Called to Teach: S. Mary Alice Haithcoat’s Dedicated Education Ministry
By Erin Reder
S. Mary Alice Haithcoat’s first love is teaching. The gentle kindness and joy that she guides her second graders with can be traced back to her parents’ deep faith and the many teachers she has been inspired by throughout the years.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, S. Mary Alice fondly remembers picnics after Mass when she was a little girl. Her parents stressed the importance of faith early on by making Sunday the most special day in their household, reflecting on the Masses they attended while enjoying time together.
She first was introduced to religious life with the Sisters of Mercy at St. Cecilia grade school and then with the Sisters of Charity at St. Mary/Marian High School. “I had some great teachers who really impressed me, including Sisters Joan Deiters and Mary Lucia Dudzinski,” she reflects. “They made learning very interesting, as well as fun.” It was their example and her parents’ focus on faith that planted and nurtured the seeds of a religious vocation; S. Mary Alice entered the Community on Aug. 28, 1966.
For as long as she can remember S. Mary Alice says she knew she wanted to be a teacher. She began her education ministry teaching at Holy Angels in Sidney, Ohio, and then St. Mary in Greenville, Ohio, where she also served as principal (1984-1993). In 1993 she came to Piqua Catholic School in Piqua, Ohio, and has spent nearly three decades ministering at the school in various roles.
“I love teaching children,” she says. “My students energize me and give me new life each day. Their laughter, smiles, spirit, and love are contagious.” Currently Sister teaches second grade and says it is a gift to teach the Sacraments and watch the children receive their First Communion. “It makes me feel like a proud parent,” she says. “Since I have been here so long, I am teaching grandchildren and children of my former students. It is wonderful now seeing them as faith-filled adults sending their children to Piqua Catholic.”
Throughout her 50-plus years in education, S. Mary Alice has seen numerous changes. Family life, technology, society, and the media have presented challenges at times. Most recently she found herself teaching during a pandemic, and having to develop new ways to engage her students while learning from home and online. Google classroom, Screencastify and Zoom were all added to her teaching repertoire in 2020. And while technology can provide its challenges, she is grateful to her fellow teachers and principal who have all been helpful.
S. Mary Alice has always appreciated the guidance and example of her former teachers and co-workers. She is particularly grateful for the leadership of S. Joan Clare Stewart, her former principal at St. Mary in Greenville. “She was a wonderful model of Christian leadership,” remembers Sister. “Her compassion, patience, and prayerfulness were a part of her everyday life. Joan Clare led by word and example. She also was a great teacher and the students really enjoyed and respected her.”
The dedication and hard work of principals and teachers also brings to mind Sisters of Charity founder, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Elizabeth’s ability to meet challenges with dignity and her love of God and neighbor provide an example S. Mary Alice chooses to follow in her own ministry and life as a Sister of Charity.
Like many Sisters of Charity before her, S. Mary Alice Haithcoat was called to teach. Her love for and commitment to her students has provided them with the guidance, support and inspiration needed to live lives as faithful disciples of Jesus. As a gentle mentor, S. Mary Alice has continued the legacy of Charity as she not only teaches her lessons but touches her students’ hearts and persons.