Her smile and twinkling blue eyes welcomed me as I entered the classroom. Sister Mary Catherine was my fifth grade teacher. She stood perhaps 5 feet 3 inches. She wore her habit over her gray hair that protruded from beneath it. She had a soft voice that she did not have to raise for the twenty plus kids to pay attention to her.
Being a student of Sister Mary Catherine was a blessing for me. Today I share what I learned from this wonderful, strong woman that laid the foundation of my Entrepreneurial Spirit. I hope I am able to give her the honor she is due on International Women’s Day #IWD2015. Here are some of her habits I learned:
Be Welcoming: I was terrified of my first day in my new school, Sacred Heart, in my new country, the Untied States. I came from Jamaica at the age of ten. My mother immediately enrolled my sister and me in this school. Interacting with new people and learning new customs was overwhelming. But Sister Mary Catherine’s smile was the beginning of my lesson of welcoming strangers with warmth.
Defend the Weak: It was rough for me to make friends with some of the students. The bully of the class had her crew tease me about my Jamaican accent. Whenever, they started, Sister Mary Catherine immediately stepped in. Her small stature seemed to grow into a large shield in front of me, as she reprimanded these students to leave me alone. In her defense of me, Sister Mary Catherine taught me to stick up for justice and those that need a voice.
Use Your Knowledge and Skills to Win: She discovered that I had an aptitude for mathematics and science. Sister Mary Catherine would encourage me in these areas. She and my mother agreed that I would get extra homework to increase my knowledge and my skills in these disciplines.
Sister Mary Catherine entered me into a Science and Mathematics contest, I placed first in the school. I represented the school at the county level and placed third in my age group. This taught me to use my passion, knowledge and skills to go after the things I want.
Sacrifice: American History was a challenge for me, because I was an immigrant. Sister Mary Catherine told my mother that she believed that I could skip the sixth grade and move to the seventh; if I mastered American History. She sacrificed her summer vacation to tutor me in American History. Her sacrifice opened a new world to me, the love of history. I won the History award at my school’s graduation ceremony two years later.
Research: Whenever I didn’t know a subject, Sister Mary Catherine encouraged me to research it. My mother purchased a set of encyclopedia (remember those) for me to explore the areas I didn’t understand. With Sister Mary Catherine’s prodding, I utilized those books many times to learn more. I still do conduct research in my career to learn new ways of marketing my products or to make a decision on a matter.
Compassion: Sister Mary Catherine’s compassion for others, her love of her faith, her sacrifice to make children like me become better people in this world, are just a few of her habits that I take with me everyday. Whenever I’m mentoring young children, the youth in my Toastmasters club, young adults or the grown folks, I draw from her’s habit of compassion to share with them.
Becoming an entrepreneur is a frightening journey. Yet armed with the lessons I’ve learned from Sister Mary Catherine, I know that it takes sacrifice to get where I want to go. It takes research to learn more about my field of expertise and how to service my clients. It takes having a welcoming spirit to get the clients to open up to me. It takes sticking with it to get through the doubts and fears. Finally, it takes using my talents, skills and knowledge to win in business and as a leader.
There is so much that I recall about Sister Mary Catherine that it would take pages to write about her. I did this in my book Live a Diamond Life, A Life of Purpose: Diamond Cutters. Diamond Cutters are what I call my coaches and mentors. The folks that have positively impacted my life. Sister Mary Catherine is one of my important Diamond Cutters.
Below are some of the medals I won at Sacred Heart School because of Sister Mary Catherine’s efforts and habits. Though I appreciate them and they sit in a special place in my home. They cannot replace the admiration and love I have for Sister Mary Catherine. I lost touch with her. I tried to reach out to her, but the school has since closed. I pray that she realizes the difference she made in my life and the lives of many other students. Thank you, Sister Mary Catherine!
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