April 7 marks the Feast Day of our Founder, Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. Born in Rheims, France on April 30, 1651, De la Salle lived an immensely devout Christian life and was exposed to a society divided by social class. At a young age of 21, with the death of his parents, he was left to his own to raise and educate his four brothers and two sisters. At the age of 26, he was ordained as a priest, and two years after he received a Doctorate in Theology.
In 1679, while aiding the Sisters of the Child Jesus, an order dedicated to the care and education of poor girls, he met Adrian Nyel. Nyel requested help from De La Salle in establishing a school for the poor back in his home town. What seemed as a humble request for De La Salle would lead to his eventual life’s work.
De La Salle knew that education in Rheims was scarce. The poor were left to their own and teachers were lacking direction and purpose. De La Salle invited these teachers from time to time into his home, where he would personally train and advise them. This act was in more orderly circles a faux pas at the time, but he carried on with his teaching sessions. This led to him inviting the teachers to live with him, effectively establishing the Institute of the Brothers of the Christians Schools.
De La Salle pioneered in educating teachers in their practices, he is considered to be the founder of the first normal school and though his avant garde pedagogy was criticized by teachers his order had bereft of jobs, his teaching philosophy lives on to this day, and as a proof of his lasting legacy he was canonized patron saint of teachers in the year 1900 by Pope Leo XII.
Currently, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools runs over 1,000 institutions in 84 countries.