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Leaving a legacy

By MELISSA ENGLERT • Feb 21, 2019 at 2:00 PM

The word legacy can be defined as something handed down from the past, from a predecessor or an ancestor. To me, it is about what you leave behind for others: whether it be a reputation, a monetary gift, a building that you built, or something of that nature.

When I think of Norwalk Catholic School and St. Paul High School, it is evident that those who came before us wanted to build something special within these walls. Our church and our school were built upon a legacy of wonderful people, whom through generosity, support and service, have given of themselves freely, abundantly, and through God’s grace, for many years.

As I get older and my children are growing up, I have begun to think about what kind of legacy I would leave. For many of us, we want our lives to have mattered. We want to be able to touch another’s soul and have encouraged them in some way or made things a little better than how we found them.

Much of the reason I went into the field of education was to be able to help children and to cultivate a love for learning within my students. I wanted to teach children that you can have fun while learning and the vital importance of service for those less fortunate than us. I feel I have accomplished a great deal, but each day we must strive to do better than we did the day before. It is through hard work and tenacity that we leave a worthwhile legacy. As an educational leader, I identify with what Jimmy Casas, from J. Casas and Associates, said at a conference in September: “In the end, your legacy won’t be about your success (as an educator); it will be about your significance and the impact you made on every student, everyday, and whether you were willing to do whatever it took to inspire them to be more than they ever thought possible.”

When I look at my students at Norwalk Catholic School and the students of St. Paul High School, I know from the wonderful works they do everyday, that they are cultivating positive legacies of their own. This is only the beginning of their journey. However, these children are learning so much along the way. Through service hours, service projects, senior projects, Teen Leadership Corps, student council and the many, many other areas not mentioned herein, it is evident that our students want to leave behind a positive impact on their school and community.

When I began teaching at Norwalk Catholic School, my eyes were opened to the abundant possibilities that education can offer a child. Our ability to discuss faith and spirituality was a great lift. It is not only about teaching subjects from a book, it is about teaching the whole child, fostering a child’s spirituality, and teaching children to foster a love for their fellow classmates and community. It is teaching that God loves you and that there is eternal life freely available to us through Jesus.

I once read that wanting to leave a legacy is being egotistical. I disagree. All of us will leave behind some sort of legacy, whether we intend to or not. By simply having lived, we have an impact on those around us. In living a life of benevolence, we ensure that our legacy was for a greater good.

No matter how you have lived your life, it is important to take a step back and reflect upon how you treat others; this can be the single most important aspect of your legacy. One of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis, referring to Jesus, sums it up: “Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.”


Local columnist Melissa Englert is the elementary school principal of Norwalk Catholic School.

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