By Jerry Duggan
Thirty-three years after she arrived at Jesuit High School, Kathy Juhas still wakes up every morning excited for the day to come. Some might feel burnt out after spending more than three decades at the same workplace, but Juhas does not – because she is doing what she feels is God’s will – and that, to her, is what’s most important in life.
Growing up in New Orleans, Juhas has been praying that she might follow God’s will for as long as she can remember. She learned this practice from her grandmother.
“We would go over to her house and pray, but the important thing she taught me was not to just ask God for things I wanted, but to ask that I might accept God’s will in every situation,” she said. “This instilled in me the idea that God knows best and has a plan for me, and for everyone.”
It took Juhas a while to figure out exactly what God’s plan might be. After entering college as an undecided major, she took a calculus course which came easily to her – so easy, in fact, that she soon started to tutor other students.
In time, it became clear to her that she had a natural gift for explaining things, so she thought a career in education might make sense. She also wanted to keep her spiritual life at the forefront of everything she did, so she made her intentions clear.
“Eventually it came time for me to do student teaching, and I politely made it clear that I was not interested in teaching in a non-Catholic school,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to do more than just teach math. I wanted to make my students better people and draw them closer to God.”
After college, Juhas taught for a decade at her alma mater, St. Mary’s Dominican High School, an all-girls Catholic school in New Orleans. In 1988, she was hired as a math teacher at Jesuit High School – which happened to be her father’s alma mater – and is still there today, doing what she knows is God’s will for her.
In addition to her teaching duties, Juhas got involved in the school’s campus ministry department, working with the late Fr. Raymond Fitzgerald, SJ, to revamp the school’s retreat program and expand it to all students, as opposed to just upperclassmen.
“Father Fitzgerald made sure that this place was a truly Jesuit school; that spirituality was at the forefront of everything that we do,” she said. “It was a joy and a blessing to work with him to make those visions a reality for our retreat program.”
In 2001, Juhas was approached about filling a vacancy as the school’s assistant principal for academics. She was initially reluctant: “I loved being in the classroom all day, every day, connecting with my students,” she said.
She was also apprehensive because she feared her relationship with other faculty members might change. “I was intent on treating my colleagues the same as I always had, but some did start to view me differently in my new role – as more of a ‘boss,’” she said. “Eventually, they came to realize that it was still ‘just me,’ thankfully.”
Juhas has grown into her role over the past two decades. While many in secondary educational administration grow weary of the many responsibilities it entails, Juhas has not experienced that fatigue.
“I wear a lot of different hats, but I think that’s a good thing,” she explained. “Some days I’ll be meeting with students, parents and teachers to resolve issues they are having in the classroom, others I’ll be doing a lot of paperwork, or any number of different things.”
Falling under the “any number of different things” category would be Juhas’ efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when she served as acting principal for approximately 400 Jesuit High students who transferred to Strake Jesuit College Preparatory of Houston for the 2005-2006 academic year. She considers this among her greatest honors.
“It was a crazy time, and I missed my family very much, but to be able to help our students, with the support of Strake, where everyone was so welcoming to us, was a real blessing,” she said.
Juhas enjoys the professional aspect of her job, including the one math class she continues to teach along with her administrative responsibilities. But what really keeps her motivated every day is the spiritualty associated with Jesuit High.
“There is a richness of spirituality running throughout this place,” she said. “Even though I’m in an administrative role, the spiritual side of things is where I find the most meaning.”
Juhas tries to attend morning Mass in the school’s chapel as often as she can, prays the Rosary on the way to work and stays as involved with spiritual activities at the school as her position will allow. Most of all, she finds that all the work she does at Jesuit is worth it, because it is God’s will.
“I feel that this is God’s plan for me in my life right now,” she said. “I love coming to work at Jesuit High.”