Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer
January 11, 2018 // Diocese

Catholic school teachers shine the ‘Light of Learning’

Jennifer Miller
Freelance Writer

Tom Heminger, St. Jude School —

Observing the everyday interactions between Tom Heminger and his students, one realizes that there is a unique quality in his teacher-student relationships. There is the mutual respect and engagement often found in Catholic schools, but also something else. Although middle school students are often characterized by moody or fickle behavior, Heminger’s middle school students are attentive and joy filled… and so is their teacher. There is a noticeable friendship and bond of learning, one that comes with living a life in Christ.

“When we have a problem, we pray about it,” Heminger naturally and frankly explained. His faith is an integral part of his work as a middle school teacher.

Tom Heminger and his American History Social Studies class stand with their Americana instruments that they use to perform historical songs about their studies. Problem-solving with prayer and demonstrating genuine excitement have helped Heminger’s students to engage their spiritual lives and to thrive at St. Jude School, South Bend. — Jennifer Miller

Heminger is the 2017 Light of Learning Award winner for St. Jude School. His position is sixth grade homeroom teacher, focusing on fifth- through eighth-grade social studies and fifth- and sixth-grade reading.

Although this is his fifth year teaching at St. Jude, Heminger taught for more than four decades with South Bend Community School Corporation. 

A South Bend native, Heminger, earned both his Bachelor of Science degree in education and Master of Science in Education from Indiana University.

“It was easy for me to “find a home” in the teaching profession,” he said. “As a student, I always loved school. Each year I was excited about the opportunities I had to expand my knowledge in every subject. My teachers were great role models who instilled within me a curiosity to want to learn. I decided that if I could emulate these great role models, I would find the teaching profession to be rewarding. Teaching in the Diocese of Fort Wayne South Bend is rewarding and a blessing!”

“Tom is a life-long Catholic and member of the Knights of Columbus. He takes his role as a Catholic educator seriously,” said St. Jude principal Steve Donndelinger.  “Tom is a student of music and the arts. He is attentive to local history and finds ways to bring our nation’s history alive in the minds of students. He exposes them to photos, artifacts and ideas that help his students gain better insight into the topics of study. He is always connecting current events and historical issues with their roots.”

Also, he noted, “His ideas have spurred several programs that have improved the quality of faculty, staff and student interactions. He connects with students and builds relationships with parents, demanding their best so they can get the most out of their Catholic education.” 

“As a teacher, I enjoy the challenge of finding the key to each student’s willingness to fully embrace learning in cooperation with others,” Heminger explained. “While there are many theories about learning, I have discovered that if I am excited about what I teach, my students will follow my lead. In the classroom, I am there for each student every day to provide the impetus, the lead, and the spark that will sustain the balance needed for academic, social, and spiritual growth. I enjoy most seeing my students discover the gifts that God has given each of them to be unique.”

Heminger describes his vocation as a teacher joyfully, even the areas of future growth. “I am blessed to be surrounded by colleagues who care deeply about our student’s spiritual, academic, and social needs.”

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