SkyHawk Spotlight – Kate Jiron
KATE JIRON FOCUSES ON LEADING STUDENTS TO DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS WITH JESUS
Theology teacher Kate Jiron joined Skutt Catholic two years ago in her first official teaching job. She says she was partially motivated to become a teacher by the great experience her son was having at Skutt Catholic.
“I was eager to be a part of this great community,” she said.
Jiron was previously an instructor with School of Faith in the Archdiocese of Omaha, 2015-2017.
The former FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary says her experience with the organization gave her a passion for evangelization and she’s been in ministry ever since in some capacity. (Jiron served as campus director for University of Nebraska in Lincoln, 1999-2001, and at Illinois State, 2001-2002).
“FOCUS taught me how to translate theology into everyday life and how to introduce students to Jesus and let Him do the rest,” said Jiron.
Although she became a stay-at-home mom in 2003, she continued to occasionally work outside the home part-time. Jiron served as the director of young adult ministry at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, 2002-2009.
She earned a B.S. in psychology with minors in leadership and business from Kansas State University in 1998. She started working on a master’s in theology in 2008 with the simple goal of continuing to learn about her faith. She worked on the degree on and off for 10 years, earning a masters degree in theology from Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado in 2018.
Jiron says the degree was also motivation to become a theology teacher.
“I began my master’s degree in theology originally because I wanted to keep growing in my own knowledge and understanding of my faith, but once I was finished I knew I wanted to share what I’d learned,” she said.
In 2020, she completed her master’s degree in education at Creighton University.
The Overland Park, Kansas native landed in Omaha in 2014 when her husband, Keith, started his own 501c3 business called the Evangelium Institute (previously School of Faith) that leads formation for Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese of Omaha.
The couple has four children: Andrew (junior at Skutt Catholic), Michael (freshmen at Skutt Catholic), Nathan (6th grade at St. Robert Bellarmine) and Peter (4th grade at St. Robert Bellarmine).
Q&A WITH KATE JIRON
WHY ARE YOU SO COMMITTED TO YOUR CATHOLIC FAITH?
While I’ve always been Catholic, I had an awakening in college that drew me deeper into my relationship with Jesus and led me to start questioning my Catholic faith. The more I questioned, the more I grew in my love and appreciation for the Church. After college I worked for a year in Corporate Audit at Sprint, but then I became a FOCUS missionary at UNL. My experience with FOCUS gave me a passion for evangelization and I’ve been in ministry ever since in some capacity.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A TEACHER?
Luke 12:48 says “to whom much is given, much is expected.” This verse is at the heart of why I teach. I feel like God has given me so much and I want to share this truth, knowledge, love and joy with others. Seeing students grow in their relationship with God is so rewarding.
HOW DOES YOUR BACKGROUND WITH FOCUS TRANSLATE INTO YOUR TEACHING?
FOCUS taught me how to translate theology into everyday life and how to introduce students to Jesus and let Him do the rest. While I have standards and curriculum like any subject, my main focus is helping students deepen their relationship with Jesus. Also, many Catholic students lose their faith in college, and working with college students helped me understand some of the reasons why students walk away. As a high school teacher I try to address these challenges and build students up so that their faith will be strong when they go to college.
HOW DO YOU TRY TO SHARE THE CHURCHES’ TEACHINGS FROM A PLACE OF LOVE? WHAT DO YOU DO TO FOSTER AN OPEN AND LOVING ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR CLASSROOM?
I teach Morality second semester Junior year and often this is a time to discuss difficult topics. My approach is to help them realize that the Churches’ teachings are for our own happiness, not to limit us or to be judgmental. Since so many students leave the faith in college, I think it is important to discuss the hot button topics in a loving and open way so that students can grow in their understanding.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO LEAD A DISCIPLESHIP GROUP?
Discipleship, or small group spiritual multiplication, is what Jesus did with his Apostles and what FOCUS does with college students and I’m so grateful Skutt Catholic has a discipleship program. My own sons are both involved in discipleship groups and I’m so glad to be able to give back in this way. Watching the students develop friendships and share their faith with others is so rewarding. I love the discipleship atmosphere which is so different from a classroom setting. Instead of “being taught” the students are able to encounter the Holy Spirit and learn from one another. It is such a powerful way of interacting with students and evangelizing.
WHO WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TEACHER? WHY?
My most memorable teacher was my high school Calculus teacher, Mrs. Hund. Ironically, I hated Calculus but she was my favorite teacher because she had such passion and joy and was always willing to help me when I struggled. She also had a strong faith, so even though she wasn’t teaching Theology, she was a witness to me of God’s love.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT TEACHING?
The people! The students, staff, and parents at Skutt Catholic are such an amazing community. Skutt Catholic is a happy place to be and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
I think the hardest thing for any teacher is the students who you don’t reach. Some students have a resistance to Theology or other things going on in their lives that make it difficult for them to fully engage.
WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY?
I want students to be engaged. I ask them at the beginning of the semester… “if you have a whole class on God, what do you want to learn?”. We tackle a “Question of the Day” that may or may not be related to the curriculum, but I want students to learn the things they care about. Also, as a mom of four active boys, I’m not a fan of homework. I try to give them plenty of time to complete assignments in class 🙂
WHAT WORDS OF WISDOM DO YOU SHARE WITH YOUR STUDENTS?
Most of the wisdom I share with my students is not from me but from Scripture or from the Saints. I love sharing Saint Quotes. One of my favorites is “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness” – Pope Benedict XVI
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
So many people inspire me, but this year with the pandemic, the administration here at Skutt Catholic has definitely inspired me. Whether it was the heroics it took to make graduation happen last year or the effort to get six feet between desks or the endless phone calls to the Douglas County Health Department, Mr. Mooore, Mr. Meyers, and all our administration have worked incredibly hard and been a great witness to us all.