Sister Jean Lawrence (middle)

Daniel Kimberley has fond memories of his sophomore-year Biology teacher. He remembers her engaging students, making the material accessible, and, at one point, even letting him teach the class.

The class was at Pope Pius High School, and the teacher was Dominican Sister of Hope Jean Lawrence Strack, OP. When Sister Jean Lawrence asked for volunteers to teach a lesson on evolution, Mr. Kimberley didn’t have the wherewithal to volunteer himself (he admits that he was more into sports than studies at the time). However, Sister Jean Lawrence saw potential in him, and he knew better than to say ‘no’ to her request. He taught that class and it changed the course of his life; Mr. Kimberley served as a high-school Biology teacher and sports coach for over thirty years.

Now retired, Mr. Kimberley points to that day in Sister Jean Lawrence’s classroom as the beginning of his career.

“My first teaching position was as a Biology teacher. My last teaching position was as a biology teacher,” Mr. Kimberley recalls. “I was never more comfortable in my entire career than when I was in the classroom.”

Sister Jean Lawrence remembers having her students teach lessons to the class periodically. She says that she encouraged students to teach occasional lessons in order to instill in them self confidence and public speaking skills. Now retired from teaching, she cites reconnecting with students as one of the “best parts of being a sister.”

“The most joyful part of being a sister is hearing from students,” Sister says. “So many of them are grandparents, and just their success stories confirm that we did the right thing.”

Sister Jean Lawrence entered the Dominican Sisters of Hope in 1946. Growing up, she’d had an inkling that she wanted to enter the convent, but she brushed it aside and took seriously her father’s advice to work full-time. She worked until she was twenty-five and then, a late vocation at the time, she entered the Dominican Sisters of Newburgh.

Her first mission was teaching Biology in Pope Pius High School in 1947, which she remembers fondly. Nearly seventy years after that first mission, she still feels the fruits of having taught well. When asked how her students never took advantage of having the responsibility of teaching a lesson, she points to a little guidance, a little compassion, and a lot of tough love.

“Say what you mean and mean what you say,” Sister says of her teaching strategy. “I mean, if you tell them you want an assignment and you give them a month, and it comes time and they say they haven’t done it yet– tough! They get a zero or an F. We’re supposed to train men and women.”

She might have been stern at times, but her students remember her as caring, friendly, and outgoing. Upon learning that Mr. Kimberley wrote with fond memories of her classroom, she wasn’t surprised to hear of his progress. While honored, she says that the story hit home for her; it mirrors her own background of teaching.

“My story was the same thing,” Sister shares. “In college, I had a good biology teacher and that’s what made me decide that I was going to teach Biology.”

Regardless of her motivations for becoming an all-star teacher, Mr. Kimberley is glad that she did.

“She was a wonderful person,” he recalls. “She was caring, and she was creative in her lessons and how she did things. She could motivate you. It’s not easy to do with a fifteen year old kid! She could motivate you to do well, to achieve.”

And achieve he did.