In June 2020, I was reassigned to Phoenix, where I now serve at Most Holy Trinity (MHT) Catholic School as the K-8 music teacher. It was my first time as an elementary and middle school teacher. I had spent the last nine years serving at Our Lady’s Montessori School in Kansas City as a preschool aide and music teacher, so I guess I finally graduated from preschool! Taking on a new role was definitely a daunting experience, especially given the challenges of hybrid teaching and all the health procedures to be incorporated.
The majority of our students at MHT are on scholarship. Thankfully, the State of Arizona has a program where tax dollars can be directed to specific schools and specific children, giving the parents much more choice as to where their children are to be educated. Without it, most of our students would not be able to afford Catholic education.
MHT has an amazing music program built by the music teachers that preceded me, and I inherited one of the most well stocked music rooms I have ever seen. I teach a Kodaly inspired K-4 program, piano in 5th and 6th grade; 7th grade learns classical guitar, and the 8th grade learns bell choir with the option of advanced guitar.
By teaching music, I am teaching culture. Not only am I teaching American culture through patriotic songs, folk songs, dances, and games, but I also teach Catholic culture through our hymn and chant repertoire. My younger students were really excited to learn songs in Latin while my older students were fascinated by hymns that are 800 years old, such as the Salve Regina and Godhead Here in Hiding (Adoro te Devote), which besides being old was written by St. Thomas Aquinas!
Music in a Catholic school also has the broader mission of serving the liturgy in worship. Both the bell choir and a small guitar choir worked up to playing for the Wednesday school Masses in the latter part of the year, accompanying songs that were sung by their classmates.
I am grateful for this new experience of teaching middle school, after teaching preschool at Our Lady’s Montessori School in Kansas City for the last nine years. Jesus is constantly opening my heart and understanding of His people.
SR. MARY OF HOLY HOPE CHENG
Sr. Mary of Holy Hope Cheng is originally from Calgary, Canada. She professed her first vows in 2011 and perpetual vows in 2016.