Imagine being a high school teacher for 40 years, walking into a classroom every day and presenting information in new and innovative ways. Think of all the changes in education you would have “lived through.” There was chalk on a chalkboard instead of markers on a whiteboard; filmstrips on a projector instead of images on a smart TV; a mimeograph machine to make copies instead of a multipurpose copy machine; and a manual typewriter for writing papers instead of a laptop.
Encyclopedias were available at the local library for research instead of the Internet at your disposal in your home, and technology (television, computer, electronic games and devices) once used for entertainment is now used as everyday learning and teaching devices.
Then there is the intangible change that has altered education forever – the parental shift from, “teachers are always right” to, “my child is always right.”
Jayne Vitale has experienced all of those changes firsthand as a high school history, visual arts and Spanish teacher at Xavier High School in Middletown. She began her career in secondary education in 1960 at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, Connecticut, an all-girls school where she taught history and Spanish for six years. There she grew to know and love students and the Sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an order of religious women founded in Italy. Ironically, Vitale continued her career in secondary education teaching an all-male population at Xavier for the next 34 years.
When she arrived at Xavier, answering an ad for a history teacher, the school had no art program. The principal at the time, Brother James Kelly, C.F.X, used his Irish charm to convince Vitale to teach a few art classes and start the school’s art department. She took him up on his offer of employment, along with the promise to pay for her to earn an art degree. Receiving her art degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown and going on to get her sixth-year certificate of advanced study in fine arts left her well-prepared to start the fine arts curriculum that is used today at Xavier.
A dedicated teacher, Vitale also found time to moderate the art and Italian clubs and the National Honor Society. She also managed roles as a retreat leader and international trip moderator, traveling with students to various sites in Europe. She speaks three languages and has impeccable fashion and food expertise.
In her long career at Xavier, Vitale has come to know and love the faculty, staff and Xaverian Brothers, the order that sponsors the school. She looks back with fond memories on when she arrived at Xavier, and the brothers who befriended her and so many other young faculty members. The Xaverian hospitality and charism of community are two of the many reasons she stayed. Although her career at Xavier was professional, it also included a community component that extended into her personal life. “They (brothers) were scholarly gentlemen and I learned so much from them through the years,” she said.
As the 2020-21 school year begins with all its challenges, Vitale will be embarking on a different journey. This one will not include masked students, social distanced classrooms or a hybrid school day. Rather, she will be knitting, watching movies, making jewelry and painting in the comfort of her own home, and enjoying the well-deserved tranquility of retirement – as they say, “timing is everything!”
By Andrea Hoisl, Director of Faith Events