Recognition in a Rocky Year

“This sounds cheesy, but I tell my students, they get to watch me do what I really love every day.”

Libby Harbaugh, Spanish teacher at CJ, received recognition from The Hope Scholarship Corporation through Echo Boutique in Troy, OH for her outstanding work as a teacher and a mentor at CJ.

“Though the recognition is not why we do what we do, every teacher deserves a window like this, especially this year, when doubting ourselves may come more easily,” said Harbaugh. “As I'm sure many teachers and school staff would agree, things like this that come straight from the students — their words, time and energy to say ‘thank you’ or to recognize what we do — mean so much.”

Harbaugh noted how grateful she is to be a part of the CJ community, something that has helped make Dayton her home after moving here and staying after her collegiate career.

“There are not enough words to describe the opportunities, support and affirmation this community provides to me on a daily basis, from the students and their families to my coworkers and beyond,” said Harbaugh. “Thank you to Lauren for this most special reminder of the good and the light in this dark season. And thank you to Echo Boutique and the Hope Scholarship Corp. for taking a moment to recognize teachers! What a wild year to be in this role. What an important year to be in this role. Onward!”

Lauren Sass, a senior this year at CJ, nominated Harbaugh. Through their time together in Spanish II her freshman year and throughout her career at CJ, Sass appreciated the effort Harbaugh put into not only providing a proper education, but developing relationships with her students that go beyond the classroom.

“When you think about a teacher, your first thoughts are always about what they do in the classroom to inspire you and how they motivate you to do better,” said Sass. “What makes Ms. Harbaugh stand out is what she does to impact our lives in and out of the classroom.”

In her nomination, Sass described Harbaugh as a teacher who "continuously goes above and beyond for her students, whether it is with a joke to brighten a gloomy day, making sure things are going well for them at home, mental health check-ins, or countless other acts of kindness.

“Ms. Harbaugh is a young teacher,” said Sass. “She relates to us as students and as young adults. She cares about us as individuals. She understands what it is like to be a high school student and all of the excitement and anxiety that we go through. She is the teacher that puts us before herself to make sure we are primed for success in and out of the classroom.”

One moment truly stood out for Sass as she reflected on how Harbaugh had impacted her life as a CJ student. A family friend of hers had passed away and Harbaugh noticed the emotional toll this was placing on Sass during the school day.

“She saw I was hurting and came to me to offer love and support,” said Sass. “I found out she did other things for my friends too. Her small gestures have made big impacts in my life and others.”

Harbaugh also excels at “showing up” for her students outside of the classroom. At any given CJ event, you can find her cheering her students on from the stands, checking tickets at the gate or assisting her students and the community as a whole.

“Whether she is cheering in the stands, working in the press box, or hanging out with students around the stadium, she is present in our lives,” said Sass. “She interacts with us. She connects with us. We see her at these events and even if we’re not the ones on the field or on the court, it means so much to look up and see a teacher giving up her evening or weekend to support the CJ students.”

One instance of this occurred just a few months ago. As CJ students dealt with the sadness of not being able to attend home sporting events due to COVID-19 restrictions, a school-sponsored watch party for seniors was assembled for the final football home game at Roger Glass Stadium. Harbaugh jumped at the opportunity to chaperone, going above and beyond to help encourage the senior community to attend the event.

Another instance occurred at the most recent senior Kairos retreat. Harbaugh made it a point to sit and interact with students on the retreat during lunches in lieu of sitting with her fellow teachers and chaperones to supplement some of the one-on-one, personal intimacy lost at the retreat due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Ms. Harbaugh is the perfect example of a teacher creating a legacy of love, hope, and community with each student at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School,” said Sass.


-- This story was originally published on Dec. 15.