Mrs. Libby Wright Saldanha is our nominee for the Saint Theodora Guérin Excellence in Education Award, the highest honor for a Catholic educator in the archdiocese. We sat down with her to get to know a little bit more about her and talk about her nomination.
Tell us about yourself and about your experience attending Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Though I spent my first five years of life living in Arizona and was born in California, Indiana is my home. I attended Galena Elementary school and Floyd Central Junior/Senior High School.
While in my senior year of high school I sought out colleges which would give me a firm foundation for teaching and allow me to play my favorite sport, softball, competitively. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana was the perfect fit. At the time, SMWC was the oldest, all-women, Catholic liberal arts college in the nation and was founded by Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, canonized just two years prior to my arrival. Today, SMWC continues the mission of Saint Mother Theodore through love, service, and academics to both men and women. I am so proud to be a graduate of SMWC and believe that my experience there helped shape me into the person I have grown to become.
The small college setting allowed me to participate in a wide array of activities and challenged me to take on leadership positions. A few of my classes were taught by highly distinguished Sisters of Providence who were experts in their field. Mass, theology classes, and a true presence of the spirit on campus (which is shared with the sisters) brought a sense of learning and peace. When I first considered SMWC, I felt the tug of the Holy Spirit and can confidently say it was the best decision I had made in my first eighteen years of life.
What are your favorite parts about being the DC Trip Coordinator?
I absolutely love to travel. Visiting new places, learning about other cultures/times, and experiencing life outside my community energizes me in a special way. The DC trip is no exception and is one of my favorite parts about my job here at Holy Family. There is nothing quite like seeing my students faces light up when they are inspired by hands-on history! Each year I learn and appreciate something new. I love getting a chance to bond with our parent chaperones and the special moments with students are some of my favorites! The DC trip is a logistical juggling act, and, it might sound strange, but I love that too. Watching a trip you spent hours working towards bring about meaningful learning, fun moments, and bonding experiences is very fulfilling!
- Experiences with Coaching and Teaching – any similarities, differences, etc/
I thought when I stepped off the field for the last time in college after the National Championship game for the USCAA I would not step on another one until my future children were ready to play. I made it six months before the desire to be back on the field in some way had me emailing the Providence softball coach asking for a chance to volunteer. In one season I was hooked!
Coaching mirrors teaching in a lot of ways. Coaches and teachers both set goals, seek improvement, come up with strategies to overcome obstacles, and, above all, love their students/athletes. My student athletes look to me for guidance and lean on me differently than my classroom students, but still do in a way that is humbling, energizing, and full of responsibility.
This is my first year out of the coaching circuit and I miss it already. I stepped away from coaching this year for an opportunity to really give my greatest efforts and focus to my new vocation as a wife.
Tell us a little bit about your wedding this Fall
Mervyn is the most incredible person and I am so grateful God brought him into my life. He is my perfect partner. Our wedding was a fusion of cultures as we incorporated elements of his Indian culture and my American traditions. We were surrounded by the incredible love of our family and friends domestically and abroad and were able to celebrate our shared values of faith in a beautiful Mass and joyous reception. Though our wedding was one of the greatest days of my life, I am so excited for our marriage, truly I have married the man for whom I have prayed my whole life. I could go on and on…
Last, but not least, how does it feel to be nominated for the Guérin Award? Do you feel any special connection to St. Theodora Guérin, founder of SMWC?
Being nominated for the Guerin Award was completely humbling. I do feel a very special connection to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. She has been a major source of comfort and inspiration in my life since graduating high school and one who I turn to for guidance and example. I have a daily flip calendar in my classroom which includes SMTG quotes. Sometimes it feels like she knows exactly what I need to hear on a given day! I am particularly inspired by her after knowing the man whose eye was cured, Saint Mother Theodore’s second miracle. Phil was the assistant softball coach at SMWC my freshman year at The Woods! The ring I wear daily on my right hand is my class ring from The Woods and there are symbols on the side which are representative of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, the Sisters of Providence, and SMWC. Along with my sacramental saints, Elizabeth (baptism) and Philomena (confirmation), Saint Mother Theodore is a special inspiration. She was a woman of great faith, of practicality, and true ingenuity and strength. It really is an honor to be nominated for an award which bears her name in the spirit of one of her greatest callings.
- Any other fun fact or whatever else you want people to know!
Just for fun stuff: I am a PADI certified scuba diver and have gone diving in quite a few places in the Carribean and in the Mediterranean Sea. I love to learn new skills and have recently taken up learning how to throw pottery on a wheel!