The start of the school year is just around the corner. To mark this moment in the lives of students, teachers and families, Novalis’ managing editor, Anne Louise Mahoney, spoke to Mariette Martineau, the Religious Education and Family Life Coordinator for Kenora Catholic Schools. Ms. Martineau is a writer, innovator and educator with a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, a B.Ed. from Lakehead University, and a Master of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in Chicago. A veteran catechist of children, youth, adults, families and intergenerational groups, she has a deep appreciation for the dynamics of faith formation and our natural God-given curiosity as humans.

It’s almost back-to-school time! What is your favourite thing about school?

Learning. I love my own learning as I partner with families and students to ensure we do our best together to help everyone learn. With the family’s knowledge of their learners, my education background, and the assets and gifts of the learners, so many learning adventures are possible!

As a long-time teacher, how do you stay energized and excited about helping students learn and grow?

Every new educator or student I meet provides me with gifts and challenges. Gifts in the sense of the knowledge and skills and interests they bring, and challenges to ensure I am doing my best to partner for success. Energy surfaces in exploring the possibilities, and I can honestly say I seldom do things in the exact same way twice, as the learners are different each year and the creative aspects of all of this give me energy. My curiosity has me excited for the new discoveries of the incredible beauty God has created and shared with me through the people I journey alongside.

After a couple of unpredictable years for students, families and teachers, what can help everyone get back into school routines with confidence and approach learning with a positive attitude?

We place such high expectations on each other. We stress when we do not seem to know what we think we are supposed to know or be able to do. I think we need to remind each other of what the real measurements are: Am I happy to be starting a new year? Do I feel like I am safe and belong and therefore can learn? What am I grateful for as we begin? We know gratitude is the central building block to happiness! The real measurements are not academic success but joy in relationships. The learning will come when the time is right: trust that by doing the basic things like reading aloud to each other, using our math brains to cook and play games, and so on, all is well!

What are three tips you can share with students as they jump back into the classroom?

1. Look at the world with curiosity. Who is sitting around you? What do you notice about their gifts and interests? What do you wonder about as you learn with your classmates?

2. Remember how beautiful you are! God has created you as so beautiful, and no one can take that beauty from you.

3. Be kind. Who needs help? Who seems to be spending too much time alone on the playground without choosing to do so? It is amazing how kindness to others changes our own hearts and mindset!

You have written three books for teachers to help them weave faith into students’ everyday lives. What prompted you to write them?

God is so big and so beautiful and so glorious, and there is so much to celebrate and be curious about. Science is not just about facts or about theories others have generated. Science is about wonder! When we think about everything we know to be proven scientifically, it all began with someone’s curiosity, someone trying to figure something out. I think wonder nurtures joy, and joy is a critical component of faith. How can one talk about the properties of water and not consider how many connections to water Jesus made? How can we talk about the power of faith being like yeast if we never explore it and the amazing things yeast is able to do? For me, the heart of all that we do is to stand humbly with our learners and say, “Wow, God is so good, so amazing, so creative!” Science gives us such a powerful window to do that!

What is your prayer for educators and learners for the year ahead?

I pray that we may truly see the learner and begin with their strengths.

I pray that we remember that we are servants,

with a calling to love and wash feet as taught us by Christ.

I pray that we may trust the mission we have been given

and the people we have been blessed to have as companions.

And I pray for patience, that we remember that tiny steps are as powerful as giant leaps.

O God of light, illuminate our paths to arrive in June richer and more blessed than in September! Amen.

Resources by Mariette Martineau – a wonderful combination of faith, learning and fun!

Anne Louise Mahoney, Managing Editor, Novalis. Editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.

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