Bishop Noll senior Jailynn Thomas reviews fifth-graders' answers during a trivia game at Our Lady of Grace School in Highland. Thomas is a part of Noll's RICHER program, where Bishop Noll students visit local elementary schools once a month to teach.
Respect, Integrity, Caring, Harmony, Excellence and Responsibility are lessons taught by Bishop Noll’s RICHER students, who visit fifth-grade classrooms at local Catholic elementary schools once a month.
On a recent Thursday, while teaching fifth-graders at Our Lady of Grace in Highland about “Excellence,” they led a trivia game and interactive listening exercise.
Colie Zwierz, a Bishop Noll teacher and RICHER Program sponsor, said she selects the Noll students and prepares them to visit schools each month.
“This program is such a great opportunity for our students to go to some feeder schools and teach core principles,” she said. “I look for students who are involved in extracurricular activities, role models in the classroom, and can engage a group of fifth-graders, which is the hardest part.”
She enjoys leading the program because “the students involved are proud of what they are instilling into these young students and hopefully one day future BNI warriors. Even some of my leaders were once on the other side, which is a rare and exciting opportunity.”
BNI senior Chris Harvey, of Hammond, is a RICHER program leader. He said his mom was a teacher and he has always enjoyed helping kids.
“I have learned to have a more creative and direct look at life,” Harvey said. “To keep the kids interested and participating is a difficult task at the fifth-grade level. The most rewarding part was to see them after the program when I went back the next year and they remembered our faces. It feels like we really made an impact on them.”
Harvey plans to obtain an accounting degree, work in corporate America and eventually open his own tax office for low income families.
BNI senior Ashley Kubacki, of Hammond, said her favorite part of the program is “seeing young children in our area excel in learning qualities that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
The St. Casimir School alum said she has learned that she loves helping children, especially those who attend the local grade schools she grew up in and around.
“The most rewarding part is seeing the kids retain the information and carry it out in their lives. Knowing that my peers and I had a part in molding the upcoming generations is very heart warming,” she said.
Leading the classrooms also gives Noll students the opportunity to engage an audience.
“The most challenging part of teaching fifth-graders is keeping them focused and their attention where it's supposed to be, but by creating engaging activities like we do for the RICHER program it becomes much easier and more fun,” Kubacki said.
In the future, Kubacki would like to be a nurse to continue helping others.
She said classmates should join the RICHER program because “it makes you more active in the school and community, and also brings you closer to not only your peers, but other teachers and students at Catholic schools in our area.”
BNI junior Megan Sullivan, of Griffith, agrees and said the RICHER program is a great opportunity to work with peers as teachers to kids sitting where they once sat. The St. Mary School in Griffith alum enjoys seeing the payoff of their lessons to the younger kids.
“Seeing the ‘aha!’ moments are rewarding, when the lesson we are teaching finally clicks,” Sullivan said. “Also, it is beneficial to not only teach the fifth-graders, but to be able to connect the importance of RICHER principles to your own life … We have six principles and we want to vary what we do each time. Therefore, creating games and engaging activities can be a bit challenging.”
In the future, Sullivan would like to continue her love of helping people by becoming a doctor.
Bishop Noll senior Jailynn Thomas, of Gary, said she has learned that teaching is a lot harder than she thought.
“Making lesson plans and preparing for each lesson takes a lot of time and commitment. I've also learned that I love teaching and working with students,” Thomas said. While it can be challenging to work with fifth-graders because they can get “antsy or loud,” she finds it rewarding because younger kids always have new ideas and are fun.
She has an interest in eventually starting her own school for underprivileged girls and teaching them life skills needed to be successful.
She encourages her Noll classmates to join the RICHER program. "I would tell them to be open minded, be creative, and last but not least don't be afraid to let your inner child out," she said.
Brendan Zavesky, of Hegewisch, said the program has taught him that teachers have a tough but rewarding job. “It's great to be able to teach kids and get to know the kids you teach … We always try to keep the keep our lessons entertaining and also at the same time have an impact on the kids.”
Zavesky plans to become a firefighter paramedic.
Other Noll students in the RICHER program include Brittany Anderson, Elizabeth Buksa, Daniel Cuevas, Jake Fuehrmeyer, Claire Kalinowski, Michael Quintero, Elysa Roldan, Sebastian Valdes and Megan Whelan.
Bishop Noll senior Ashley Kubacki, of Hammond, helps fifth-graders at Our Lady of Grace School in Highland. Kubacki is part of Noll’s RICHER program, which sends Noll leaders to elementary schools to teach lessons each month.
Bishop Noll students pose with their fifth-grade students at Our Lady of Grace School in Highland.