Jenny Lashbrook with this year’s kindergarten class at Mary Carrico Catholic School in Knottsville. COURTESY OF JENNY LASHBROOK
Mary Carrico teacher celebrates 25 years: ‘I love what I do’
BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Many families have contacted Jenny Lashbrook to thank her for the “blessing” of teaching their children over her 25-year career at Mary Carrico Catholic School in Knottsville – but Lashbrook insists it’s the other way around.
“It’s crazy because I’m the one who is so blessed,” said Lashbrook, who celebrates her 25th anniversary of teaching at Mary Carrico this year. “They welcomed me with open arms.”
Lashbrook, who spoke on the phone with The Western Kentucky Catholic on Feb. 26, said that when she was looking for her first teaching position 25 years ago, she had learned about an opening for a long-term substitute when teacher Donna Howard went on maternity leave at St. Mary of the Woods Catholic School in Whitesville.
While still on maternity leave, Howard, who had grown up in Knottsville and previously worked at Mary Carrico, connected Lashbrook with Mary Carrico’s principal. It just so happened that a Mary Carrico teacher was about to go on maternity leave, so Lashbrook became a substitute in Knottsville after her Whitesville position concluded.
“I substituted at Mary Carrico off and on for the remainder of that year and was hired fulltime the following year, 1996, for the second grade teaching position at Mary Carrico,” said Lashbrook.
And the rest was history.
“I really believe it was God saying ‘Hey, this is what I want you to do,’” said Lashbrook. “Now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else!”
Besides the second-grade level that she taught in the beginning, Lashbrook has also taught first grade and kindergarten, which is what she currently teaches.
She chuckled that it sounded a little cliché, but Lashbrook said her favorite thing about teaching has always been “helping kids learn.”
“Seeing their faces when they are struggling with something and then when they get it,” she said. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world, helping them make those connections.”
Lashbrook is originally from Owensboro and had never been to Knottsville before becoming a teacher at Mary Carrico. Yet, the full welcome she has received by the community over the quarter-decade “feels like an extension of their families,” she said.
She is now teaching her second generation of students, having previously taught their parents: “How lucky am I that I taught you, and now you’re sending your kids here,” Lashbrook has reflected.
Over this time of global pandemic, she credits her fellow teachers and the support of students’ parents for the fortitude to keep going.
Of course, she said, nothing feels normal right now, with social distancing and frequent sanitizing – “Lysol has become my best friend” she joked – but “it is so stressful for the kids right now and I feel like they have a lot of anxiety.”
“We tried to focus on – for the kids’ sake – making the school feel as normal as possible so they can feel like they can be normal,” said Lashbrook.
Lashbrook said she is grateful to be teaching in a Catholic school because specifically, “we get to educate the whole child because we’re allowed to talk about God, about Jesus.”
When, for instance, a student pipes up during class that their “Granddaddy is sick” Lashbrook appreciates the freedom to pause in class and say “Ok, let’s pray for so-and-so-‘s Granddaddy.”
“When you can explain through the Gospel teachings why these things are happening in the world, it helps them understand in a clearer way,” said Lashbrook. “Helping them relate it all to Jesus and the Gospel can give them a lot of peace.”
“I love what I do and I can’t see myself anywhere else,” she said.
Originally printed in the April 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.