Plainfield Catholic teacher says sense of humor, empathy key for educators

Geraldine Brewster works on a smartboard with her students at St. Mary Immaculate Parish School on Monday, April 17, 2023 in Plainfield.

Geraldine Brewster, a kindergarten teacher at St. Mary Immaculate Parish School in Plainfield, said those aspiring to become teachers should have a sense of humor and “find joy in every day” because the profession can get hard and exhausting.

Empathy also is important, she said.

“It allows you to put yourself in the place of families and kids,” she said.

Brewster also enjoys building relationships with students and families, especially the latter.

“I think it’s so important because families are the first teachers and always the teachers of their kids. I think you want to collaborate and partner with families,” Brewster said.

Brewster said she was inspired to become a teacher from her own childhood experiences. She said she had many teachers “who made learning and the classroom environment a fun and safe place to be.”

“I also remember specific teachers who I felt really demonstrated their belief in my abilities and who took the time to praise me and all their students. They left a significant impression on me, which I think in turn influenced me to find my way to teaching,” Brewster said.

Jennifer Errthum, principal of St. Mary Immaculate Parish School, said Brewster is “extremely dedicated to her craft.” She said Brewster takes the time to know her students and build relationships with them.

“We have many parents who come back and say their kids got their love of learning from her,” Errthum said.

Brewster is a native of Ireland and first came to the U.S. in 1999. She said she met her husband while on a student visa and he is why she moved to the U.S. permanently. She’s been teaching since 2003. She said she has a degree in teaching, a master’s degree in early childhood special education and an English as a second language endorsement.

Brewster said her greatest passion is teaching children how to read, which she considers empowering.

“It broadens their horizons. It gives them new experiences without ever having to leave the classroom or home,” Brewster said.

Brewster said she has a genuine desire for teaching and absolutely loves seeing how children grow and develop over the course of a school year. This year will mark her eighth year teaching at the kindergarten level.

“At that age, the kids love to come to school and love to share their lives,” Brewster said of kindergartners.

Brewster said she’ll see many of those students again when they reach third grade, and they remind her of the joyful time spent in her classroom.

“It’s always a nice affirmation for a teacher,” Brewster said.

Teaching is not a stagnant profession and, like science, educators are always learning better ways to do their jobs, she said. When teachers are in college, they are not taught all the strategies they’ll need to learn throughout their career.

“You are a continuous learner,” Brewster said.

Brewster said there are many components and facets to teaching, and she would encourage more people to get into the field.

“There’s many doors that open even further when you get in,” she said.