Former dean, teacher ends 38-year career at CSH

Zoe Newcomb | the broadview.  Celine Curran sits at her desk surrounded by mementos and flowers sent to her for her birthday last weekend. Curran entered CSH as a student in 1969.

Zoe Newcomb | the broadview. Celine Curran sits at her desk surrounded by mementos and flowers sent to her for her birthday last weekend. Curran entered CSH as a student in 1969.

Sara Kloepfer &
Zoë Newcomb

Sitting in her office surrounded by walls plastered with photos, liturgy programs, Congé shirts and memorabilia from 38 years of working at Convent, Celine Curran leans back and looks around, smiling as she reminisces.

“I was a part of almost all of these at the beginning,” Curran said as she pointed to various mementos including a program from the first Simple Gifts Fashion Show and a newspaper clipping from the 2003 varsity basketball State Championship win.

In an email last Friday to parents and members of the Sacred Heart community, Director of Schools Gordon Sharafinski confirmed the news that Curran would be leaving her position as Student Life Coordinator effective the end of this year.

Looking back on her years at Convent, Curran — a graduate of the Class of 1973 and daughter of a Convent employee — says she feels a connection to the experience of Sacred Heart education she shares with her students.

“We had amazing teachers and passion in the classroom,” Curran said. “[My class] had a shared commitment to the Sacred Heart education to take us through life. We had a call to be generous, to be leaders. At the time we didn’t have the goals written out yet, there was no verbiage, but we were living them out.”

Curriculum Coordinator Doug Grant remembers teaching Curran as a freshman during his first year as an algebra teacher at Convent in 1969.

“I’ve never told her this, but she stood out as really unique,” Grant said. “I don’t know how to describe it. She was different. It was funny, she would get C’s on her homework even though the answers were in the back of the book, but she would do fine on the tests and in the class. I called her aside once and said I don’t understand why this is happening and she responded, ‘Well, one, I feel like I’m cheating if I look at the answers, and two, if you were a better teacher I would be doing fine.’”

Zoe Newcomb | the broadview.  Celine Curran sits at her desk surrounded by mementos and flowers sent to her for her birthday last weekend. Curran entered CSH as a student in 1969.
Celine Curran sits at her desk surrounded by mementos and flowers sent to her for her birthday last weekend. Curran entered CSH as a student in 1969. Zoe Newcomb | the broadview.

Grant describes Curran’s class as “unlike anything the school has seen since.” A group of 12 girls performed skits at every weekly meeting, beginning by marching in and singing the “Overture” theme song from “The Bugs Bunny Show.”

“Our class just wanted to be infectious with spirit,” Curran said. “If there was a food drive we would be Campbell’s Soup cans. The Cubby Hole came from my class. I was just surrounded by great young women.”

After graduating in 1973, Curran began attending University of San Francisco (USF), but it was barely a year later when she was asked to return to Convent to fill a last minute position as a P.E. teacher.

“I changed my schedule to classes three days a week and night classes so I could teach P.E. two days a week,” Curran said. “I was playing volleyball and basketball at USF, so I would run over to Convent after morning practices to teach the girls.”

Curran continued to work at Convent through college, and after graduating from USF with a degree in sociology and a minor in theology, she began to teach additional theology and history courses.

“It was never my intention to be here fulltime,” Curran said. “I wasn’t thinking ‘That’s what I will do,’ but I graduated and they asked me to take on some more roles. I very much wanted to be a social worker, out in the City of San Francisco working, but I realized I could be a type of community builder here in this school.”

After giving birth to her first child, Danny, in 1980, Curran had no plans for leadership at CSH, but while sitting at Prize Day, the head of school announced she would become dean.

“It seems like every time there was a transition in my personal life the people at Sacred Heart grabbed me and pulled me in to do more,” Curran said.

From that time on, Grant and Curran began working side-by-side as Dean of Studies and Dean of Students, respectively. When Grant became Head of School in 1992, their partnership followed.

“We were co-heads, not officially, but complimenting each other,” Grant said. “I am more logical and plan things out, while Mrs. Curran is able to respond to any situation right away and know instantly what to do. We benefited from each other’s strengths.”

