This week’s “Feature a Teacher” is Kasey Aust, our Theology department chair, Theology teacher, Junior Class moderator and Reginites for Life moderator.
How long have you been at Regina Dominican?
This is my sixth year at Regina Dominican and my second year as department chair of Theology.
What have you found most rewarding during your time at Regina?
I love that our community is small enough for me to really get to know the girls. I often have the same student for up to five of their eight semesters at Regina, and it’s a pretty powerful thing to have an impact on someone’s life like that — not to mention how much they enrich my life. Our girls are the best.
How does Regina Dominican’s all-girls community impact your teaching?
When I was seeking a teaching position, I did not limit myself to single-sex education, but I am so glad I landed at an all-girls’ school. I have come to really believe in the power of all-girls as I see how much confidence and joy these students radiate. That was not my own experience as a student at a large, co-ed, public high school! Furthermore, especially in classes like Morality, we can cover a range of topics and discussions in an in-depth and honest way, which I imagine could at times be more difficult with boys in the room.
What about the all-girls aspect of being the moderator of Reginites for Life?
I teach Catholic Social Teaching, so it is awesome to see students embrace the virtues and values promoted by the Church by joining an extra-curricular like Reginites for Life. Moderating RFL is fun because we get to attend the D.C. March for Life, but it’s also really gratifying to be able to support our girls who take a stand on these issues. Sometimes that’s hard to do in our culture today, and I am exceedingly proud of their courage.
Your junior class is covering the death penalty right now- Given the violence in the world today, have recent events caused large discussions in class?
We are just beginning this topic, but yes, current events often play into our discussion in Catholic Social Teaching, just by the nature of the material. It can be hard for even devout Catholics to remain hopeful in the face of such violence and suffering, but the news can also be a useful challenge for us in this particular course. Opposing the death penalty may be relatively easy in theory, but when we are confronted with real and abhorrent violence, it makes the radical mercy and forgiveness preached by Jesus all the more revolutionary. It certainly encourages lively discussion in class, which I love!
Your senior class is learning about Heaven. I imagine this is a very interesting class section to teach. Can you share your favorite parts to teaching this?
The senior course is all about examining how God might move and communicate through different media – namely, art, music, literature, and film. The topic of Heaven is at the end of a long unit in which we take the Apostles’ Creed, line by line, and examine a piece (sometimes explicitly religious in nature, sometimes secular) that exemplifies that concept or teaching. The last lines “[I believe in] the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting” led us to review what the Catechism teaches about heaven, and then we listened to two secular songs regarding the afterlife — “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, and “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. We also learned a bit of background about the artists and compared and contrasted the songs in our analysis. I love teaching this course because the girls often contribute really deep artistic and spiritual insights in our discussions, plus, I get to expose them to both classic and modern work they may not normally see, hear, or watch.
How has teaching Theology at Regina Dominican strengthened your faith?
Oh, man. It has been beneficial to my own spiritual life in many ways, but teaching here has especially convinced me of the need to find one’s vocation. It’s a pleasure to serve our community in this way, and I never, ever get sick of talking about Jesus at work.