This year, Sister Marcia O’Dea celebrates having served at Forest Ridge High School in Bellevue, Washington for forty years. She started at the school as an English teacher for juniors and seniors, immediately after completing her graduate studies in Learning Environments at Harvard University in 1975. Her milestone tenure was recognized with an award certificate from the Network of Sacred Heart Schools.
Throughout her time at Forest Ridge, Sister O’Dea has always taught English, a subject for which she has a deep love. She reflects, “I suspect my affection for this subject springs from my gift of imaginative insight about literature and my hope to work with students as they shape their written responses to what they read.”
As she works with students to delve into literary masterpieces and refine their writing skills, she believes that her role is to be “a guide more than a tutor.” An educator, she says, “respects and works with the Teacher within each student to help that young person develop self-confidence.”
Sister O’Dea’s own commitment to education serves an example for her pupils. “I must study, too,” she explains. “Only then will I convey a love of it to students.” When school is out of session for the summer, Sister O’Dea makes a point to strengthen her knowledge base and reinvigorate her own love for learning by attending programs at schools such as the Yeats International Summer School, the University of Cambridge, Boston College, and Stanford in the NEH Summer Seminar.
Throughout the school year, she receives inspiration from her colleagues in the Forest Ridge community. “I am encouraged, not only by the gifted administrators who are diligent sentinels of the educational legacy of St. Madeleine Sophie, but also by the quiet, unassuming work of each faculty and staff member,” she says. A Sacred Heart education goes beyond mastering a lesson, or acquiring a set of skills. Sister O’Dea explains that “each member of this staff realizes with Mother Stuart that ‘We are called to a fuller, richer, higher life within….called to work with God . . . to have influence with God.’”
Surrounded by a dedicated faculty, eager students and a subject she loves, Sister O’Dea says that her “forty years seem like five or – maybe ten years...”