Curran agrees that Grant’s partnership was a prominent aspect of her career.

“I have tremendous gratitude for first the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and then for Doug [Grant],” Curran said. “Also, the unbelievable students and the partnership with the faculty who have worked so hard on behalf of the students.”

Curran says her experience attending and working at a Sacred Heart school has been formative in her life.

“I feel in so many ways that my participation has been such a true gift for me and I loved working in the community,” Curran said. “I loved every minute of it. And I feel that I have made a strong contribution to this school, and I’m proud of that.”

Many students and alumnae agree that Curran’s presence at Convent has had a profound impact on the atmosphere and opportunities afforded them during their four years at the high school.

“I’ve worked closely with Curran the past few years because of my role in Simple Gifts, and no one notices how much she does behind the scenes for us,” senior Erin Minuth said.

“On the Italy trip my sophomore year, we visited the Sistine Chapel and she convinced the security guards to turn on the lights for us. Only Mrs. Curran could do that. Her perseverance for her students is astounding.”

The perseverance students consider so characteristically Curran is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of humility, according to Minuth.
“I think that I might have been just a little bit instrumental in getting the word out into the city about this little school, this wonderful community of students,” Curran said.

During her time at Convent, Curran has become known for certain phrases that embody her beliefs about Sacred Heart education.

“There are some phrases that many people would attribute to me, like the ‘four-year program,’” Curran said. “That’s really what Sacred Heart education is about. [Students] have four years to develop, find their gifts, take new challenges and discover [themselves] within these Goals, then move forward in life with this strong foundation.”

This dedication to helping students develop as leaders and grow during their time in high school is what Grant says defines Curran’s presence at Convent.

“She’s real — she cares about each and every student — period,” Grant said. “There’s nothing contrived. It is really rare to have an amazing combination of an educator, a leader and someone who really cares about her students, and that’s an amazing gifts she gives.”

Following the announcement that Curran would not be returning to Convent next year, www.teamcurran. tumblr.com was formed as an outlet for students, alumnae and parents to write testimonies to the impact Curran has left on their lives.

“It was her motherly, vibrant presence that inspired me to do and to be more than I ever had before,” Tiffany Melvin (‘07) wrote. “Her enthusiasm for her student body, and for her phenomenal teaching staff, created a formative and invaluable four years of my life.”

Other alumnae have written about their favorite experiences or memories of Curran, and while she has yet to read the blog, Curran says she is overwhelmed by everything former students remember.

“I’m so surprised but I remember each student and the exact moment they’re talking about,” Curran said. “I could write a volume for every school year that would have people laughing, and crying and remembering.”

A highlight, Curran says, of her 38 years at Convent has been watching her four daughters graduate from 2222 Broadway. While her husband and son did not attend Sacred Heart schools, she says the spirit of Convent has impacted their entire family.

“I am so very proud of my children and the way their love for the Sacred Heart equals mine,” Curran said. “Even my husband and son have experienced this community, and joined in on every opportunity they have.”

The impact the goals and traditions of the Sacred Heart have had on Curran — who is well-known for “going to the Chapel to pray to [Saint] Philippine Duchesne” — transcends her experience as a student or faculty member.

“The Goals define how I live my life,” Curran said. “I wake up and use them everyday.”

As the school year comes to a close, Curran says she wants to ensure focus remains on the graduating seniors and not on her departure, but that she is grateful to be a sort of “graduate” of 2011.

“I’m honored to be apart of the graduating class this year,” Curran said. “We’ve really shared so much together, and I think I’ve stood behind the class and supported them but now we’re standing side-by-side. I’m so appreciative. This class will always hold a special place in my heart and a special place in this school.”

Curran will begin her final week at Convent on Monday, but says her Sacred Heart experience will always be apart of her.

“Your contribution to Sacred Heart schools never ends,” Curran said. “That’s it — forever. These goals are a foundation, they’re with you for life. Its not just here, its out there. Sacred Heart learners and leaders, for life.”

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