Superintendent’s Speech: An inspiring message for Catholic schools and families in 2021-2022

It’s tradition at the annual Archbishop’s Dinner for Education for the Archdiocese of Omaha Superintendent of Catholic Schools to give a speech.

At the September 23 event, Vickie Kauffold shared a message about the influence teachers have on all of us.

Read her speech in its entirety below:

“I was talking with Tammy about an image I came across recently that caught my attention.  It was a T-shirt design that said this:

  • Engineers make bridges.
  • Artists make paintings.
  • Scientists make rockets.
  • Teachers make all of them.

Every profession represented in this room tonight was influenced in some way by a teacher.

Before I continue any further about our teachers, I want to express my gratitude to our dinner chairs: Drew and Tammy Blossom, co-chairs Greg and Karen VanDyke and honorary chairs Scott Robertson and Gail Werner-Robertson.

By now, you have experienced the months of toil, sacrifice and joy that comes with the distinguished title of Dinner Chairs.  Thank you for taking on this challenge, for making this gathering possible.

To all the good people gathered here in person and those watching remotely, you were influenced in some way by a teacher.

Think back to your years as a student, call to mind the teacher who made an impact on your life.

Maybe it is one of our past or current Educator of the Year honorees, maybe it is someone whom you have not seen for many years, or perhaps it is someone who has passed on to their eternal reward in heaven.

For me, it was my high school English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Allen.  I admired how she carried herself with such integrity.  Every student was treated with dignity and respect.

I knew she was always looking out for my best interests.  It was the little things she did that made me feel seen and cared for.  Something all kids need from their teachers.

In my college years, it was Dr. Richard Dudley, my advisor and education professor.  He believed in me and helped me to see that I was capable of things I could not see for myself.  Teachers like him are the ones who awaken the hidden potential in their students.

 So – who is it for you?

  • What is it that made them stick out in your mind?
  • Was your Mrs. Allen patient in a time in your life when patience was what you needed the most?
  • Was your Doc Dudley always available to listen to your doubts  –  your fears –  your hopes and your dreams?
  • What impact did they have on your life?
  • Think about how you can honor them through your influence as an adult.

As you will soon see, tonight’s eight honorees represent some of the best examples of how Catholic school teachers influence a child’s life. They exemplify what it means to live a faith-filled life on mission to share God’s love with their students.

Catholic School educators create an environment that is welcoming and nurturing.  They honor and respect a partnership with parents in the education of their students.

It is expected that our teachers set high standards for their students to prepare them for academic success at the next level and beyond.

These teachers elevate their students, helping them grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and morally.

Tonight, each of YOU have the opportunity to elevate the life of a student.

Your contribution to the Children’s Scholarship Fund and the High School Tuition Assistance Fund allows students the opportunity to attend a catholic school of their choice. By doing so, you provide these students, and their families, an opportunity to become immersed in a faith-based education.

An education that is not only forming their minds but also setting their hearts towards the Risen Christ.

Teachers will admit this is not an easy task; there are numerous obstacles that are distracting the hearts and minds of our students today.  

How can you participate in this endeavor to elevate our students? I happen to have a couple ideas:

To the non-professional educators in the room, find a way to honor your Mrs. Allen  –  your Doc Dudley.

One way is to use your influence to impact Catholic education in the Archdiocese.

By joining Nebraska’s Bishops and Nebraska Catholic Conference you will ensure school choice for every student.

With your influence, we are hopeful that The Opportunity Scholarship Legislation can be passed this year.  This important legislation ALONE will allow for the distribution of scholarships to more students who do not otherwise have the means to attend a catholic school.

Your influence can ELEVATE the lives of those students who desire a faith-based education but lack the financial resources to receive it.

Secondly, HONOR your Mrs. Allen with a contribution to the Children’s Scholarship Fund or the High School Tuition Assistance Fund.  There are envelops on the tables for your convenience.

To my fellow educators [pause and look at them], We have been called to the noble profession of education.

DO NOT underestimate the influence you have in the lives of these children.  Resist discouragement.

Continue to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in your classrooms.  Be a witness to the faith in how you live your life both inside and outside the classroom.

Your students are watching.  One day – someday – when you least expect it and perhaps when you most need to hear it, they just might tell you how much of an impact you made on their lives.

Tonight, I want to give a shout out and a donation in honor of the educators who elevated me.

Dr. Richard Dudley, who is watching from home and his wife Lillian “Bunny” Dudley who is with us here tonight; she was my music methods professor.  Thank you, Doc and Bunny, for believing in me.

I want to thank Archbishop Lucas for his continual support of Catholic education. For the unwavering encouragement he provides me and my incredible staff – Tracey Kovar, Megan Fiedler, Chris Nelson, Beatriz Arellanes, Katie Alitz, and Blair Bonczynski.  We are honored to serve our schools under your leadership.

In closing, consider what teachers make… They make engineers, artists, scientists, AND they also make lawyers, accountants, priests, business owners, carpenters, farmers, teachers and yes, even Catholic School Superintendents.

I invite you to make a gift and honor the teacher who inspired you with a donation that will elevate the life a catholic school student.

Thank you.


Watch this three-minute video about the value of a Catholic education for our surrounding communities: