Retired teacher, pastor recognized during Teacher Excellence Day

  • Written by Mary Louise Van Dyke
  • Published in Local
Retired instrumental teacher Jim Paynton working with his students at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. Paynton retired earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy Kennedy Catholic High School Retired instrumental teacher Jim Paynton working with his students at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. Paynton retired earlier this year. Photo: Courtesy Kennedy Catholic High School

During Jim Paynton’s 36 years as a music teacher at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, he and his students began each day in the band room with a prayer.

Paynton also developed a yearly retreat for his students, encouraging them to leave their instruments at home and use the time to focus on God and study the scriptures.

“A personal relationship with your creator — of course that is exemplified in your relationships around you, how you approach others around you to show you are brothers and sisters in Christ,” Paynton said. He retired earlier this year after what he called a humbling and gratifying journey as an educator.

For that longtime commitment to Catholic education, Paynton is being honored with the 2015 Sister Mary Taylor Archdiocesan School Board Award. The award will be presented Oct. 2 during the archdiocese’s Teacher Excellence Day, a dual-site gathering of some 1,500 educators and administrators from Western Washington’s 74 Catholic schools.

“The whole thing is quite humbling,” said Paynton, who will receive his award at the gathering being held at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle.

Father Jim Lee
Father Jim Lee

Also being honored on Teacher Excellence Day is Father Jim Lee, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Olympia, which has a K-8 school founded in 1881 by the Sisters of Providence.

Father Lee, who said it is “a joy” to be pastor of a parish with a school, will receive the Archbishop Alex J. Brunett Award for outstanding leadership and support of Catholic schools. The award will be presented at the gathering held at St. Charles Borromeo School in Tacoma.

“I am just very grateful for having the gift of Catholic education in my life,” Father Lee said. “It’s a real gift that is offered that I wish more Catholic families would participate in,” he said.

St. Michael Parish is working on an initiative that would use part of the Sunday collection to support the parish school. Father Lee said he hopes the effort will result in families paying little or nothing for tuition.

Teacher Excellence Day is also an opportunity for professional development and a chance to hear keynote speaker Kevin Baxter, an author and superintendent of Catholic schools for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

Even if some predict doom and gloom for the future of Catholic education because of competition, “Catholic schools have a great capacity to grow in the coming years,” Baxter will tell local educators.

The challenge, he said, is to ensure Catholic students are growing spiritually and intellectually, and that teachers have access to continued professional development.

“We can still believe our best days lie ahead,” Baxter said.