15 May 2020

Saint Jean-Baptist de La Salle, patron of all educators

On May 15th, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared Saint Jean-Baptist de La Salle the special patron of all educators of children and youth and the patron saint of all educators. He was known for a dedicated life in education, a prolific work in the field of pedagogy, promoter of an innovative educational system which envisioned a school open to everyone.

Some of his contributions were the definition of a schedule for classes, the organization of students by groups of level, teaching in the vernacular, the creation of secondary education and his work to include vulnerable social groups in the education system as well. All of these were fundamental to generate a paradigm shift in the conception of education, first in France, but which would soon spread throughout Europe and later also to the rest of the world.

What is perhaps less known, and which is cause for celebration every May 15th, is his task as a teacher educator. Aware of the importance of education to improve societies, he understood that the school had to be provided with professional educators, highly trained and with a deep vocation to be a teacher. Saint Jean-Baptist de La Salle surrounded himself with the right people, and dedicated all his energies to their education, acting as a role model and as an example for them, promoting the dignity of the teacher.

Thus, today, May 15th, the work of all those who are dedicated to education must be recognized and applauded, from those who care for the youngest to university and adult teachers. During the confinement, the educational community has had to rethink, overnight, the methodology with which they worked. Thousands of teachers have been forced to search for tools to try to alleviate physical distance. Part of the educational task involves proximity to the students: seeing them, feeling them, understanding them. In these two months, physical separation has forced us to find ways to continue being close.