By BOB BECKSTEAD
MASSENA - It was a well-kept secret at Trinity Catholic School - one of their own had been named 2014 Outstanding Catholic School Teacher for the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
“I don’t even know what the process is,” said teacher and assistant principal Michele Bombard, who received the honor and was recognized during a recent luncheon hosted by Bishop Terry LaValley at the bishop’s residence in Ogdensburg.
“I was shocked to learn of this development,” Ms. Bombard, a 27-year member of the Trinity Catholic School staff, said.
Principal Kathleen Behrens had submitted Ms. Bombard’s name for the honor.
“Michele Bombard possesses all the qualities one looks for in an effective and outstanding teacher. . . . She has selflessly served students, colleagues, parents and parishioners; not caring about money, promotions or adulation,” Mrs. Behrens wrote in her nominating letter. “Michele chose a teaching vocation, not a career, only wanting to share the hope and love of Christ in the best way she knows how – as a Catholic school teacher.”
Ms. Bombard said she was honored to have been chosen over many other qualified candidates. The Diocese of Ogdensburg has 12 schools in its region.
“It could have been any one of us. No one single person could or should be Teacher of the Year. It would never happen without the support of the wonderful administration and fellow faculty, all of whom are equally as worthy,” she said.
What makes Trinity special and her job easier, she said, is “the atmosphere of genuine care and concern that manifests itself in the interaction between faculty members, faculty and students, and faculty and parents.”
Ms. Bombard holds a bachelor’s degree (summa cum laude) in history from SUNY Potsdam, where she was named History Department Scholar and Outstanding Student: School of Liberal Studies. She holds a master’s degree in classroom instruction from SUNY Potsdam.
She began her teaching career at Trinity Catholic School in 1987. She recalls receiving a phone call from Sister Shirley Anne right after she had finished her student teaching, saying that Trinity was in need of a fifth-grade teacher and asking her if she was interested in coming in for an interview.
“I thought, ‘I can do that.’ I didn’t think it would come to anything,” she said.
But, once she walked through the doors of the school, Ms. Bombard said she was “hooked.”
In her application for the position, she wrote, “I welcome the opportunity to teach in a school in the Diocese of Ogdensburg. It is the perfect place for me to begin a career as a dedicated teacher. I believe that the caring, Christian environment of a Catholic school inspires both students and teachers to work to full potential in all academic areas and to grow in faith.”
She taught fifth grade at Trinity for more than 20 years before moving to the sixth grade. She currently teaches fifth- and sixth-grade English language arts and social studies. In past years, she has taught math, ELA, social studies and religion in a self-contained fifth-grade classroom.
“Fifth and sixth grade are delightful ages. They’re very aware of their world. We can have discussions on current events,” Ms. Bombard said.
She has taught as adjunct instructor at Mater Dei College and social studies methods courses at SUNY Potsdam. She also serves on the Diocesan Curriculum Committee, Diocesan Catholic Schools Mentoring Team and on Bishop LaValley’s newly formed Culture of Vocations Team, and is a presenter at the annual Diocesan New Teacher Orientation program. In addition, Ms. Bombard, who has served as assistant principal since 2012, shares her expertise with the members of the Trinity faculty.
“The highlight of it all is being in an environment where the faculty is like family and parents are supportive. It’s such a faith-filled place. Being able to be part of students’ faith development really is a privilege,” she said.
“Parents are so very involved here and are so supportive. They expect their children to be in a safe, nurturing environment that provides for spiritual, intellectual and physical development. They demand rigor. And so we have always focused on an academically challenging curriculum. We engage students in a variety of rich experiences to develop thinking skills,” Ms. Bombard said.
She said she is part of a school that has followed a tradition of excellence over the years.
“There is a tradition of excellence here that we all do our very best to uphold. I felt it when I was student here and certainly as a faculty member. We are expected to work hard and perform well as professionals and we in turn expect the same from our students,” Ms. Bombard said.
“The standards define what students are to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. Our job is to complement the standards with a well-developed, content-rich and rigorous curriculum. The faculty at Trinity Catholic School, and in fact at all of the schools in the entire Diocese of Ogdensburg, have learned to do this well. I would never have been chosen for this honor without an entire faculty and an administration who help and support each other as we strive toward this goal,” she said.