For 33 years, Kathleen Gleich has been part of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (SEAS) School. Actually, Catholic schools have been part of her whole life.

Last week, Gleich, was named this year’s recipient of SEAS “Heart of the School” award, presented annually to the individual who represents the spirit and mission of SEAS. She is a religion teacher at the school and also teaches Spectrum, a life skills course.

“I was surprised receiving the ‘Heart of the School’ award because I knew there were numerous people nominated who contribute so much to our school and who embody the spirit of this distinction,” said Gleich.

In announcing the winner, Principal Tim Sullivan noted that Gleich truly embodies the mission statement of the school.

“She has a passion for the students,” he said. “She wants them to succeed and do well. She has the respect of everybody; she started the religion program here.”

Plus, she steps up to offer to do more when a new program or project is being considered, Sullivan said.

“My whole life has been woven into the Catholic school system starting in grade school, high school, undergraduate, graduate school and for the last 33 years at SEAS,” said Gleich. “There has not been a time in my life when I haven’t been part of Catholic education. I truly believe we form hearts and minds and influence the future of the world in doing so. What greater calling can a person have?”

SEAS has always been special to Gleich.

“The mission of our school is to make Jesus known and loved,” she said. “‘That’s it. If we can do that we can, and do, change the world.”

Gleich grew up in Rochester and attended Catholic grade and high schools. When she enrolled at St. Mary’s College in Winona, she did not know what her future career would be. She knew what it would not be. Or so she thought.

“I didn’t want to be a teacher,” she said, in a Star Gazette interview last year. “I told everyone that.”

When she entered college, Gleich knew several very important things.

“I loved religion and I loved the church,” she said. “I decided to major in theology. I could work in a parish in faith formation.”

When she graduated from St. Mary’s, there was an opening in faith formation and youth ministry here at Hastings. The two churches – St. Boniface and Guardian Angels – had not merged, but the schools had and became known as Hastings Parochial School.

She met and married her husband Peter and they soon started a family. Eventually, she was offered and accepted a part-time teaching position.

“I could teach part time and then still be home for my children,” she said.

Her subject area was religion, another good fit.

“It was beautiful as God kept calling me to be a teacher,” she said. “It was a seamless move. My heart was in the middle school. God was guiding me here.”

He continues to guide her, she said.

Kathy and Peter Gleich (who is a teacher in St. Paul) educated their three children in the Catholic school here and don’t plan on leaving.

A statement on her Facebook page puts it like this: “Catholic schools - where my heart has been my whole life.”