By Mariah Kline
In the last few decades, educators have made great strides in adapting how they mold young minds, regardless of how they learn or what skill set they may have. In our modern world it’s easy to forget the days before individualized learning plans and other helpful tools were available to so many children. However, Sister Anne Rita Mauck remembers those days quite well because she was there in the classroom, seeing a need where others did not.
Sister Anne Rita founded The de Paul School for children with learning differences in 1970. A true pioneer of education, she spent her career developing curriculum and overseeing the education of students who would have fallen far behind in a traditional school setting. On July 29 the institution she started is celebrating her ninetieth birthday which falls on the following day.
Sister Anne Rita, who originally wanted to be a nurse, joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in September 1945. After two and a half years of training, she began teaching elementary school and in 1965 she came to Louisville to teach at St. Gabriel Elementary. Throughout her early years, she encountered a number of children who she knew were intelligent, but had a great amount of difficulty absorbing her lessons.
“We saw a lot of kids in those days who were intelligent, but just weren’t learning,” she explains.
In the late 1960s, Sister Anne Rita was introduced to the work of Dr. Charles Shedd, who studied children with dyslexia. Mauck and her colleagues met with the psychiatrist, who taught them how to test their students for learning differences and helped set Mauck’s work into motion. After gaining this insight, she started a program for these students at St. Gabriel’s and soon people from all over the city wanted their children to be a part of it. Shortly thereafter, they outgrew this program and The de Paul School was born.
Since its inception, de Paul has graduated almost 3,500 students. As of now, statistics show that only 68 percent of students with learning differences graduate from high school versus 98 percent of dePaul students who finish high school. The de Paul model has been adopted by many other schools around the nation. All 3,500 of these graduates and countless other people who have been affected by Sister Anne Rita’s groundbreaking work have her to thank for providing an alternative to traditional learning.
When she wasn’t changing lives and transforming the educational system, Sister Anne Rita did a great deal of traveling. While she now resides at Nazareth Home and doesn’t have adventures like she used to, she does feel fortunate for the experiences she was able to have. She’s seen Europe, Asia, Central America, Mexico and more, but the adventure that holds the most significance to her is a trip she took to Donegal, Ireland.
“I’ve had a lot of advantages being able to travel as much as I have,” she says. “My dad’s mother was Irish so I always wanted to go there. Getting to do that and see where my family came from meant so much to me.”
All alumni, friends and supporters of Sister Anne Rita’s work are invited to celebrate with her at de Paul on July 29. While she may not be enthusiastic about getting older, she treasures the chance she has had to make a difference.
“I feel very blessed being able to do what I’ve done,” she says. “I thank God for the opportunity. There were tough times, but the people of Louisville, both businesses and individuals, have been extremely generous in their support.”