By Jim Sullivan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — It can be said that Katherine “Kitty” Pearson’s life has, in one form or another, revolved around Newburyport’s Immaculate Conception Church.
Now a significant portion of that life is about to come to an end. After 30 years Pearson, 65, is retiring as a teacher at the Immaculate Conception School.
“I just rolled into it and have enjoyed every single day for 30 years,” Pearson said of her position at the ICS.
Currently a social studies and religion teacher for the fifth through eighth grades, the Newburyport native graduated from the ICS herself in 1962, went to Newburyport High School and then on to Bridgewater State College. She returned to Newburyport soon after and taught history at NHS, but the ICS soon began calling her back.
“My family has been involved for five generations,” Pearson said of the Immaculate Conception community. “As a matter of fact, three of my grandchildren have graduated (ICS). My oldest granddaughter graduated last week and I have three grandsons that are in school here now. My family is here. I’ve taught my girls. I’ve taught my nieces and nephews. I’ve taught my cousins’ children.
“I was in the first, second grade that moved into this building,” continued Pearson. “And I sometimes joke with the kids and tell them that I came with the building. And because it was a rainy day when my husband and I got married, I actually had my wedding pictures taken in the gym here and I wasn’t even teaching here at the time.”
Along the way, Pearson has taught just about everything, starting part-time as an eighth-grade homeroom teacher and substitute, eventually spending 12 years as a fifth-grade teacher. All along, her focus has been the students.
“The kids are wonderful,” Pearson said of her students. “They are very caring and they are very hard-working. It’s a wonderful environment for children to receive their education in. They do get a strong basis in their religion. But (most importantly) our students learn to study. They learn to be students. And if you learn to study, if you learn to be a student, you can do anything.”
Catholic schools, like any other, must deal with budgets and staffing issues, but Pearson said she never once had to worry about her job.
“In relation to other schools within the Archdiocese, it is very financially sound,” Pearson said of the ICS. “We have waiting lists for many of the grades. I had an eighth grade this year of 30 students, which is the maximum amount that we can have in a class. The parents want their kids to go here. There are a couple of classes where there are still vacancies, but not many. It’s a great education. We are very well thought of in the high school community and (our students) do well.”
Pearson doesn’t plan to cut all her ties to the ICS, of course. She hopes to substitute teach again and help out when she can.
“I’m really, really loving what I’m doing,” said Pearson. “I see kids that I had in class and then I see them later. Several of my students, I actually had their parents. It is just nice to see them, whether I see them in the grocery store or see them at the mall or wherever.”
But once this school year is over, Pearson said it will be strange for her not to be going into school in the mornings.
“It’s very bittersweet,” admitted Pearson. “It’s time for me to go. I want to spend some time with my husband. He just retired last December. Two of my daughters live around here and my youngest daughter lives on Staten Island and she has a 2-year-old and she’s expecting another baby in August. So, it will be nice to be able to go down and see her and my two granddaughters.”
The Immaculate Conception School PTO will host a reception for Pearson after the 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday, June 29. All students, current and former, and their families are invited to attend.