Bringing Language Arts Alive

October 6, 2016

By Karel Lucander

Sister Carol Louise with her eighth-grade students at St. Clement School.

Sister Carol Louise with her eighth-grade students at St. Clement School.

Engaging middle school students can be a challenge, but it’s one that Sister Carol Louise Inderhees relishes. She has kept academics alive for 45 years, since she began her teaching ministry. Currently, she teaches seventh- and eighth-graders in an accelerated language arts/literature class at St. Clement School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she also serves as a mentor for beginning teachers. Staying open to change is one of the toughest facets of her ministry.

“As a teacher, I have to be open to developing classes that will challenge yet not frustrate the students. Students need to know upfront the expectations and that I will challenge them to reach not only academic goals but also their own personal goals. While flexibility and adaptability are important, teaching from an understanding heart is an essential component. Students need to know they are cared for as unique individuals and that, together, we are partners on their academic journey,” she says. “A former student attested to this when she stated, ‘… I had a guide, a teacher, a coach who set me on my path … step by step, into the stars, the moon, the clouds, and the sun … and so I fly now not alone but with my teacher.’”  

For her accelerated literature class, Sister Carol Louise focuses on a variety of genres—mystery, folk/fairy tales, historical and realistic fiction, and poetry. Her eighth-graders complete a biographical study of a person of interest to them during their third trimester. Their study culminates in writing a multi-genre paper showcasing the defining moments of the person they researched.

With decades of experience, she has seen the impact of technology on her students and in her classroom.
“Students need to be computer-literate but they also should consider it an aid to inquiry rather than an end in and of itself. Processing information, applying critical thinking skills, drawing conclusions and making connections to their learning are essential life skills. When accessing information, it is vital they have the background necessary to evaluate a site and determine its credibility rather than just accept it at face value,” she adds.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Sister Carol Louise attended Our Lady of Lourdes grade school and Mother of Mercy High School. In 1969 after graduating from Edgecliff College in Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in education and history, she entered the Sisters of Mercy and began her teaching ministry at St. Teresa School. Later on, she continued her post-graduate work at Spaulding College in Louisville, where she received her master’s degree in education with a library science endorsement.

When asked what continues to motivate her after all these years in the classroom, Sister Carol Louise says, “I think it is the challenge inherent in my students’ name for me: ‘She who teaches fledglings to soar.’”

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