"It's a joy to get up in the
By Brian J. Lowney
Rhode Island Catholic
June 7, 2007
PROVIDENCE — Some teachers are simply
unforgettable. They lead by example and never lose their smile or joie
de vivre. They change lives. Eileen Madden is one of them. Her
students must think she was born with an eraser and a piece of chalk in
For the past 33 years, the dedicated
teacher has not only provided hundreds of inner-city children with the
building blocks of a solid education, but has also instilled in them, by
stellar example, the principles of a strong Catholic faith.
“It’s a joy to get up every morning
as is evidenced by the fact that I’m the first one here,” says the 55
year-old Holy Ghost School third grade teacher. Madden arrives shortly
after 6 a.m. to prepare her classroom and coordinate the school breakfast
The Rhode Island College alumna credits
her parents, June and the late George Madden, and the Notre Dame Sisters
who taught her and her eight siblings, for planting the seeds that
blossomed into a fruitful career as a Catholic school educator.
“We all went to St. Teresa’s School,”
she recalls. “I always said, ‘One day, I’m going to come back and
get one of those big desks.’”
She continued her education under the
tutelage of the Notre Dame congregation at the former St. Teresa High
School, earning a diploma in 1969 as a member of the last graduating
“That’s what I knew best. That was
my home away from home for all those years. There was a family atmosphere,”
Madden says, recalling that she participated in numerous processions and
enjoyed school plays and many other activities.
Her father was also a graduate of St.
Teresa School and later taught at La Salle Academy for five years before
becoming a teacher at Aldrich Jr. High School in Warwick. Her grandmother,
Anna (Hodgson) Madden, also graduated from St. Teresa.
With a watchful eye always on the
lookout for “one of those big desks,” Madden returned to St. Teresa
after graduating from college and taught second grade at the Olneyville
neighborhood elementary school until it was destroyed in a fire in 1990
and forced to close. She remembers finishing the school year in the former
Blessed Sacrament Convent.
Madden then transferred to Holy Ghost
School where she started as a second grade teacher and then moved up one
“My parents were happy when I was
finally promoted to third grade,” Madden quips. Noting that she likes to
poll her class at the start of each new school year to determine their
likes and dislikes, hobbies, habits, and favorite activities, Madden
learned in 2003 that half of her class was coming to school without eating
breakfast. It was about the same time that the government’s free
breakfast program was being initiated, so Madden took charge and organized
the school breakfast program at Holy Ghost School. She currently feeds
about 60 hungry students every school morning before they set off to
“I take care of setting up and serving
breakfast,” she says. “I’m here in the dark in the winter.” Madden
praises Holy Ghost School Principal Carol Soltys and the school’s
faculty and staff for their continued support and camaraderie. It’s a
family,” she acknowledges.
“Carol is a good principal. She is
receptive to ideas. You feel that you are working with her not for her.
You can make choices — and use them to make a difference.”
While Madden is comfortable teaching all
subjects, math is her favorite. “I’m the daughter of a math teacher,”
she says, laughing. “All the Madden girls love math. It’s a
A parishioner of Mary, Mother of Mankind
Church in North Providence, she’s seen many changes in Catholic schools
during her long career. For example, when she started teaching at
St. Teresa about a third of the faculty were religious sisters.
“I’ve always taught in inner-city
schools,” Madden emphasizes. “Today our schools are more culturally
and ethnically diverse. I couldn’t tell you how many countries we have
Her class is small this year with 15
students including some from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa
Rica, Haiti, Guatemala, Nigeria and Ghana. “It’s a rich tapestry,”
she observes. Madden admits that she’s energized by comments from former
students, now adults, who want their own children to enjoy a similar
experience in a safe, nurturing environment. “They tell me, ‘I send my
child to a Catholic school,’” she adds. “They continue to make that
Soltys commends her longtime colleague
for Madden’s unwavering commitment to her students. “Eileen is an
excellent teacher,” the principal acknowledges. “She always looks out
for the kids’ best interest. She’s been with us for many years, but
she’s always has something fresh and new to teach the students.
She’s loyal to Catholic education and to our school.”
Madden says that the students enjoy
hearing stories about her happy childhood and Catholic education and
amusing tales about her 13 year-old black and white tabby cat named Jazzy.
“The kids know all about him,” she reveals, breaking into a broad
When she’s not in the classroom, the
popular teacher relaxes by doing puzzles, reading, gardening and enjoying
a good baseball game. “I’m the Number One Bo-Sox fan!” she
proclaims. And while she’s rooting for the home team, she’s got a
whole fan club cheering for her.
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