues at times, Hoff­man has wit­nessed first­hand how the qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and faith foun­da­tion stu­dents re­ceived at St. An­thony’s re­mains in their heart and causes them to find their way back soon enough.

“Many of our grad­u­ates now have chil­dren go­ing here and that lets us know that we’ve done some­thing right over the years” she said.

The value of Catholic ed­u­ca­tion runs deep in Hoff­man’s fam­ily as her daugh­ter who taught at St. An­thony’s School for three years now teaches at Pre­sen­ta­tion School in Stock­ton and her daugh­ter-in­law and grand­daugh­ter also hold po­si­tions in catholic schools as well.

Prin­ci­pal Hoff­man in­vites par­ents to learn more about the school by at­tend­ing Open House dur­ing Catholic School Week which is held the last Sun­day of Jan­uary through first week of Fe­bru­ary in ad­di­tion to vis­it­ing the school web­site at www.sas­man­teca.org or stop­ping by the school of­fice any time at 323 N. Fre­mont Ave. in Man­teca.

MON­ICA CANE/209 PHOTO

St. An­thony’s Prin­ci­pal Mary Lou Hoff­man.

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