By Mary Kizior
As the Culture of Life Program coordinator for Saint Bruno Catholic School in Whittier, CA, Mrs. Rosemary Circo works with her school to include pro-life education, facing the challenges and successes that come with building a culture of life.
Struggling in the school environment
At Saint Bruno Catholic School, Circo wears many hats. She is the junior high vice principal, as well as the music educator, fine arts director, music liturgist for grades TK (preschool) through 8, and the religion educator for grade 8. Wanting to include more pro-life materials and resources in her classroom, Circo turned to an ad she saw in Celebrate Life Magazine. She contacted Mary Flores, the educational outreach coordinator for ALL’s Culture of Life Studies Program, overjoyed that American Life League was at last producing much-needed pro-life educational resources for the K-12 classroom.
Throughout her teaching career, Circo has faced opposition from colleagues after merely mentioning pro-life activities, and she has become used to an indifferent attitude from former colleagues and friends. One former colleague at a Catholic school even went so far as to say she stood with Planned Parenthood. “I don’t doubt that there are teachers, even at a Catholic school, who are not free to stand up and be counted as pro-life. It’s just horrible,” Circo says. “I’ve sadly become comfortable with not being well received,” she says. “I just remind myself that it’s not me, it’s the message. The staff dynamic is much better now and my present colleagues are very receptive to the lessons from the Culture of Life Studies Program. “ She understands that she isn’t the only Catholic school teacher to experience opposition to the culture of life, and states: “For the teacher who is locked in her room feeling alone, just know that there are others out there like you. That was me. I am freer now and I have access to wonderful materials.”
For teachers just beginning to implement pro-life education in their classrooms,gathering resources often takes the most time and energy. Knowing that it might be difficult for the teachers in her school to find materials and resources on their own, Circo stepped up and asked her principal if she could coordinate the acquisition of these materials for the whole school. Her principal’s reaction was enthusiastic and supportive.
“You really need admin support,” Circo says, “My principal joins me in our all important mission to place the dignity of human life first in priority of all we teach.” Whenever Circo finds a new pro-life resource for her school, she shares the resource(s) with her principal, pastor and associate pastor in addition to sending it to her colleagues, so that the entire administration knows what the students are learning in their classes.
When Circo found the Culture of Life Studies Program, she became excited. “Your program answered the need for pro-life resources,” she says.
Circo loves the fact that CLSP has a whole library of downloadable lessons that teachers can access with just a couple of clicks. It makes introducing pro-life materials into the school curriculum extremely easy. And she doesn’t let time constraints or an already full lesson plan prevent her from using these pro-life materials in the classroom: “My lessons are only 40 minutes, so sometimes that’s not enough time to get through [a CLSP unit or lesson], so I find a cliffhanger moment and we pick it up the next lesson.”
Building a culture of life as an educator
Circo believes that being a pro-life educator is a special mission: “If you don’t have your heart in it, you’re going to find reasons not to make it happen. You need somebody who wants to do it.” The youth of today are the pro-life citizens of tomorrow. We can’t hope to build a culture which respects the dignity of each person if we don’t share the pro-life message with today’s eighth grader—or even today’s first grader.
Apart from using CLSP materials in her classroom, Circo creates a Catholic, pro-life classroom environment and encourages students to put their pro-life beliefs into practice through prayer and learning about pro-life heroes. But she also believes pro-life education shouldn’t end in the classroom. Circo challenges her students to put their faith into action by serving others in volunteer projects. In addition to challenging them to see Jesus in every person they meet, she encourages them to think about how God works through them as they serve others.
For Circo, every moment is a teaching moment, no matter what subject matter or class she’s teaching:
I’ll say, “Whose family is expecting a baby?” I’m still teaching some of those beautiful TK (preschool) moments because I know they did [CLSP’s Miracle of Life Coloring & Activity Book]. I’ll also ask, “What letter did we color?” to remind students of what they learned in an earlier class. It is these small moments that remind students that every person is special.
Being a pro-life teacher is an important mission. Circo understands that her job is to raise the next David Daleiden or Lila Rose and inspire them to go out and save lives. She tells her students: “When you are sharing what you’ve learned with your families, share with them the good about the pro-life message and that we are fighting the bad. That’s what you want to be known for at the end of the battle. You want to be known to Jesus for what you did for Him and all those little babies.”
Are you interested in bringing pro-life education to your school? Please contact educational outreach coordinator Mary Flores at [email protected] to see how CLSP can help you build a culture of life in your school.
Mary Kizior is a content developer for American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program, which stresses the culture of life as an integral part of every academic discipline. CLSP is dedicated to helping students become effective communicators of the pro-life message. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to see how we can help you foster a culture of life at home and in school.