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50 years later, nun finds school place to be

May 27, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Gazing out the window of her classroom at St. Mary's School, Sister Mary Corda Mullenix sees basically the same view she did as a high school senior in homeroom in the 1940s.

It's interesting that she ended up teaching sixth- and seventh-grade English and literature in the same room, remodeled since St. Maria Goretti High School took the high school grades in 1958, said Sister Corda, 70.

It's also fitting, because her path in life was strongly influenced by the Catholic nuns who taught her at the school, said the Hagerstown native, in her 10th year of teaching at her alma mater.

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"The sisters that taught me were really good role models. I looked up to them," said Sister Corda, who received a 50-year length of service award from the Archdiocese of Baltimore earlier this month.

Fifty years after professing her vows as a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Corda said she has never questioned her decision to pursue a dual role as Catholic nun and teacher.

"I never thought about anything else," said Sister Corda, who left Hagerstown right after high school and spent more than half of her teaching career away from home. "I just love to teach, and kids keep you young. You have to keep up."

Sister Corda taught in elementary, middle and high schools in Catholic schools in Malden, Mass., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Hollywood, Fla., and Baltimore before returning to Hagerstown 23 years ago, she said.

She spent 13 years at St. Maria Goretti, then moved over to St. Mary's School.

Looking back, Sister Corda said she thinks high school juniors were the easiest students to teach because they generally had a lot of curiosity about literature and were serious about their school work.

Her favorite part of teaching is discussing literature and religion with her students, she said.

"That way, I can hear their ideas and learn where they're coming from," she said.

Time has taught Sister Corda the fleeting nature of "new" teaching methods.

"It's just full circle," she said. "It keeps coming around."

The way Sister Corda sees it, you have to adjust your teaching to meet the group.

"I always had this theory - you have to teach the kids, not the subject matter," she said.

A teacher's job is harder now than it was 50 years ago, said Sister Corda, who remembers when more parents got involved in their children's education and most deferred to the teacher in discipline situations.

It has been disheartening to see the number of teaching nuns dwindle over the years, said Sister Corda, who blames it on the way the world has changed.

Sister Corda said she intends to keep teaching as long as she can be effective.

"I'll go until I feel I can't keep that energy level up," she said. "Because you really have to have energy."

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