Katherine Jackson ’11 M.A.R.
B.A. University of Southern California 2006
I was a recent college graduate and a first-year teacher when my colleague, a YDS alum, pulled from her bookshelf von Balthasar’s Heart of the World to use in our high school New Testament course. “Thus began his descent into the world,” opens von Balthasar’s creative and dramatic exploration of the Incarnation. It was the beginning of a story I never knew but always wanted to hear, and it answered questions I had yet to ask. It was then that I realized that my undergraduate double major in biology and religion was only the start of academic inquiry, and I was thirsty for theological insights that I had yet to articulate.
I needed that book and others like it. “Where did you get that book?” I asked my friend. “Yale Divinity School,” she replied. Thus began my ascent to YDS—a world on top of “the hill” opened by the doors of Marquand Chapel that became for me a place of intellectual and spiritual growth and an engagement with many, many new books. YDS has cultivated my interests in education and religious ethics while also fostering my Catholicism.
In addition to earning an M.A.R. in ethics, I also was able to pursue my teaching credential in secondary biology and chemistry through the Yale Teacher Preparation program. My education courses challenged me to articulate my educational philosophy and to develop my pedagogy. I was highly influenced by theorist Jerome Bruner’s challenge to determine the fundamental questions of our disciplines and to use these questions to guide classroom lessons and units. The purpose of this method is to teach students how to think like the experts in each field. In my case, I am called to teach students how to think like scientists and theologians.
The M.A.R. has prepared me to think like a theologian, and my ethics concentration has allowed me to further develop skills of ethical and bioethical inquiry. I am now prepared to bring fundamental theological questions into the classroom. I have encountered not only perennial questions, but also a myriad of Christian answers, and I have subsequently been challenged to determine where I stand, to nurture my own voice. and to ask more questions.
My time at YDS also has allowed me to grow spiritually and academically as a Catholic. Through the reading of Catholic authors alongside the gamut of Christian thinkers, I have come to recognize and appreciate the nuance and vibrancy of Catholic and Protestant theologies. Through the Catholic Students’ barbeques with Dean Attridge, conversations with the Roman Catholic Fellowship, mass at St. Thomas More (the Catholic center at Yale University) and worship at Marquand, I have grown to admire the rituals and practices of Catholicism and other traditions.
“The Heart [Jesus] became Spirit and… the New World was formed,” closes von Balthasar’s piece. It is with mixed feelings that I descend from this world on top of the hill and re-engage with my life as a teacher—a world made new by the insights and growth that I have gained from YDS. Although sad to leave, I am eager to teach again, and I look forward to my new post as a morality and biology teacher at Cristo Rey New York High School, an inner-city Catholic high school in Harlem. I bring to my new students the knowledge, skills and passion from my time at YDS and I am equipped for the classroom with a bushel of new books and a supply of important, fundamental questions.