The Newman University School of Education chose Tara Thomas to receive the Sister Thomasine Stoecklein Teaching Academy Scholarship.
The scholarship is named for Stoecklein, who was born in 1923 and entered Newman’s founding order, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) at age 16.
Stoecklein has a long history with Newman University, which includes attending and teaching at Sacred Heart College. She estimated that she prepared more than 800 teachers for service.
The scholarship is renewable for eight semesters provided the student remains full time and holds a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Thomas will be a freshman studying secondary education and mathematics. She is a Bishop Carroll graduate who participated in The Tom Seiler Teaching Academy — a requirement for award recipients.
Other scholarship requirements include a dedication to Catholic education, intentions to work at a Wichita Catholic school and involvement in community service.
Thomas checked all the boxes for the interviewers.
She has been active in Teens Encounter Christ and the Wichita Diocese through Prayer and Action, attended events for Wichita Adore Ministries and most recently, worked as a Totus Tuus summer counselor.
“This past summer, I worked as a Totus Tuus missionary traveling all over the Diocese teaching the Catholic faith. It helped me get an idea of what it was like to have kids in the classroom,” she said. She also felt that she had the opportunity to strengthen her faith during the summer, putting in long and hard hours teaching students.
Though teaching hasn’t always been a known calling for Thomas, her decision to pursue teaching was shaped throughout middle school and strengthened during her junior year.
In middle school, Thomas was the go-to for her classmates needing math help. She said she enjoyed helping them understand the material and was proud of herself for being able to explain things in a way they easily understood.
“As I got older, this continued and seeing the idea ‘click’ brought me a ton of joy,” she said.
In times of struggle, her high school teachers left a lasting impression on Thomas, which further guided her toward a future in teaching.
“I’ve struggled with mental health issues without ever being diagnosed officially,” she said. “Whether or not these things that I struggled with were the same as those who were diagnosed, it wasn’t easy. Not every kid who has depression is going to be diagnosed or be able to get help. Sometimes they rely on those around them. I noticed the way some of my teachers had an impact on me and helped me cope without them even realizing it. I had this desire to help others in the same way.”
Her goal is to teach high school math and later, theology. Thomas enjoys teaching in-depth on complicated topics such as calculus but her Teaching Academy experience in a grade school classroom has made her consider elementary education.
Thomas spent her time in the Teaching Academy at her home parish of St. Anne where she observed and student-taught in a third-grade classroom. She was so impressed with the teacher’s ability to engage the young students and help them understand topics that she began to think teaching third-graders may not be so bad.
“Either way, I really hope for a Catholic school,” she said. “I’ve grown up going to one since second grade and it’s had its ups and downs, but now being mature in the faith, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
A high school teacher’s past experience of being ‘too Catholic’ to teach at a non-religious institution made Thomas realize she wanted and needed to be able to express her faith when teaching. Her summer experience with Totus Tuus only strengthened her desire to teach at a Catholic school.
Thomas has been active in Advanced Standing through Newman University and will begin her college journey a semester ahead — something that played a large role in her decision to attend Newman.
“I’m super excited for the community Newman will provide,” she said. “I know a few Bishop Carroll graduates from years past, along with those from my year. All have expressed their joy for me to be a Jet with them. Along with that, I’ve met quite a few others who aren’t Carroll grads who have been so kind and inviting. All of whom make Newman feel like home, even if I’m only on campus to finish up a paper.”