In recent years, some retiring educators are anxious to leave the building and often take an “early” retirement to exit the school system. That would include charter, private, public and religious schools, especially if they are elementary institutions. Many of today’s schools have very young parents’, very unruly and unprepared children, and very young staff members who are not prepared to teach their urban scholars. Changes and challenges have soared since 1967, when Helen Dumas first entered her classroom.
Mrs. Dumas in Chicago is NOT itching at the opportunity to cash in on her retirement years. Principal Dumas, an educator for more than 52 years, simply shifted gears and offices at Saint Sabina Academy. Instead of sitting down and relaxing, she will raise funds for the school foundation as the Principal Emeritus/President of Chicago’s Saint Sabina Academy, her professional home for the past 27 years.
Throughout her tenure, she reflected on her position as a teacher and educator, as one which she produced fruit for our universe. Recently, Mrs. Dumas said it was difficult to summarize the latter part of her awesome career, but what led her to take a $20,000 pay cut from the Chicago Public Schools was her faith and obedience to God. She wanted to raise good fruit, which would be grounded in the foundation of Christ’s teachings. She had become a widow and a single mother, when Pastor Rev. Dr. Michael Pfleger encouraged her to take the position. She prayed and decided that her life’s mission would not be based on money.
Mrs. Dumas, who is a humble and petite woman, endured mixed reviews from her critics, while people gossiped that she had, “lost her mind”, for accepting a new role as the minister of education. She trusted God and proceeded further with watering her trees. God ensured that fruit fell from the trees.
Some religious schools are unable to pay for additional special education instructors and Saint Sabina was in that category. However, a family believed in Mrs. Dumas’ mission for her children and enrolled their son into the school. That young man had a learning disability and was expected to barely cross the stage with a special needs diploma. In 2015, the scholar graduated as a Principal Scholar (highest honor), in the top ten of his class, National Honor Society member and earned $64,000 in college scholarship money.
“Now, that’s fruit,” exclaimed Mrs. Dumas, to thunderous applause. She credits faith, a solid academic foundation, compassion, dedication and time invested by her staff into special needs children that ensured his success.
Two former teachers’, who taught for her in the past, are now successful school principals in their own right. “That’s fruit,” she said.
A young school board member, Angel Tovar, 18, recently graduated from high school. Four years ago, Miss Tovar was a St. Sabina graduate and decided to give back to her alma mater by donating pop and water for a school fundraising event. The bond that Tovar and Dumas have is fruit, as Tovar approaches 19 and Dumas is looking forward to her 80’s.
Dumas’ daughter, April, graduated from Saint Sabina, as did her only granddaughter, Lauren. Recently during a Christian college trip for a volleyball scholarship, Lauren was voted by the coaches “the most Christian player” during the try-outs. Her daughter’s fruit was favor from the coaching staff.
Mrs. Dumas could elaborate on many others, but she counts her blessings by the students’ she has serviced. For an individual who has missed only 12 Sundays in 35 years, her achievement is strictly measured by faith and obedience. “I thank God for the prayers of children,” said Dumas, as she represents the image of excellence in her school, church and community.