A Man Like Christ
Ephesians 5:1-2 (NASB) “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
If you had only one word to describe St. John XXIII Parishioner, Mike Reese, the first word that comes to mind is, ‘Humble.’ The Pennsylvania transplant dedicates endless hours at Bishop Verot High School, teaching Theology, while pouring into the lives of the students, faculty and staff. He somehow finds time to occasionally teach sessions in Adult Education at our Parish. The man isn’t just a teaching machine, he’s a great Man of God.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
During Catholic Schools Week, Mike received a medal of high honor: “Christ the Teacher Award.”
Among teaching with joy, while challenging students, the award signifies service, patience, love, forgiveness and kindness– all the things that mirror the Character of Christ.
It’s evident we’re all a bunch of imperfect people living in a world with terrible drivers, bad cell service and never-enough vacation time, but in the midst of all the things working against us, what if we all tried a little harder to be more like Christ? Mike lays the complex concept, simply. He says, “It’s about progress, not perfection.”
Now that’s do-able.
Danielle Koleniak: For those who don’t know you personally, how long have you been teaching at Bishop Verot High School and what has your experience in Catholic Education been like?
Mike Reese: I’ve been teaching for 22 years and this is my sixth year at Bishop Verot High School. For my wife, Jane and I, it has been a great experience. We left Pennsylvania, along with the snow and ice, after the kids graduated college. It was time to shift a little bit. I was a High School Principal and decided I wanted to go back to my Theology teaching roots. We came down here, to Southwest Florida and I have been at Bishop Verot High School ever since.
DK: It must have been a big change going back into the classroom again?
MR: I saw both roles as Ministry, but for me, I liked teaching more than being an administrator. I find it much more life-giving to work with kids—especially High School Juniors and Seniors. I focus a lot of my attention on preparing them for the next four years in college. For example- how to maintain healthy relationships and how to keep your head above water when you first go out on your own.
DK: What is your goal when you’re in the classroom with the students?
MR: Everything centers on relationships because it’s something they understand. They all have friendships, which have grown very important to them. They also have the boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, which they are learning a lot about, as well. The core of what Christ is trying to teach us is to have a relationship with Him and a relationship with Him fuels and impacts our relationships with everybody else. Christ tells us, ‘If you say you love me, but you don’t love your neighbor, then you’re a liar.” There’s a connection there between others, ourselves and our relationship with God. That’s the dynamic of the Trinity. When we can really understand the concept of, ‘I can really allow myself to be loved by God and by other people, then I can be my true self”—that’s when they can come into their own personhood.
DK: Talk about the “Christ the Teacher Award” and the meaning behind it.
MR: It’s a big event for Catholic Schools Week and at the Mass. Throughout the years, the school uses the week to acknowledge students, faculty and the gift of Catholic Education for families and communities. One of the ways of recognizing a particular teacher is to say, ‘This teacher in our school community exhibits Christ to students.’ This applies to service, being available to students before and after school, and approaching teaching with joy and happiness. This teacher is someone who is just, accepting, loving and at the same time challenges students to do the right thing. That’s how this award gets the name, ‘Christ the Teacher Award’. The students nominate the teachers they think are deserving of this award. A couple of teachers are selected from the votes and then a group of school officials select the winner. At the end of the Catholic Schools Week Mass, the selected teacher is acknowledged. Their family is present, they receive a plaque and given the rest of the day off.
DK: Walk us through the moment when you received the award.
MR: I had been nominated before. I knew I was nominated along with two other staff members. They are really good people and well-deserving. We were at Mass when they announced it. Bishop Verot had secretly invited my wife. For me, it was an opportunity for all teachers and administrators to see my wife- the person who allows me to flourish. I’ve learned more about Christ’s love for me, trust, fidelity, forgiveness and acceptance from her. It was nice to acknowledge her in front of the school community. Many times students and faculty don’t see the people who are behind the teacher. You know, the people who help keep us sane while we’re struggling and down. It was a good day to acknowledge the other two teachers and my wife. I really enjoyed it.
DK: What does it mean to you to be like Christ?
MR: The two words I think of are LOVING and SERVICE. We’re all broken and a work in progress. We have to ask ourselves, ‘Can my actions and choices demonstrate the kind of love and respect Christ is calling us to?’ In my mindset, I think of Christ as willing to love at any cost and willing to be of service to other people. If we’re doing that, we are headed in the right direction- even imperfectly. It’s about progress, not perfection.