by Liz Ryan, Director of St. Paul’s Day School
The ministry of St. Paul’s doesn’t only happen in the church or the meetings or Paul’s Place. (Although, those are places that are obviously full of people who experience God’s love and serve Christ because of that love on a regular basis!) It also happens out in the playground and classrooms of St. Paul’s Day School.
As each child enters the grounds and becomes a student at the day school, something extraordinary happens. God touches not only a child, but a family. Each new friend a child makes teaches a child to know about love in a new and tangible way. Each Bible story they hear gives them an understanding of who they are in God’s world. Each accomplishment helps them learn that with God, all things are possible! Their moms and dads may think they are just “dropping their child off at school”. But each relationship that is built between parents as they share a cup of coffee and swap stories of their adorable three or four year old, creates a community in which loving one’s neighbor becomes something visible. God provides them with someone to walk the path with. Someone who understands their particular joys and challenges because they are experiencing the same things. And they are blessed to have wonderful teachers in their child’s life who can get to know them and share their knowledge of child development and experience to answer the question each parent ponders (“is that normal???”)
Teachers, as they watch a child learn a new concept or skill, are aware once again of the awesome way God creates each precious little one. They see moments of Christ-like love and kindness as a little one comforts a crying friend, or hugs a classmate they have missed over the weekend, or laughs with delight at the wonder of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis!
One family who has experienced ALL of the above is the family of one of our current teachers, Mrs. Kathy Yates. Kathy’s family became a “St. Paul’s Day School family” when she and her family had just moved to Delray Beach in 1987. Kathy’s family was attending St. Vincent’s Catholic Church when she heard about a little preschool that might be the perfect fit for her son Michael. An affordable half-day program in a Christian setting! Perfect! Michael (followed by sister Jennifer in 1990, and brother Taylor in 1993) thrived in the loving, hands-on learning environment provided by St. Paul’s Day School. All three children made good friends at the school and learned about God through Bible stories tailored to their age and level of understanding during Chapel on Tuesdays! Kathy, a stay-at-home mom, developed lifelong friendships with other parents at the day school which gave her a sense of “belonging”. A vitally important part of Delray Beach becoming “home”.
In 1999, after having been a part of the day school family with three of her children for 6 years, Patti Daniell (then the teaching Director of the Day School), asked Kathy if she would come to work at the school as her classroom assistant. Patti was going through some health problems and needed the support to remain in the classroom. Kathy said yes. A decision she’s never regretted. She found the more she gave, the more she received. At that time she had become more isolated because of some of her own health-related issues, the children were all in school, and working at the day school gave her a sense of purpose. A reason to look forward to the next day and the fun with the students and other women who were the teachers. “It probably saved me!” says Kathy. The gift of grace for Kathy is that she became part of the St. Paul’s family. Making a difference in the lives of hundreds of families as God was making a difference in her life! She experiences a thrill of joy each time a child discovers something new, and “the light goes on!” Knowing she made a difference and continues to make a difference in those young lives is a wonder and a blessing! “I feel closer to God when I am at work seeing children grow with kindness and prayers.”
Kathy cites the school’s core values that encompass the ways of the Lord and the teachings of the Bible as reasons why the school is so loved. “The majority of our three year old students return for their four year old classes because their parents have seen them experience positive social and moral growth.” She says that when she runs into parents and former students they frequently remind her of the things they have learned at St. Paul’s Day School and tell her what a blessing it has been to their family.
Not a bad way to look over a career that has spanned almost 20 years!!! We’re blessed to have Kathy continuing the ministry of love and kindness that St. Paul’s has shown to her and her family!