4 August

Working With Trish White At Bishop Gibbons. I Just Met Her, But We Clicked. Very Good Things Are In The Works. I Wish I Had A Teacher Like Her.

by Jon Katz

I’ve only met with Trish White twice, and I am proud of what we have already set in motion. We met yesterday at the school, and I wanted to write about it separately.  It is important to me.

She and I have clicked the same way Sue Silverstein and I did at Bishop Maginn.

In her, I have found another teacher dedicated to helping all her students learn and succeed and eager to work with me when it comes to helping the neediest and most motivated ones.

And so far, I’ve only met two of the teachers at Bishop Gibbons.

Here’s what we have done and are doing.

Thanks to Alys Culhane of Palmer Alaska and the Bright Lights Book Project, Trish will re-stock the Bishop Gibbons library with $4,000 worth of new and used, and recycled books.

The project aims to give the kids contemporary books so they will learn to love reading.

More than 20 boxes of books are on the way.

Alys is a longtime blog reader and read about the library plans here.

She finds used or discarded books, ensures they are in good condition, and gets them into the hands of children and schools that can’t afford to buy them.

The school also agreed today to accept Bright Light’s offer of additional books for a school Book Fair that will give the students a chance to choose from hundreds of books at no cost and take them home.

Beyond that, Trish has asked me to join her in teaching a Creative Writing class during the second semester.

I agreed. I also agreed to come in and talk about blogging as a writing tool.  I’ll make some speaking appearances when she asks me or thinks I can help.

Trish told me about one of her students who wants to become a writer and asked me to meet with him in two weeks. I’ll write about him and volunteer to mentor him and support his ambition.

She is putting together a special reading program for the refugee students coming to the school.

Not everyone in the school is needy, but most of the refugee children are.

Like Sue, Trish is reluctant to ask anyone for anything (it killed her to ask me for all those art supplies), but I’m working on her.

She is a good listener and has a great sense of humor, two essential ingredients in my mind. “You like to get things done quickly,” don’t you,” she said, noticing a chronic tendency of mine.  I think she was in shock from her first exposure to me.

“Yes,” I said, “that is true, but you can always tell me to piss off.” I think that shocked her, but she got the point. Sue has no problem doing that.

Trish also loves her work very much (and she has three cats and two dogs.) I have often been accused of being a person of many passions, which I take as a compliment, even though it isn’t always meant that way.

I am drawn to people who are passionate about what they do; they are blessed, and I respect them.

Trish asked me for help getting four copies of these three books: Montana 48 by Larry Watson, Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger, and Holes by Louis Sachar. The books are on the way.

We had an open and honest talk about my philosophy of teaching writing.

I don’t teach grammar (obviously) because it has nothing to do with good writing; it’s essential in its own right for different reasons.

Trish told me her philosophy is to encourage writing, not criticize it or make it frightening and out of reach. We both know that a lot of writers give on writing in school.

I’m eager to meet this student.

We’re getting his parents’ permission to interview and write about him and take his picture. I told her I never took anyone’s picture without the full consent and knowledge of teachers, family, and students.

As a new volunteer, I’ve been asked to fill out a form and get a security check (Maria too.)

I’m happy to do it. The portraits are very important in this work. They bring these children to live as human beings, not just institutions looking for money.

No one is like Sue Silverstein, but Trish shares many of her values.

She is dedicated to her students and spends countless hours tutoring them, encouraging them, and teaching them. She hopes to bring a tech center to the school’s second floor, where Monks who were teachers once lived.

She feels strongly about teaching her students to love reading. She agreed that everyone’s stories are important, and everyone has something important to tell us.

I appreciate that the school is open to the work Maria and I and the Army Of Good hope to do there.

Trish is impressive.

We made a genuine connection with one another, an excellent way to begin our work at the new school and continue the search for good.



  1. I’m liking this woman already, and am enjoying your writings on her! Wish I’d known she needed copies of Holes – I have an entire text set of them stored away in my basement, from my fifth-grade teaching days. Please let me know if she needs more. 🙂

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