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Scholarship Recipient: Maria Elaine Kluga

BVM scholarship recipient Maria Elaine Kluga performs a special song for her sponsor, BVM Kathleen Sinclair.

by Jean Tucker

Maria Elaine Kluga has been an  educator for 15 years. Originally from the Philippines, she currently teaches language arts at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Dubuque, Iowa.

Each day, she conducts activities through the school’s Leadership Enrichment After-School Program (LEAP). LEAP provides students the opportunity to explore singing, painting, drawing, and even playing chess. Her goal is to help students become the best version of themselves.

Outside the classroom, Maria Elaine leads a full and busy life. She is married, has a young stepson, and belongs to her worship team at church. Maria Elaine never thought about returning to the classroom as a student. However, she realized her profession was shifting away from traditional teaching methods. Technology was playing a bigger role in the classroom. When the pandemic emerged in Spring 2020, everything  turned upside down.

Schools closed with little notice, and teachers had to quickly adapt their lesson plans so subjects could be delivered remotely. Maria Elaine recognized many challenges, not only for the students but for the teachers, too. She desired to better equip herself so she could be even more supportive of her students.

The time was right to go back to school to gain knowledge and strategies that would help meet the needs of her students. According to Maria Elaine, her husband Jeremy has been her great source of inspiration, encouragement, and strength—especially when things get tough.

Maria Elaine knows teaching is her passion and calling. She chose Clarke University’s master in education program in Dubuque because several of her colleagues are Clarke alumnae. They spoke highly of the school and the quality education they received. Maria Elaine was taught by  sisters in the Philippines and fondly remembers them. This positive experience also factored into her decision to attend Clarke.

After learning of Maria Elaine’s story, Kathleen Sinclair, BVM wrote a letter of recommendation for her to receive a Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Scholarship for Women. In her letter, Kathleen states, “Maria wants  herself and her students to have what they have earned through work and deserve through human dignity as a matter of justice.” Kathleen continues, “She also lives out charity through volunteering her time and energy to those around her. Giving to others not because they earned something or deserve something, but because her faith compels her to care for all of God’s children.”

Maria Elaine shares, “Knowing that God is always there to guide me and with the motivation and support from my husband, family, and friends, I gained the strength and determination to go back to school . . . Knowing that someone important in your life believes in you makes a huge difference . . .”

In gratitude to the BVMs, Maria Elaine asked to meet with the scholarship review panel. She brought floral arrangements and personal, and written thank-you notes for BVMs Florence (Floretta) Heflin and Helen Marie (Edith) Wolkerstorfer, and Director of Development Jean Tucker.

She sang and played several spiritual selections for the group and told them she was writing a song in honor of the BVMs. Maria Elaine promised to return to Mount Carmel Bluffs once the song was finished. She made a similar stop at Clarke to thank her BVM sponsor, Kathleen.

*Maria Elaine earned her Master of Arts in Education with a Reading Endorsement. She is now enrolled at Capella University in the EdD Reading and Literacy program.

This story was featured in:

FALL 2023: 190 Years, From Dublin to Dubuque, Around the World

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