St. Francis teacher has deep roots

Published 1:07 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First-grade teacher Cindy Park has been at Vicksburg Catholic School for 17 years, and that doesn’t even include the years she was a student there.

Park’s history with the school, however, goes back much farther than her time there as a student and a teacher; her grandmother started her career at the school 100 years ago in 1915.

“My grandmother, Pauline Gargaro Gilbert, graduated from St. Francis in 1927, and my mother Mary G. Hilbun graduated from St. Francis in 1952,” she said. “That’s when St. Francis was the all girls school.”

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Park herself graduated from St. Aloysius High School in 1979. Park’s daughters, Candice Park Reeder and Catelyn Park Skipper, graduated from St. Aloysius in 2004 and 2009, respectively.

“My grandson, John Robert Reeder, IV, is in Montessori here,” she said. “He’s the fifth generation.”

Park said her decision to put her daughters through school at Vicksburg Catholic was based on more than just tradition.

“We’re all Catholic, and we’ve all gotten a good Catholic education,” she said. “And being able to pray in school is a big thing.”

The familial atmosphere is also a plus, Park said.

“Being in a small school you get to know everybody, and families know each other,” she said. “I’m teaching grandchildren of people I graduated with.”

Park’s eldest daughter Reeder works at the school with her, and with her son who is in Montessori, that makes three generations who are at the school each day.

“I admire her (Reeder) because she really likes teaching the junior high,” she said. “I couldn’t do that.”

Park’s husband Howard and Reeder are also the schools’ softball coaches.

Park said she gets to see her grandson at school too, which is something she appreciates.

“I get to see him when he’s walking down the hall changing classes,” she said. “He likes to wave at me. It is wonderful having him here.”

Park’s favorite part of teaching is religion.

“I teach both of the first grade classes because I am Catholic,” she said. “I get to teach them in the chapel, and we talk about creation and the importance of creation and taking care of God’s world. They love that, and they absorb it.”

Park said the theme for first grade is peacemakers.

“We talk about war and praying for peace,” she said. “On our wall out front we have ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,’ and they work hard at that. We pray for peace because that’s the only way it’s going to change.”