About the Mary Riehle Service Award
This blog is adapted from Sr. Sharon White's speech at the 2018 ESLC Celebration.
When ESLC opened its doors in February 2001, Mary Riehle volunteered to tutor after school twice a week. This was over and above her day job at St. Pascal’s, where she taught first grade. When Mary retired from full time teaching in 2003, she offered to tutor at ESLC every day as a part-time tutor. Even though she faced cancer and struggled with six years of chemo and radiation treatments, she continued to tutor because she said that tutoring was her best medicine.
Sr. Sharon said, "I was blessed to work with Mary Riehle at St. Matt’s during my first year at ESLC. It didn’t take long to discover that she was an exceptional tutor. Every child was important to her and she took her time to search for just the right keys to help her in 'unlocking each child’s potential through the foundation of reading.'
What made Mary Riehle such an outstanding educator? In my opinion, what put Mary in a league of her own was an unmatched level of kindness, deep respect, a loving spirit, and a BIG heart. Mary had a deep conviction that she could make a difference in the lives of children. She had the ability to motivate and inspire. She could calm a struggling reader with her gentle presence and words of encouragement. She could instill confidence in those who had little to no confidence."
Sr. Sharon then shared the history of the photo to the right as told by Mary:
"A primary student came with a lot of insecurities, saying “Ms. Mary, you know I can’t read. It’s too hard for me.” I assured him I would help him…A year later he was reading simple books and struggling to master high frequency vocabulary words. However, he was very excited and proud as punch to tell everyone “I can read!” I am just thrilled each time I hear him read. He brings joy to my heart. What a gift to enable a child to read."
Sr. Sharon said the boy's mother later became involved in the program. She said, “I can’t believe how his attitude and confidence have improved. He no longer says, 'It’s too hard, or I don’t want to read.'
Mary said, "I believe that parental, family involvement is a tremendous power in demonstrating the value of reading."
Sr. Sharon, continued her speech at the Celebration event, stating, "When you look at this photo of the young boy and his mother, you can see Mary sitting on the edge of her chair and you can almost hear Mary's thoughts…'You can do this, I know you can!'"
"During Mary’s time at ESLC she reached out with unparalleled kindness and consideration to everyone she met—children, families, her peers, friends and strangers. She had a ready smile, a cheerful disposition, and she always displayed an attitude of gratitude."
The following words from the Superhero Wonder Woman could be Mary’s words: If you’re still feeling a little less-than-capable of saving the world remember this: “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”
Sr. Sharon concluded her tribute to Riehle, "I stand here today and attest that Mary Riehle was, in every sense of the word, a Superhero and she was living proof that not all Superheroes wear capes."