Catholic education becomes a mother-daughter passion
January 20, 2022
This month, the Catholic Voice salutes archdiocesan Catholic schools and those operated by religious orders as we prepare to observe Catholic Schools Week Jan. 30 through Feb. 5. With the theme “Catholic Schools: Faith, Excellence, Service,” the nationwide effort recognizes and celebrates the achievements of our Catholic schools and the valuable contributions they provide to young people, as well as our Church, communities and country.
This article is the third of several planned for this month to highlight some of the people and programs that make Catholic education special. Check back for more stories throughout the month.
Two teachers at St. Wenceslaus School in Dodge share the same last name and even some resemblance.
That’s no coincidence.
Mother and daughter, Danielle Klosen and Caitlin Klosen bring diverse skills to the school along with shared passions: for teaching, for their community and for their Catholic faith.
Danielle, known to students as Mrs. Klosen, is facilitator at the school and teacher of a combined fifth- and sixth-grade class. She’s been teaching for 16 years at St. Wenceslaus, a preschool through sixth-grade school. Her experience and commitment to the school and larger community shows, said Danielle Ortmeier, a school parent and president of the school board.
Caitlin, known as Ms. Klosen, is in her first year of teaching after student-teaching at St. Wenceslaus last year. She teaches a combined first- and second-grade class as well as physical education classes.
Caitlin was able to immediately fill an open teaching position at a time when schools are scrambling to hire teachers because of a nationwide teacher shortage.
She brings new ideas to the school, Ortmeier said, and is a young person students look up to.
A CATHOLIC EXAMPLE
The Klosens exemplify Catholic school educators, according to Ortmeier.
“They love the students, they love the community, and they love Catholic education,” she said. “They’re great role models to see in church and out in the community,” where the Klosens and other members of their family can be found at St. Wenceslaus Parish and Dodge area events.
“They’re a great Christian family, and it’s great that our kids can look up to them. … The number of young families coming back to the area and attending church is on a decline in our area, so it’s really great to see solid, fundamental families attending church together,” even after their children have grown, Ortmeier said.
“We’re blessed to have them as part of our parish family and our school.”
Having both family and work in common can be difficult, but the Klosens handle that professionally, Ortmeier said.
“Sometimes the mother-daughter dynamic’s a little strange,” Danielle said. “Sometimes we forget that I’m her boss and she’s an employee.”
That dynamic typically is beneficial, though, the mother said, “because we know each other really well and our strengths and our weaknesses. We help one another in that aspect.”
Caitlin’s energy is contagious, her mother said.
“It’s nice to be re-energized and re-motivated by some of the things that Caitlin brings to the table. It kind of reminds me of when I was younger and gets me inspired again.”
The daughter said her mom has helped her maneuver through the challenges of being a new teacher and the unique problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve looked up to her my whole life,” Caitlin said. “I tried to tell myself I didn’t want to be a teacher like my mom, until eventually it hit me that I was more like her than I thought. So it’s really cool just getting to teach under her and from her.
“I also went to school here,” Caitlin said, “so it’s fun to just be back, a part of the family unit that we have at this school.”
SMALL SCHOOL BENEFITS
A family atmosphere seems natural at a small school like St. Wenceslaus, which has 29 students led by a staff of six.
The school is a fixture in Dodge, with a 111-year history and generations of graduates.
The classrooms of combined grades help St. Wenceslaus students succeed academically, the Klosens said. Younger students learn from the older ones and both work together, Danielle said. Students seem to strive harder in the combined classrooms, according to Caitlin.
It was hard to adjust to teaching two grades at once, she said, but “now that I’ve started to get the hang of it, I see the benefits of it.”
“The first-graders really get to look at the second-graders, to see what they’re doing and learn from them,” Caitlin said. “The second-graders really take on that mentor role and get to be kind of teachers … which I think benefits them a lot.”
CHRISTIAN FAMILY ATMOSPHERE
Another thing that makes St. Wenceslaus unique is its “prayer families,” which combine students of all grades who collaborate, based on spiritual themes such as the sacraments, Beatitudes or the 10 Commandments. Activities have included singing for members of the community, delivering handmade wreaths, participating in fundraising walks and collecting items for charities.
The Christian family atmosphere pervades St. Wenceslaus, Caitlin said.
“Our kids are respectful and kind, and they all look out for one another,” she said. “If they’re on the playground and someone gets hurt, it’s not just one student who stops to help. They all stop whatever they’re doing and go over there.
“They just really look out for each other, which I don’t think you would necessarily see at all schools.
“That’s not to say they don’t have disagreements,” Caitlin said. “They’re like siblings.”
The students feel comfortable with their teachers, Danielle said. “They don’t have problems coming to us with problems or with joys to share as well.”
Danielle said she’s had other career opportunities come up, “but I stay here because all three of my kids went here, and it’s just that community that we have that makes it very hard to leave.”
Danielle and her husband, John, have a son, Colton, a high school student in Howells-Dodge Consolidated Schools, and another daughter, McKenna, who recently earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education and is working in child care.
Helping young children is a connection the women in the family share.
“It’s a calling that we’ve always been drawn to,” Danielle said. “It’s something that God gave us. And I think that we’re pretty excited that we can share that together.”