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A pleasant sounding instrument

This article is reprinted from the summer 2011 issue of HOPE.

Sister Kay with her laptop in hand, assists a student in a theology class.

Pedagogical methods have certainly changed since Sister Kay Manley began teaching at Guerin College Preparatory High School (then known as Mother Theodore Guerin High School), in River Grove, Ill., in 1993. Teaching methods may come and go, but a true teacher takes to heart Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s wise counsel to “Love the children first, then teach them.” Sister Kay endeavors to use the modern ways of connecting with students, but she knows Mother Theodore’s advice is the most important component in creating hope
and breaking boundaries for her students.

“After 17 and three-quarter years of teaching at Guerin, friends will often suggest that I know it all by now and teaching should be a breeze,” said Sister Kay, who teaches freshman and sophomore theology. “But about five years ago, Guerin Prep introduced one-to-one computing for students, providing each student with a computer laptop. Many of my current colleagues grew up with a laptop on their highchair. Others were quick to learn the ins and outs of computer use. I admit I’m the tortoise at being proficient with a computer.

“During my first PowerPoint presentation I advanced a slide too soon and panicked. The students told me to press the back button, and there was the slide I needed to teach! Since then I’m not embarrassed to ask the students ‘how to’ when it comes to computer applications. They teach me much. My favorite line, which one senior just quoted to me recently, is that I always say, ‘I teach theology, not technology,’” continued Sister Kay, who celebrated her golden jubilee in 2008.

Sister Kay may not teach technology, but she has certainly become very savvy using it. Her chalkboard has given way to PowerPoint presentations; scanned charts, graphs and documents; and the use of Inspiration® software. This software assists Sister Kay in creating presentations, outlining and visually mapping content to help students retain information and to be able to organize and synthesize it.

Students at Guerin are required to take four years of theology. Sometimes there is a little grousing among the students about this requirement. Sister Kay patiently responds to these students, “While you do not need theology to get into college, you need theology to get through life. You will always need to have God, no matter what college you go to or where you go in life. … You need to keep up that relationship,” continued Sister Kay.

“The young girls and boys that I teach are among the fortunate because their parents have as a priority the value of Catholic education. So these young people are involved in 45 minutes on a daily basis in a theology classroom. There’s an opening prayer. There are intentions for which they wish to pray, and a lesson about God being involved in their lives through the Word of God, Scripture, or how Christianity grew from the time of Jesus to the time of 2011,” said Sister Kay.

This study of God also takes place outside the classroom and in God’s creation. Students are involved in a myriad of service and justice programs. These service projects include ones close to home like the annual “Adopt a Kid” Christmas program to more global ones including Haiti and most recently tsunami and earthquake victims in Japan.

“I hope to be an instrument — a pleasant sounding one — to lead [my students] to love God as a friend. And I hope to be one who has taught them respect for who they are and whose they are and to spread this respect in all of their daily encounters at home, in school and with their friends,” said Sister Kay.

Yes, Sister Kay has been and continues to be a pleasant sounding instrument, bringing her students to a fuller understanding of God in their lives by loving them first and then teaching them.


  •  is a Catholic, co-educational college preparatory high school.
  • was founded in 1962 by the Congregation as an all-girls school.
  • became coeducational in 2004.
  • has honors and gifted programs.
  • has 30 clubs/organizations and seven honor societies.
  • has an exceptional fine arts program. Students must take fine arts classes as a requirement for graduation.
  •  has a current enrollment of 540 students.
  • has one of the most extensive computing programs offered by a secondary school in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
  • is accredited by AdvancED, formerly North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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