Catching Up with Sarah Kane

Catching Up with Sarah Kane




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The teacher and administrator touched many lives during her 29-year tenure at St. Mary’s Ryken.

Former principal Brother Richard Angarola, CFX, hired Sarah Kane in 1983 to teach algebra and physical science. By the time school opened that August, she was also tasked with introducing a computer mathematics course.

“I had to set up the curriculum from scratch — and I didn’t even know how to turn on the Apple computer! But, it all worked out!” Sarah joked, “Throughout my years at SMR, I had a history of being hired for one position but fulfilling another.”

Like coaches and athletes, many teachers have traditions or superstitions for the first day of school, but for Sarah, starting a new school year was all about being prepared with her classroom and materials. She spent many Sundays throughout her years prepping for the coming week. “A good school day for me was when I could reflect on the day and see that I had made a positive difference in the people I worked with — students, faculty, staff and parents.”

“I had never planned to be a teacher. I was a mathematician, and I was going to work in research. Then I found myself part-time teaching a homebound student in chemistry. That was the start of 45 years of adventure. I would not change one year of it.”

Sarah’s course direction taught her many things, too — in particular, the realization that a teacher cannot “learn” a student. Instead, a teacher “teaches” a student. It is the job of the student to learn, which means more than getting high grades for one’s work. Sometimes it comes easy; sometimes, it seems almost impossible. The student needs to keep learning and keep trying. Sometimes, the student and teacher have to change the direction to meet the student’s learning style. Eventually, there will be success.

Sarah believed in keeping it fresh, which is difficult unless one is willing to burn their notes and redo them each summer. “I suggested this concept at a June faculty meeting once, and it was not a popular idea. But, I believe the spirit of the suggestion is invaluable. New ideas and new methods are refreshing for both the student and the teacher. Nowadays, technology has caused this to happen naturally.”

Sarah also served as an assistant principal at SMR from 1986 through 1994, where she had an opportunity to view teachers as an observer. “If I could have taken classes at SMR during those years, I would have enjoyed Tracy Foley’s Honors English class, Beth Taneyhill’s religion classes, and Nancy Alvey’s French classes,” she said. “All these teachers taught the same curriculum each year, but they didn’t teach it the same way each year. Instead, they taught to meet the needs of the students in front of them.”

In 1994 Sarah took on a new fulfilling role, director of Campus Ministry. Working at SMR awakened her spiritually. The role called for her to be a leader in students’ and staff ’s spiritual development in the Xaverian way, and she relished watching the students grow in various ways.

Sarah spent her remaining years as a member of the theology and computer technology departments. “Over the years, I had many opportunities to develop new talents. Some I chose, but most came about from what I was asked to do as an educator.”

She retired in 2012, leaving an indelible legacy at St. Mary’s Ryken. But what does she miss the most? “The best day in the cafeteria in the ’80s and ’90s was homemade bread pudding day. A call would come from the cafeteria announcing bread pudding. One or maybe two servings were set aside for me because I never seemed to get to lunch on time.”

Since retiring, Sarah has spent most of her time volunteering at the Camp Maria Retreat Center in Leonardtown. However, now she is stepping away from that role too. Camp Maria Director Ann Kovalcik, an SMR alumna from the Class of 1978, said, “Sarah, always mission-driven, has been a steady leader at Camp Maria for close to 50 years. In addition, she was actively involved serving the Board of Directors and volunteering on the advisory and advancement committees. She even brought Camp Maria up to speed regarding utilizing technology!”

As she reflects on her 45 years as an educator, she says there isn’t one accomplishment that stands out; instead, she sees a collection of memories of students and colleagues who achieved successes in life.

Sarah keeps busy with family and friends. But she is still connected to us in subtle ways — she is currently reading “Sisters of Mokama: The Pioneering Women Who Brought Hope and Healing to India” by Jyoti Thottam. (One of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth worked in our SMR library.) Sarah also enjoys reading books based on World War II issues — from both military and civilian viewpoints.

Sarah Kane, you are forever in our hearts and a legend in the Knighthood!

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