Changes have been coming fast and furious for the St. Mary's parish in Newton recently, with church renovations wrapping up earlier this summer and upgrades to the elementary school completed just a few years prior.
One thing that has remained unchanged amidst all the new, though, is the commitment of the longest-tenured teacher in the school — Sr. Rosemary Sieg.
Serving as a resource teacher at St. Mary, Sieg teaches reading to third and fourth grade students in need of extra help, as well as spending 20 minutes each week teaching religion to students in second through eighth grades. While her exact role has evolved over 60 years in education (30 of them at St. Mary in Newton), Sieg's passion and drive to help students remains steadfast.
"I've always loved the children and it's always exciting when they make progress, and I make sure they can all make progress here," Sieg said. "I'm always so excited about that, about teaching them."
As many years as Sieg has been in Newton, many of her lessons have come full circle teaching to multiple generations of families.
Taking the position at St. Mary brought Sieg's journey full circle as well, as she attended elementary school in the old elementary building when she was growing up in Newton and admitted the religious she had as teachers pushed her to follow that same path.
"There were four sisters — four teachers — and they inspired me, like my first grade teacher, and all through the grades that desire just became more intense," Sieg said.
While her commitment to education began 61 years ago, Sieg's commitment to the sisterhood started even earlier, as she took her vows with the Sisters of St. Joseph (now the Congregation of St. Joseph) 64 years ago — entering the convent at age 14.
On top of responsibilities in their religious life (i.e. attending mass daily), sisters are also called to work professionally. When Sieg started, there were two choices — nursing or teaching. Following the necessary training, Sieg got her start teaching kindergarten in Wichita and knew right away it was the perfect fit.
Since that first position, Sieg has taught students in grade levels K-8 all across the state (Derby, Parsons, Wellington, Wichita, etc.), and even in Texas for a time, before settling back in Newton — an opportunity offered by the president of the Congregation of St. Joseph that Sieg was more than happy to take, given the chance to be close to family after the passing of her father.
No matter where she has taught, though, Sieg noted her goals have remained unchanged — as she aims to foster deeper connections in faith among her students, teaching about the sacraments, liturgy, mass and the role they play.
"I just want everybody to know that so that they can know God and find his presence and his love, and make good decisions in their life," Sieg said.
Among those key lessons is teaching students that mass is the greatest prayer, while Sieg said she also teaches students a lot about the New Testament by asking the children to put themselves in the shoes of those portrayed, along with the importance of praying or talking to God daily.
For Sieg, she admitted seeing students take that to heart and pursue the religious life themselves has been part of her greatest joy in teaching, noting several former students have gone on to join the sisterhood.
Much has changed in education since Sieg first began, from the advent of technology to numerous changes in curriculum. No matter how the profession evolves, though, she remains committed to teaching and molding young minds — happy to do so as long as she has the chance.
"I just feel excited and so very grateful to God and to my family and to my sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph," Sieg said, "and I'm so grateful that I have the health that I can remain teaching and tutoring."