Mid-Atlantic Episcopal School Association: "Why I Teach in an Episcopal School"

Last school year, pre-Covid, I was invited to lead the hymn sing-along with all students and faculty during one of our morning chapel services. It was my first year teaching at St. Catherine’s School so I was a little bit nervous about singing in front of everyone. One hymn I picked was “Amazing Grace.” As I sang each verse, my whole life’s journey up to that moment passed through my mind, from my dad and I singing together at church, to coming to the United States as an exchange student, to my graduate studies. I started singing the first verse in my mother tongue, Korean. Then I invited the students and faculty to join in English for the next two verses and everyone stood to sing the last verse. The small chapel then erupted with cheers and applause. My soul was overwhelmed by the overflowing of God’s grace and love. It was my first “ah ha” moment of realizing why God called me to St. Catherine’s School. 

What I love most about teaching at an Episcopal school is the balance of rich tradition and the openness to other cultures. Participating in the MAESA Evensong at the National Cathedral in 2020, which highlighted the Episcopal choral tradition, was a beautiful experience and showed one of the strengths of the community. Likewise, being invited to talk about Korean culture and music in a colleague’s history class or supervising my students leading their own contemporary a cappella group shows openness and acceptance to things not rooted in the Episcopal tradition. St. Catherine’s has been focusing on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) work this year, so I have been spending time re-evaluating the choral curriculum to provide a diverse and inclusive experience for students from a wide array of backgrounds. 
Typically, the choir curriculum has leaned towards traditional classical sacred repertoire. However, since we had limited performance opportunities or chapel hymn singing experiences due to Covid, I saw this as an opportunity to explore some other genres and formats. Our recent hymn/spiritual songs recording project had the theme of “Lift Your Spirit.” Students had the freedom to choose their own music, as well as to arrange and create the video recordings. Some chose sacred genres, while others preferred secular genres that they were really excited about. These projects enabled students to showcase their passions and talents during the pandemic, and also exposed them to various styles of music that their fellow students had chosen. I believe being at an Episcopal school allows for a wide variety of music to be brought forth and for our girls to benefit. 

During my time so far teaching at St. Catherine’s School, I am grateful for being part of an Episcopal school. I feel like I am supported by a loving and caring community of wonderful colleagues, students, and parents. As a young teacher, I am still learning so much, and this encouraging environment has made me want to improve each day for my students. I read a quote recently that inspired me, “We do not just teach choral music. We teach singers, and in the teaching, we shape who they will become.” Teaching at an Episcopal school has broadened my teaching philosophy to truly focus on students’ holistic growth and development as God’s children. 

Listen to St. Catherine's School Students
St. Catherine's shares several recordings. You will be glad you took the time to listen to the links shared below!
US Hymn/Spiritual Songs Recording Project Compilation
The link above features a number of student voices singing their own selections of liturgical music and other genres too.

St. Catherine’s Day Service Chorale Performance featuring the St. Catherine's School Chorale.
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