When Alissa Olson walked out of St. Columbkille Catholic School more than 20 years ago, she never imagined she’d end in the same place she was once a wide-eyed student.

In 1999, Olson graduated from St. Columbkille and in 2012, she became a teacher.

“When I came back, it felt like home,” Olson said.

Ever since she was little, Olson said she’d dreamed about standing in front of a classroom helping students achieve their full potential.

“When we went to the store, my mom would ask if I was sure I didn’t want dolls and I would just be like, ‘I want paper and crayons,’” she said.

After earning a teaching degree from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Olson went on to teach for Lincoln Public Schools. But wanting to be a little closer to home, she applied for a position with Omaha Public Schools.

Then she got a call to interview at the school she was all-too familiar with.

“I didn’t hesitate. When I got the position, it just felt like this is what I was supposed to do,” she said.

“It just felt like it was God calling me to be here at the time.”

Olson taught kindergarten for five years and for the past three years she’s been a third grade teacher.

When she first started, Olson said it was strange calling her former teachers colleagues, but it was a change she feels privileged to experience.

Olson said she had many great teachers who inspired her to become an educator.

“They made sure we knew they cared about us and that was really important to me,” she said. “I’ve just learned so much from being here.”

One of her favorite aspects of working in a Catholic school, she said, is being able to practice her faith openly.

“Being able to talk about my faith and sharing that with the kids has been really important to me,” Olson said. “You get to talk about it and it’s amazing because you don’t have to hide how you feel.”

She also loves watching her students talk about Jesus, Olson said.

“The kids love talking about Jesus. We can pull Jesus in just about every lesson,” she said. “Getting to watch kids engage in in-depth conversations of how they feel about it has been amazing.”

As a Catholic school teacher, Olson said she often reminds her students the sacrifices their parents make so they can attend St. Columbkille, especially during Catholic Schools Week.

“It’s really a week where we get to be thankful for coming to a Catholic school,” she said. “We make sure they understand that and it’s definitely a privilege to come to a Catholic school because you get to talk about Jesus and express your faith whenever you want.”

Even on the days teaching is hard, Olson said there’s no place she’d rather be.

“There are definitely hard days, but I always want to come back,” she said. “It’s who I am.”

Olson said she looks forward to seeing her students’ faces every morning.

“It’s why I do it,” she said.

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