“My grandmother, Rose Colombo, a long-time St. Anthony’s parishioner, called Father Roberto about an English teaching position in the high school. She told him I was a ‘good girl who would work hard’. I’m not sure what else she said, but he called me right away and told me I needed to come to Padua and sign my contract."
Forty-five years later, Martha Holladay, Padua’s Literature Teacher, can still be found on the third floor of the Big Box of Love, surrounded lovingly by her wall of playbills and the latest generation of Padua students.
“There is no human condition that has not existed in literature,” says Mrs. Holladay while immediately expressing her passion for the subject matter. “So sharing my love for literature provides the perfect backdrop for young women currently navigating their own challenges of young adulthood.”
For centuries, the desire to tell stories and to be told stories has been one of the most basic human needs. All cultures have been defined in part by the stories they hear and the stories they tell. But what’s special about what transpires in Room 302, is that Mrs. Holladay is able to “tailor courses for the benefit my students, young Padua women.”
Stories for Women
The “Stories for Women” course introduces students to the art of the short story and explores major themes, issues, and concerns that affect women today. Students have the opportunity to read a selection of short stories and discuss the material to gain a better understanding of themselves as women and their relationships with others.
“Throughout literature, women can be seen showing so much strength,” explains Mrs. Holladay, and so, “it is important for our young women to experience this. There is much to be learned about the cultures, social movements and history, especially when it involves women.”
It is courses such as these that are continually made available to our students because of the generosity of donors. In the words of our Principal, Dr. Mary McClory, “funding means we can say YES to professional development” that enables our faculty to expand upon our academic offerings to our students.
And it is a sentiment that is not lost on Holladay. “We are so lucky at Padua, to be able to expose our girls to historical and cultural events through a literary context”.
For example, in years past, Holladay’s Seniors, after having read Tim O’Brien’s TheThings They Carry, would join Barbara Markham’s American History students for a trip to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was an emotionally moving journey to the crossroads of history, the human condition, faith and the power of imagination.
In the same vein, Mrs. Holladay has taken her students to New York City to see so many of the books they’ve studied, brought to life on Broadway and to experience “the best theater in the world.” To date, Martha’s students have attended hundreds of performances, hence her amazing wall of playbills in Room 302.
Teach Your Students' Souls
It is curriculum integration such as this that allows our students to make the necessary real life connections that will be integral to their future success, no matter what career path they pursue. But it is Mrs. Holladay’s unwavering devotion to live St. Frances DeSales’ command: "to teach your student's souls" that further differentiates this program from those at other schools.
“I fully embrace the beliefs and philosophies of St. Frances and so I take very seriously the responsibility of teaching our students in his vision. Literature is the conduit by which I am able to reach their souls. And by doing so, this is something they can carry with them their entire lives.”
Martha’s classroom is truly its own Small Box of Love, an inclusive and safe space in which the girls are encouraged to be independent and analytical thinkers, all the while reaching deeper to also make spiritual connections with their studies.
Mrs. Holladay & Padua Academy
It can be said that Mrs. Holladay has written the book on Padua Academy. Or maybe it’s that Padua Academy has been so intricately woven throughout the pages of the book on Martha’s life, her Uncle Charles Colombo’s art work even hangs in the Learning Commons, that it is impossible to separate the two.
Having spent the entirety of her adult life on N. Broom Street, Martha’s triumphs, and sadly her tragedies, have been shared by her Padua colleagues and community at-large. She’s a daughter, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a breast cancer survivor and an adopted member of the Padua Sisterhood. She describes walking through the doors of Padua in the morning, as “the only true constant” in her life for the past 45 years in addition to her Catholic faith.
“The corner of 10th and Broom Street is my home away from home, and my amazing and brilliant colleagues continue to inspire me to be the best I can be and that has become a tenet I am able to share with our students.”
Quoting Dr. Maya Angelou she says, the students “remember how you treat them. They remember how you made them feel,” and “I will continue to make a difference in their lives and ‘teach to their souls’ as long as the Good Lord allows me. It is truly a privilege for me to share a classroom with all of these young women.”