As Middle-School Teacher Chris Eaton approaches his final days of teaching at Saint Mary School, he reflects on the last eight years—half of his career with the Diocese of San Jose—and beams with pride.
Mr. Eaton shares, “I believe that SMS is the center of Catholicity in the South Valley Area. Our graduates are extremely productive. The education that SMS offers its students prepares them pretty darn well—much better than the majority of their peers. Countless SMS graduates have come back to tell us how easily they were able to transition to—and excel in—their high school classes.”
And it isn’t simply about academics. “Our impact via community service is a big deal. I believe that our graduates contribute more to the city of Gilroy and surrounding communities than the majority of their counterparts at other schools.”
After wrapping up this school year, Mr. Eaton will be moving out of state with his family. “Leaving SMS was the hardest part of the decision.” What makes SMS so special? “It’s our unique Catholic community. We embrace the tradition of old, but we’re open to new ideas and modernizing education,” he states.
“I’m especially proud that we embrace the theme of ‘adaptation.’ First of all, it is a concept that can jumpstart conversations about the partnership between science and faith; Catholics understand that everything in the Bible is true, and some of it actually happened. We can accept the theory of evolution because we know that it still supports the truth: God created the world and everything in it. However, the theory of adaptation can also support our overall educational mission; it reminds us that we must continue to evolve in order to thrive. My students, for example, know that they must adapt to Middle School standards in order to achieve success in high school and beyond. In the past year, our school embodied adaptation by effectively transitioning among various educational models designed to engage students during the Covid-19 crisis. Every shareholder at SMS—parents, students, teachers, staff members, priests, etc.—adapted to new methods in order to make the school the best it could be, and, I would argue, the best educational choice in the South Valley.”
That is not all that Mr. Eaton is proud of. “I’m a firm believer of inter-religious dialogue, and I have shared that sentiment with my students. It is important to embrace others, wherever they are in their journey of faith. We, as Catholics, must stay true to our roots and call people back to the Church, but in general, if you have another believer in Christ or another person trying to make a positive difference in the world, you have a friend.”
Mr. Eaton has fond memories of the students and faculty that have crossed his path in the Religion, Social Studies, Math, English, and Language Art classes that he has taught. But a favorite memory that sticks out for him was watching former Athletic Director and P.E. Teacher Mr. Jon Sanchez give the commencement speech to the graduating 8th graders in 2017. “He was retiring. You had this tough PE teacher who was so genuine and emotional in his speech, saying goodbye to the graduates and his career at SMS. I was so moved. The best part of the story is that, even though he had retired, we knew he would still be an active member of our parish community; we would still get to see Mr. Sanchez at Mass each weekend.”
In looking at the future, Mr. Eaton has high hopes for SMS. “I hope that, in 5-10 years, the surrounding community will become more familiar with the amazing history of our school, and that more people will recognize the benefits of choosing an SMS education.”
Submitted by Marcia Loggins