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How teaching has changed

The School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) have been teachers since their foundress, Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, started teaching at age 15 in Bavaria (now a state in Germany). Throughout the years, as the work of education changed, sisters have adapted to meet the needs of their communities.

Sister Judy Fleisner reviews a math project with students at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee

One of those teachers is Sister Judy Fleisner, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee (NDS). Sister Judy first professed her vows in August 1987, and has taught at St. Mary in Menasha, Wisconsin, Bruce-Guadalupe, Catholic East Elementary, St. Helen and Holy Wisdom Academy in Milwaukee.

In her many years of teaching, Sister Judy said one of the most notable changes is classroom interaction. She explains, “The main focus in the classroom used to be the teacher; the teacher taught and the students listened and completed the work that was asked of them. That has changed in my experience. Students now work in pairs or groups. They critique each other’s work, they work on projects. The workshop method is used in writing and reading. In math, students do more than computation, they solve problems. They learn that there is more than one way to find an answer.”

Another notable change, per Sister Judy, is the advancements of technology in education. At NDS every student is given their own Chromebook. This is as essential to learning as, “The Chromebook is used for research, writing, reading stories and math activities, which is being taught from an online program,” said Sister Judy.

Sister Judy Fleisner interacts with students in class at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching changed again when NDS went virtual. Sister Judy discussed these changes, “We continued teaching with the highest standards. Students had to sign in on their attendance sheet every day. If they didn’t sign in by a certain time, parents were called. I used Google Classroom daily. Teachers listed daily assignments there and students were expected to do the work. They then submitted the work, I checked the assignments and returned them with a grade.”

Even with the challenges of virtual learning, the school made sure no one was left behind. “Some students struggled with virtual learning and fell behind with their assignments. So, our school counselor assigned those students a mentor. The mentor supported those students by contacting them daily through technology.”

Sister Judy Fleisner teaching students in class at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee.

A few students of Sister Judy shared their thoughts, “She believed in us when we wanted to give up. She is different than other teachers because she joins in to play when we need one more player.” Another remarked, “When she would have to give consequences, she did it with love and [a] learning opportunity of how to do better next time.” As for Sister Judy’s thoughts on making an impact, “I try to impact my students. I believe as an SSND I have a responsibility in being the best at what I do. That is how I teach. I allow God to work through me to teach all the children and adults I come across.”

Sister Judy loves being a teacher, “I love planning creative, hands-on lessons for students to understand the content I need to teach and they need to learn. It’s exciting when my students figure out a problem after struggling with it. I love spending time with my students, getting to know them and learning from them. It is a joy to watch and experience the growth of students.”

You may also be interested in:
  • SSNDs open doors to Vietnam SSNDs in St. Louis and Mankato have welcomed eight sisters from Vietnam. Four sisters currently studying with SSNDs in St. Louis will soon be making their way to Mankato, Minnesota, to continue with their language studies. They hope to use their new skills to open a Catholic college in Vietnam.
  • Sister furthers SSND mission in Nepal Sister Barbara Soete’s work in Bandipur, Nepal, transcends cultural, religious and gender boundaries. She and other School Sisters of Notre Dame from Japan and the United States teach students at SSND’s school there to give children the skills they need to reach their full potential.
  • SSNDs break bread with immigrants and refugees Five SSNDs showed their international sides by bringing donated bread to a potluck luncheon held by the International Institute in St. Louis. The luncheons promote cultural understanding by providing community members and recent immigrants and refugees with a casual setting to learn about each other.

Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



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