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January 20 - February 2, 2013

For three teachers, St. Gerald School is a family affair

Teachers Karolyn Horn, Mary Ann Horn and Kim Reardon, at St. Gerald School in Oak Lawn with some of the 78 preschool students they teach. Karen Callaway / Catholic New World

By Michelle Martin

STAFF WRITER

When preschool students first enter the preschool at St. Gerald in Oak Lawn, they can be forgiven for being a bit confused.

Half the 3-year-olds go into the class taught by Mrs. Horn — Mary Ann Horn, that is, who has taught early childhood at the school for 25 years. The other half go into the class taught by Miss Horn — Karolyn Horn, Mary Ann Horn’s daughter.

The 4-year-old preschoolers all go into a class taught by Kim Reardon, another of Mary Ann Horn’s three daughters.

“I know it’s what it says on the website, that we’re ‘the family of St. Gerald’s,’” Reardon laughed. “But in our case, it’s really true.”

The mother-and-daughters team has been together in the preschool at St. Gerald’s for about three years. Reardon came to the school when her children, who also attend St. Gerald, were ready for school. Karolyn Horn was already working at the school as an aide in first grade before becoming a preschool teacher.

All three enjoy the arrangement, and they think the parents of their young charges appreciate it as well.

“We have full-day preschool, and these are young children,” Reardon said. “Their parents are leaving them with us all day, and I think it kind of eases their minds that they are leaving them in a real family environment. We treat them as if they are our own.”

“It must be frightening to them on the first day,” Mary Ann Horn said about her students. “We want them to feel comfortable.”

It’s especially helpful to parents, Reardon said, when all their children, including older siblings, can be in the same school.

Reardon, who taught third grade at St. John Fisher before her younger son was born, said she likes having preschool students.

“I love teaching the little ones because their minds are like sponges,” she said. “They’re never bored, they’re never tired. It’s extremely rewarding.”

The teachers share their family relationship with the students, who enjoy the glimpse into their teacher’s private lives. Some of Karolyn Horn’s students have taken to calling Mary Ann Horn “Grandma,” which she said she loves; a pair of twins in Reardon’s class last year declared they intended to be teachers and teach together when they grow up, Karolyn Horn said.

Having three members of the same family teaching at the same school — at the same level — hasn’t been uncomfortable or awkward, they said, maybe because the school’s entire faculty “is like a family,” all three said. Many of the teachers have been at St. Gerald for years — one or two taught Reardon and Karolyn Horn when they were students there, and others are fellow St. Gerald alumnae.

“We’re a very close family,” Reardon said. “You don’t see a lot of families as close as we are.”

“And St. Gerald has always been home to us,” Mary Ann Horn said.

They ride to and from school together, and Mary Ann and Karolyn Horn usually eat dinner at Reardon’s house. Because they spend so much time together, Karolyn Horn said, they do spend a lot of time talking about their work. “But we like it,” she said. “It’s not a problem.”