When Dr. Jeanne Gearon, the new superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington,

met with a group of administrative assistants from Vermont Catholic schools in August, she made an interesting offer.

“She said that she wanted to stay in touch with her roots as a classroom teacher,” explained Terry Collins, administrative assistant at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski. “And she was also eager to get to know the schools she was overseeing firsthand. She said if any of us needed to find a substitute teacher for a day, to keep her in mind as a candidate.”

Recently, Collins needed a substitute teacher for Stacey Brandes, a fifth-grade teacher who had an out-of-state family commitment. She remembered Gearon’s offer and contacted her. “She was so gracious and immediately agreed. We were pleased, though I think Mrs. Brandes was particularly emphatic in reminding her students that she wanted nothing but good reports on their behavior upon her return.”

“Dr. Gearon was a natural in the classroom,” said St. Francis Xavier Assistant Principal Eileen Barendse. “Watching her in action as she led a group of 19 fifth graders through a lab project left no doubt that this was an experienced science teacher at work.”

When asked about her day in the classroom, Gearon said, “I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the fifth graders at St. Francis Xavier. They were a delight, and Mrs. Brandes could not have done a better job preparing her lessons for the day. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to experience firsthand the beautiful community that is St. Francis Xavier. Every staff member and student I encountered was friendly and exemplified all that a Catholic school is called to be. Msgr. [Richard] Lavalley [pastor] and Principal Eric Becker truly have a school of which they can be tremendously proud.”

St. Francis Xavier School is a Catholic elementary school that serves children throughout northwestern Vermont from preschool (age 3) to eighth grade.