St. Mary’s Dominican High School Salutes Service

St. Mary’s Dominican High School personnel honored for their years of service, from left, April Myers, Dione Prince, Lucie Wyssmann, Katie Kirkwood, Casey Lefante, Theron Ferry, Kristen Bernard, Patrice Cooper, Martha Smith, Meg Womble, Sina Baldwin, Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas, and Julie Cristina. Not pictured: Jerry D’Aquin and Cathy Rice.

St. Mary’s Dominican High School honored faculty and staff for their years of service ranging from five to 40 years.

Recognized for 40 years of service was Julie Cristina (Science) and celebrating 30 years with the school was President Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas. Others honored for their tenure at Dominican were: Five Years: Jerry d’Aquin (Facilities), April Myers (Finance), Dione Prince (Counseling), and Lucie Wyssmann (Social Studies); Ten Years: Kristen Bernard (Math), Patrice Cooper (Facilities), Theron Ferry (Religion), Katie Kirkwood (Math), Casey Lefante (English), and Martha Smith (Facilities); 20 Years: Meg Womble (English); 25 Years: Sina Baldwin (Math) and Cathy Rice (Admissions/English).

Susan Finney, President Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas, Frank Cusimano, Karen Plauche and Principal Carolyn Favre.

For three retirees of St. Mary’s Dominican High School, the end of the school term marks the beginning of the next chapter in their lives. Religion teacher Frank Cusimano, Librarian Susan Finney, and Science teacher Karen Plauche represent 57 cumulative years of service at Dominican. They do not anticipate slowing their pace as they look forward to traveling, volunteering, and more family time, especially with grandchildren. They have special memories of their careers and advice for those who follow in their paths.

Cusimano taught US History and later Religion. He found most rewarding, “experiencing the students’ progress in learning the subject matter and applying that learning in their daily lives. It also was rewarding to teach students to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Making the subject matter come alive for the students was challenging and rewarding. Some of the happiest years of my life have been at Dominican. I have met and worked with some of the kindest and most helpful people one could ever meet, and thank everyone for their love and kindness. May God bless all with a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Dominican, for giving me the opportunity to teach.”

A fond memory is working for school President Dr. Cynthia A. Thomas, “a truly holy person, she is most personable and easy to approach about school and spiritual matters,” shared Cusimano. “I will always remember and cherish the friendships I made here. Dominican gave me the opportunity to realize my dream of teaching students about the love of God and about U.S. History.”

He advises teachers, “to care about the students in wanting and helping them to succeed. What is important is to help them succeed outside the classroom by having a strong faith in God and by believing in themselves.”

Finney considers her years as Dominican’s Librarian, “my second go-round of a Dominican education. As a graduate, I felt privileged to experience it again and see, from older eyes, the quality of learning that takes place there. It is still the best. For new teachers, do not lose sight of the big picture. Do not get bogged down by the details that can invade teaching. Have confidence in your talents.  I am always impressed by the quality of teaching and teachers at Dominican.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she recalls working on campus, at Rummel T, and witnessing the efforts to reopen the school and rebuild the library. “I will miss sitting around the various lunch tables and talking about just about anything. Mostly, I am taking with me more than just a memory of Sr. Angeline as a co-worker,” she shared. “You can appreciate a person on new levels when you work together, and our small department of two gave me that opportunity. I know the dedication of our sisters on campus to the continued education of young women.”

Plauche recalls those, “light bulb moments when you can see by the expression on a student’s face that she understands a concept she’s been struggling with. A shared high five or fist bump makes it special for both of us! I am also so humbled and grateful when I get a visit or a message from a former student and she fondly remembers specific things about our class. It is super rewarding to see all the incredible accomplishments of former students.

Collecting 23 years of memories teaching at Dominican makes it challenging to pick out one special memory, but it is the post-Hurricane Katrina school recovery that stands out in Plauche’s mind. “It was the camaraderie and dedication of a group of Dominican employees, fondly known as the Jani-Queens, who worked tirelessly for months to get Dominican back up and running. After putting in a very physical full day on campus, some went to gut their flooded homes in the evening. The anticipation of reopening and the excitement when it happened was so emotional for all! The Lord works in mysterious ways. One of my fondest memories was associated with a natural disaster…and not a surprise since I did teach Earth Science.”

Her advice to teachers: Make time for you every day. “Sometimes it can feel like you’re on 24/7, but if you let your candle burn down too far, you won’t have enough spark left to light-up your students. Follow your heart, and laugh more than you lecture.”