This semester, Covenant Christian School has been blessed to have a student from the “Writing for the Public Sphere” course at Holy Cross College taking on various writing projects for our school. The writing course is a pilot program for a non-profit writing center being created by Dr. Jessica Ann Hughes (a Covenant parent), to simultaneously equip English Majors with real-world writing experience before they enter the job market after graduation, while providing a dedicated writing resource to local non-profits who often don’t have the time or expertise to write well about their own institutions.

Mariano Gomez, a senior at Holy Cross College, has been interviewing each of our teachers and writing a short biography to tell our teachers’ stories. The bios are being added each week to Covenant’s Faculty webpage. Thank you Mariano!

This week, we’d like to help you get to know our Preschool teachers a little better…

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Principal Hesselink

Ms. Zielinski  |  Preschool English

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Ms. Zielinski loves working with the littlest children, teaching the English preschool class and in the aftercare program at Covenant Christian School. Born and raised in South Bend, Ms. Z, as she is affectionately known, attended St. Joseph’s Catholic school and earned her degree in elementary education at IU, Bloomington. But she didn’t move straight from college into the classroom. After graduation, she and her husband moved to Chicago, where she managed several rental properties. During this time, she was also at home with her three daughters. As a stay-at-home mom, her love for—and aptitude with—small children blossomed.

In 1995, she returned to South Bend and finally began her teaching career. rejoining her childhood parish of St. Pius, where she taught catechism classes to 5-8 year olds and taught second grade at Corpus Christi. While at Corpus Christi, she met a then faculty member who told her about Covenant Christian. After substitute teaching at Covenant, she took over the vacant preschool position in 2016.

Ms. Z loves welcoming children—and their parents—into her class, drawing on parents’ expertise to enrich her students’ learning. One of her favorite parent-partners is a florist who volunteers during the holidays and special occasions, helping students create beautiful projects with plants. With her motherly love, and years of teaching experience in both school and parish settings, Ms. Z brings Christ’s love into the classroom, embodying the mission of Covenant Christian School.

Maestra Rivera  |  Preschool Spanish Immersion

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Children in Maestra Rivera’s class frequently end the day with a small, round sticker on their forehead that they cherish throughout the day. The stickers are unimpressive and hardly seem worthy of the pride with which students wear them…that is, until one sees how they are awarded. The stickers are given and received with the reverence of a blessing. When the students answer a question or use Spanish in class, Maestra Rivera crouches down on the student’s level, looks the student in the eyes, and places the sticker on the child’s forehead with her thumb, saying, “Bien hecho.”

As a ten-year old in Zacatecas, Mexico, Maestra Rivera was charged with looking after her brothers and sisters. This early responsibility inspired her to become a teacher and laid the foundation for her teaching. She explains that she teaches with a sisterly instinct, coming alongside the students in her immersion preschool class as they first encounter the Spanish language.

After receiving her degree in education from La Universidad de Zacatecas, she taught elementary school in Mexico. In 2001, she and her husband came to South Bend, so he could pastor a church here. Maestra Rivera taught at Zeeland Christian School, which was one of the first schools in the nation to work with add.a.lingua on implementing their full-immersion program. The Spanish Immersion program was one of the main reasons she and her husband eventually chose Covenant Christian School for their daughter. Even though their daughter was already fluent in Spanish and took classes in English, having both languages in the same school created an atmosphere of respect and comfort with other cultures and languages. Maestra Rivera and her husband believed this dual-language environment would help their daughter easily adjust to American culture without feeling she had to give up her identity.

Maestra Rivera describes Covenant Christian School as a place where teachers teach with love and playfulness combined with a high level of professionalism. She loves working with preschool because immersion at this early stage is fundamental for the children to receive the gift of being bilingual.

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