Eleanor Wong

Eleanor Wong

A lifelong Catholic school student and a youth ministry coordinator at St. Matthew’s in Surrey, Eleanor Wong has always enjoyed working with youth, but teaching wasn’t initially in her plans until she took an education class on a whim.

Wong remembers the professor musing to the class that anyone who wants to make a difference in the world should consider teaching because the sheer number of people coming through the education system makes it an excellent place to impact people’s lives positively.

Wong decided to give it a chance, but working for Catholic schools took less soul-searching.

“I’ve only ever gone to Catholic school, so I’m probably biased,” she said, “but I have always appreciated the community in the Catholic system.”

Wong, who is teaching science and religion at Holy Cross Secondary in Surrey, said, “Seeing the social climate that is out there, my heart kind of breaks for the youth. I want to show them that there is more to religion than sitting in the pews.”

John Paul Escala

John Paul Escala

John Paul Escala has worn many hats, but after years of soul searching, the parishioner at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Surrey decided to pursue a career as a Catholic school teacher.

Escala has been an early childhood educator, worked with kids with special needs, and, most recently, a kinesiologist. Through it all, he knew he wanted to teach. He also knew he loved his faith. “My faith is what drives me to see, not just the calling of God, but the best version of myself and where I can be,” he said. “Being a Catholic school teacher, there is just that sense of belonging and community.”

Escala, who will teach physical and health education and science at Archbishop Carney Secondary in September, said he wanted to be a Catholic school teacher to bring that sense of family to students. “That is what we strive for in our classroom, for them to belong” to a school, a diocese, and a Church.

He admits it is also easier for him to live his faith in a Catholic school “because I am in this kind of environment … able to express that to my students without feeling judged, or even risking your teaching licence.”

Kaye Historillo

Kaye Historillo

After working in the Surrey public school system, Kaye Historillo says working in a Catholic school feels like coming home.

Historillo initially took a public school job after graduating from teaching school during the COVID pandemic. She had felt some anxiety about getting a job and accepted the first offer that came along.

While she doesn’t think the three years she spent in public education were wasted, she felt something was missing.

“I felt comfortable where I was; I had been happy to go with the flow,” she said. But something changed when she was able to spend a professional development day at St. Jude Elementary in Vancouver, where she had worked as an educational assistant before getting her teaching certification.

“As soon as I walked in the doors it felt like coming home,” she said. “It was an instantaneous, ‘why did I leave?’ feeling.”

Because it was the first Friday of the month, there was adoration in the chapel.

“Everyone was asking me, “Why are you not back (at the school) yet? And they told me I needed to go to adoration and pray about it.”

In prayer she heard “a lot of voices and noise,” she said. “But the answer from Jesus was clear, that it was time to come home.”

“The Holy Spirit gut-punched me in the best way possible,” Historillo said.

Historillo is teaching science and religion at Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary.

Orla McEvoy

Orla McEvoy

For Orla McEvoy, leaving her home in Limerick, Ireland, was a difficult decision, but finding a teaching position in a Vancouver Catholic school has compensated by offering her an opportunity to see the world while following her vocation as an educator.

Because people come by choice to come to Catholic schools here, you feel it,” she told The B.C. Catholic.

With nearly 90 percent of schools in Ireland ostensibly Catholic, McEvoy appreciates the intentionality that students, teachers, and parents bring to Catholic education in Vancouver.

“I really love that the students are more vocal about their faith here,” said McEvoy. “You can feel from kids here that they really have a strong faith themselves. Even when they say their prayers – it’s part of school life here.”

McEvoy is on a career break from her previous job as an elementary school principal back home and is part of the growing community of international teachers choosing to work in Vancouver.