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A Place of Yes
  • Art
  • Beauty
  • Community
  • Culture
Erika Donatto

In any given week, I teach students ranging from seven-seventeen years of age.  

That there are students on the same campus falling into that range is interesting enough; that I get to teach them Art, History, Grammar, Writing, and Spanish is—let’s be honest—a little wild. Wild can be good! At the root of this scheduling continuum is, I believe, a freedom to dive into learning. 

The Saint Constantine School is a place where everyone is invited to immerse themselves in that which calls to their souls. For me that is simply a love of learning, love for my students, and the desire to make them feel safe and seen. Don’t get me wrong, the administration won’t be assigning me a math class any time soon. That’s because the other truth about TSCS is that it’s a place where students and faculty can use their gifts for the good of the community. This means I’ll leave middle school math to my brilliant colleagues like Mr. Godfrey and Mrs. Shadid.  

As a school, TSCS is a place where, sure, students push boundaries and break rules. There is noise, trash, and an occasional smell in the air (I’m looking at you, livestock pen). There is also wonder, curiosity, and sheer joy in the air. I work in a place where sometimes I realize I’m running late to class because I enjoy talking to my colleagues. I work in a place where I feel safe trying new learning modalities because the administration trusts me to do my job well. They trust that at the heart of everything I do is a love of truth, beauty, and goodness. 

Of truth, beauty, and goodness, permit me to share a short story which captures what is special about The Saint Constantine School. Once per month, faculty and staff are invited to a Symposium, an afternoon of professional enrichment aimed at keeping us connected to our school’s mission.  

My beloved Grandfather passed away just two months ago. In looking over albums of photos from the 39 years I knew and was loved by him, I was struck by how often he held me. His arms were a safe place. At our February Symposium, the beloved Lauren Turner led us in a choral rendition of the hymn, “Be Still, My Soul.”  

I had never encountered it, and these words washed over me: 

Be still, my soul: when change and tears are passed,  
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Overcome by my own grief, I began to weep. Within mere moments I felt a hand grasp mine and arms gently surround me. The incredible people I am blessed to work with did for me what my grandfather cannot, for now, do himself. They held me safe. 

I don’t know how to put into words how much I have learned in my year as a teacher here at TSCS, but this experience sums it up. This is a safe place to be, to learn, to grow, and sometimes, yes, to grieve. Whether my students are seven or seventeen, I offer them the same. 

In short, it is a place of Yes. Yes, you may climb trees and raise chickens and get muddy. Yes, you may study Greek and eat the tomatoes you grew, and paint outside. Yes, you may write and sing songs for your students to teach them Math, Greek, History, or Spanish. Yes, you may hold a crying child while letting them weep their ache at the loss of their favorite bird. This is why liberal arts education matters so deeply: it releases us to embrace Goodness, Truth, and Beauty more fully. It makes us free. 

One more verse from “Be Still, My Soul” to savor and pray over our community: 

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake 
To guide the future, as He has the past. 
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; 
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.