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Nobody was more surprised Thursday morning to hear that Theodosia “Dodie” Polin was being honored by the Archdiocese of Louisville with its Catholic Education Foundation Teacher Award than Polin herself.
The Catholic Education Foundation Teacher Award was established in 2004 by the family of Dan and Helen Ulmer to recognize excellent and dedicated Catholic teachers who consistently surpass expectations.
Polin, a 41-year veteran in the classroom, has spent the past 34 years at St. Dominic School in Springfield. She was recognized for her dedicated service in front of the entire school at a ceremony she had no idea was to focus on her.
“They said we needed to be at church today, and I thought somebody had left a great amount of money to St. Dominic. That’s what I thought they were going to announce,” Polin said Thursday afternoon. “I really had no idea. I thought we were all going to share in some big news.”
It was big news, but Polin didn’t think she would be the big news. This marked only the second time a teacher from St. Dominic had received the award. The previous recipient was Jane Spaulding, a 35-year veteran teacher at the school, who won the award in 2005.
“I was trying to hold my composure up there, and I thought, ‘You can’t cry in front of the whole school,’” Polin said.
Despite battling a few tears, Polin said she was honored to be recognized, and her love for her students was obvious as she spoke about her time at the school.
“It’s like a family here because you know all the students in the building, whether you’ve taught them or not. That makes it very special,” Polin said. “Of course, being a Catholic school, you can bring God into everything and teach as Jesus would, and incorporate religion in all the subject areas, and we can pray. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about it.”
Polin, a native of Indianapolis, came to Springfield when she was a student at St. Catharine College. While there, she met her late husband, Bill Polin. The two dated, later married, and eventually moved to Springfield. Prior to that move, she taught from 1967 to 1975 in Indianapolis. She arrived at St. Dominic in 1975, and has never left, with most of her time spent teaching third-grade students.
“I never dreamed I would end up living here or teaching here. The people are so nice here, and it’s just like a family,” Polin said. “I would never want to teach anywhere else.”
When her husband passed away 20 years ago, some people thought Polin would return to her native Indianapolis, but she had other plans. She said Springfield had become her home, and she decided to stay.
Many people are glad Polin stayed at St. Dominic, and perhaps none more than Pam Breunig, principal of the school.
“I can’t imagine not having Mrs. Polin here. Not only has she taught my children, but she has taught most everyone’s children in the 34 years she has been here,” Breunig said. “She mentioned today that she had the opportunity to go back home where her family is in Indianapolis after her husband passed away. I know we are all so blessed that she decided all those many years ago to make this her family, and her permanent place for many years. I’m so glad to have her.”
As part of her recognition, Polin received a check for $1,000. She originally said she would spend it on her classroom, but was told the money was to be spent on herself. That’s when she started thinking about buying a new car.
“I’ve been saving for a new car, but I keep thinking, ‘Do I want to spend it now?’ I might buy a car and put the money on it,” she said. “I’ve got to retire pretty soon, and if I’m going to buy a new car, I don’t want to have a payment when I retire.”
Retire is not a word St. Dominic wants to hear from Polin, but the school can take comfort that she is not in a hurry to leave the classroom.
“I probably have a couple more years in me, anyway, but they may throw me out,” she joked. “I think I’ll know when it’s time. If I dreaded coming, it would be time to quit, but I always love to come to school.”