by Bill McCarthy 

Our core values help us understand why we do what we do as an organization. In this article, I focus on the third of our values – to teach.

When I think about teaching, I often think about the subjects I studied in school, like English and Math.  In our programs, we teach some of those same subjects, and we teach essential life skills. We also teach and learn important information and skills from each other. I think our value to teach, though, means more than mere instruction about skills and subject areas. And so I started to think about what I learned from my best teachers and what made them so important in my life. I will tell you about two of them.

The first is John Weetenkamp, my freshman year English teacher who is now the Director of Ignatian Values at Loyola Blakefield, where he has taught for 42 years. Although I graduated from Loyola 32 years ago, I have maintained a friendship with John, and during one of our recent regularly scheduled breakfasts, I had the opportunity to talk with him about the most important lessons he has shared with students over the years. He explained the following to me.  “We are all gifted people, men and women uniquely created by God. I aid in the formation of   young people by helping them realize that they are incredibly gifted with unique talents and are called to develop their talents fully and to use them in the service of others.” You can see why I learned much more than a love of literature from this wonderful person, who cared so deeply about the young people in his class. He has touched the lives of tens of thousands of people over his career. Through John, I learned that I could make a difference and have a responsibility to use what God has given me to enrich the greater community. It means a lot that he saw that kind of potential in me.

The most important teacher in my life was my daughter Erinn. As many of you know, I lost Erinn to cancer when she was only 14 years old. For three years, she fought valiantly against her illness while, every day, living life to the fullest. She taught me that each day is a gift, and she taught me the importance of living with grace and purpose each day. From Erinn, I learned that I could do more than I was doing to serve and reach out to help others. She challenged me to examine my life, and she is my hero.

These two great teachers – Erinn McCarthy and John Weetenkamp — saw something special in me; they saw that I could do and be more. They let me know that, and then they challenged me.  That is the kind of teacher we are all called to be – for those we serve and for each other.

To cherish the Divine in another, we have to see what is special in that person. But it’s not enough merely to see it. Through our call to teach, we are called to help others see that potential within themselves and then challenge them to work to meet that potential.

Who were your best teachers, and why? And how do you teach others with whom you interact every day? Please comment below.