By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
WEST CHESTER – When Margaret Kennedy retires from teaching at SS. Simon and Jude School in West Chester next month, she will be closing out a 48-year association with the Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Born Margaret Muth and growing up in a family of seven children, her entire education was at Immaculate Heart Sister-run schools – St. Cyril of Alexandria, East Lansdowne; St. Anastasia, Newtown Square; Villa Maria Academy, Malvern; and Immaculata College.
She and her six brothers and sisters had Catholic education all the way through college, she said.
A career in education was her goal but it was temporarily sidetracked by marriage and family. Wed to Don Kennedy in 1964, she was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years until their children, Jimmy and Denise, were in their middle years of grade school.
Most elementary school teachers get their feet wet in the lower grades, but Kennedy started right in teaching grade six, which was a good fit because her own son was that age.
Her first school was St. Ann, Phoenixville, followed by St. Thomas of Villanova and, finally, SS. Simon and Jude for the past 28 years – and of course all were conducted by the Immaculate Heart Sisters.
For the first half of her career at SS. Simon and Jude she continued with grade six, then moved up to grade eight, where she is home room teacher and religion teacher, as well as math teacher for grades seven and eight.
“I always wanted to be a teacher but I never thought I would spend 28 years in one school,” she said. “The school has a friendly atmosphere. The community is very close and it is a caring environment.”
Catholic schools, she believes, are important, because they don’t just teach subjects, they teach life skills and good Christian values. Religion is not just a first-period subject, it is 24/7.
Career Catholic school teachers “don’t stay for the money, they don’t stay for the sick days, they don’t stay for the pension. We stay because we believe and it is something we want to pass on,” Kennedy said. “We teach the children to respect themselves, respect one another, respect their parents and teachers.”
These are values she first learned in her own childhood beginning with home training.
“Faith is something I’ve always had because I had parents who instilled it in all of us,” she said.
And passing it on works.
At SS. Simon and Jude there are three faculty members who were taught by her, which is part of the satisfaction of teaching. She enjoys meeting as adults some of the 3,200 children she estimates she’s taught, hearing about their successes and accomplishments.
“It’s mostly good news,” she said.
Now that she’s retiring, Kennedy and her husband plan to alternate between the Jersey Shore and snowbirding in Florida, as well as concentrating on their five grandchildren.
“I’m going to try to keep busy,” Kennedy said, “but I know I’ll miss teaching a lot.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.