National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It started Sunday, Jan. 26 and runs through tomorrow, Feb. 1. Schools typically observe the week with Masses, open house and other activities to focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our Church, our communities and our nation. Below is a profile of the educator in the Denver Archdiocese being honored this academic year with the most years of service: 45.
Suzanne Scheck has spent all of her 45 years in Catholic education with the same school: St. Catherine of Siena at 42nd Avenue and Federal Boulevard. While this was far from what she had in mind, it’s clear to her now that it was God’s plan.
“Sometimes you think you know what you want,” she said with a laugh. “And God has another plan. I’ve heard that little saying: You really want to make God have a good, hearty laugh? Make a plan.”
It was a plan that started to unfold during her senior year at Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School when she received a scholarship to enter St. Anthony School of Nursing. However, the program closed that year.
“I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “But when the program closed, the vice principal scrambled and got me into Loretto Heights.”
She fell in love with Loretto Heights College, a four-year school founded by the Sisters of Loretto that has since moved its academic programs to Regis University. There she started basics of elementary education, because the nursing program was full, and ultimately she graduated from the school of education with a bachelor of arts. She also holds a master’s degree from Regis University.
Following graduation, she was ready to sign a contract with Denver Public Schools, when Father Ted Haas called from St. Catherine’s with an offer to teach third grade.
“He said, ‘I only need you for a year,’” Scheck relayed. “I fell in love with the school, the parish, the community.
“We’re really accomplishing something here.”
Scheck has taught every grade except kindergarten and preschool at St. Catherine’s. In addition, she has served as athletic director and coached several sports including girls’ volleyball, basketball, softball, and boys’ volleyball.
“I loved coaching,” she said. “I still go to the games.”
For the last five years, she has served as principal. During that time, she has helped stabilize and grow the school that was in danger of closing when losing its annual archdiocesan funding of $250,000 in April 2009.
“That was a real wake-up call that we can’t get too comfortable,” she said. “We can’t get complacent.
“It’s great to still have our school open,” she said of the school founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1921. “We’re all in it together … that’s the key to the reason we’re still open.”
Teaching and working with children is such an important work, she continued, especially in a world as challenging as it is today.
“It’s a ministry of dedication, love, nurturing and hopefully great joy,” she said. “Being a part of the St. Catherine of Siena School and Parish community for 45 years has been that kind of experience for me.”
Scheck’s two daughters and three grandchildren; as well as nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members have all attended St. Catherine’s.
She is grateful for the support of the Community of the Beatitudes priests and sisters at the parish, her fellow teachers, and the school parents and students.
“These years seem like just a moment in time,” she said. “I feel very blessed to have spent my teaching and administrative career at this great institution. I’m happy to still be chugging away.”