Meet the Flock: Paula King
Here’s a riddle: When is Paula not a King?
Answer: When she is a Queen.
You see, Paula is a cross between a Queen of Hearts and a Queen Mother. Though her surname might hint at royalty in the lineage, the comparison ends there, for Paula is not the slightest bit pretentious or uppity. If you want proof, just watch her little “subjects” who gather at her side. It is those children entrusted to her care as an educator to whom she is their “Queen Mother.” She gives her heart and soul to teaching the sweetly innocent and young upon whom she showers love, and to whom she provides nurturing comfort, guidance, discipline, and equaled compassion. Paula always stresses a rule of respect to the little ones she teaches. It is her life’s credo: “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Yes, it is this “Golden Rule” that she brings to the “kingdom of the classroom setting” and to her personal life. In fact, this universal truth is so prevalent in her mind and strikingly important in her estimation, that she has a Norman Rockwell poster displayed in her home that has those same sage words of wisdom superimposed upon faces of peoples of all nations and races. She has also gifted this core belief to her own children: Tyler, Cameron, and Nathan, as well as to her grandchildren: Tyson, Zana, and Zina. “It’s something we taught our kids,” Paula says. “I try to live by the teachings and rules that I learned through my religion and through my faith.” Actually, at one point in her life, she thought she wanted to be a nun, adding “I was determined I was going to be a missionary, but life took hold and took me in a different path.”
Thankfully, for our parish, life did take hold and took her to Lincoln on a different path, and with a different mission…it just took a while, and it was a circuitous path at that. Paula was born in Pennsylvania, the oldest of five children with one sister and three brothers. Up until the age of 12 when her family moved to RI, Paula and her family were part of a vibrant Catholic parish, St. Alphonsus. In RI, she attended a public junior high and then attended and graduated from a Catholic high school, Prout Memorial, so named for Sr. Mary Prout. It was there that she participated in many clubs, such as drama and music, and shared in many other activities associated with another local Catholic boys’ high school. She also enjoyed being a member of the Metronomes, a marching team, performing in local and state parades.
Paula continued to march onward with her studies, attending Holy Cross College in Worcester, starting in Pre-Med, before switching to Psychology as her major. Eventually, she earned her B.A. there, and later received a certificate in teaching. Her Master’s in Special Education from Rhode Island College was her next achievement, graduating diploma in hand from there in 1981. Upon entering the work force, she was first employed at Bradley Hospital (a psychiatric hospital in East Providence Rhode Island, well known for being on the cutting edge of autism research) before moving to Meredith in 1986. It was there she was afforded the opportunity to teach and create a Special Education preschool program at the Inter-Lakes Elementary School, a position she then held for the next 11 years. This entire time, Paula was commuting from Lincoln to Meredith, as she was then living in a small apartment in the condo that her parents owned at The Village of Loon. It was at that point in her life that she reached out to a family friend and acquaintance that they had bonded with over many ski trips to the area. That friend soon became Paula’s future husband, Bart. They married, settling in North Woodstock as their home. Then, as luck and fate would intervene, a job at Linwood Elementary School opened up for an Elementary Special Education professional, a position she has held for the past 21 years. It is there where she presently teaches the little ones she loves: preschoolers through third graders. Paula also brings that expertise into the voluntary ministry she chairs here at St. Joseph parish as the Faith Formation Director, a role which she has been involved in since Fr. Dave has been the pastor. Prior to that, she was one of the volunteer teachers in the program for approximately 20+ years, starting when her own children were in Religious Ed. At the beginning, she admits, “It gave me an excuse to be a part of their lives, but then, I really enjoyed it.” She thoughtfully muses: “God gives us certain gifts and we need to ask, what, in turn, are we going to do with those gifts? I think the gift God gave me is a passion for working with kids, and so to turn that around and continue to give it (back) is how I see it.”
She has done that—and so much more—is the way we all should see it. Just take a look at the list of her involvements and accomplishments for our parish, not to mention the fact that she juggles all of that with the duties and demands of her day job. Paula serves as the Parish Pastoral Council Chairperson, as well as being the chairperson of the annual parish Christmas Festival (a gargantuan duty in-and-of itself!) And, as if there were not enough responsibilities in those appointments, she serves as Religious Education/Faith Formation Director, coordinating activities and events for the children in the program—and there are many. Students, under her direction, have gotten to bond with the elderly residents of Lincoln Green, playing Bingo or baking and sharing seasonal cookies alongside each of them. Paula creates and organizes these happenings and others, such as the students’ annual bus field trip, this past year’s to the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette, in Enfield, NH. She also coordinates the bake sale fundraisers that help to financially enable an event like that to take place. Her goal for the children in the Religious Education program is simple, “I want to instill in them a love for how to live your faith, not just learn about it.” This is the reason why she also loves to see them participate in other faith-based activities such as the Living Stations at Lent, or the children’s Christmas Pageant. A prime example of this is how she feels about this year’s performance, “The Christmas Eve Mass really warmed my heart because the kids are learning about all of this, and they are participating, and they all have Elves on the Shelves and they all believe in Santa…but this is really what the story should be about, and the fact that so many of them wanted to be in that little pageant meant so much.” Also, seeing so many Moms and Dads at that Mass who went to Religious Ed with her own children gave her that same warm feeling for the faith, “It is my prayer or my hope that there is still that thread that some of them will reconnect with the Catholic church.” She continues, “So, when I see kids and families embracing an idea that we have to get the kids involved in X,Y, or Z, I’m like, YES!!! This is what it’s all about—and that’s where I get my energy from.” The goal, she explains, is “to keep the kids and families invested.”
And, to achieve that goal, requires a lot of creative ideas. “I let God sort of help me figure out ways to make that happen.” she says. Strangely, she finds that inspiration comes during Mass a lot of the time. She explains, “It is one hour a week where I just sort of let go of everything, and that’s when He inspires me. There are no distractions, no TV, no screens, or black “Day-Timer” calling me.” She definitely puts that big, black day-organizer of hers to good use, with the current enrollment in Faith Formation as it stands now at 12 families and 19 children. It certainly is a challenging task trying to keep all the kids on track for them to make their Restored Order sacraments. Yet, even with all the work and organization required of that, Paula admits she doesn’t mind staying on as the current Director, “I don’t mind doing it, unless somebody else comes along with better ideas and more energy.” She adds, “I’m always looking for ways to rejuvenate things.”
As for Paula, she rejuvenates and re-energizes her own spirit when she gets the time to relax. And, even at that, she excels, as she also brings that “Midas touch” of hers to those activities: painting, making dollhouses, gardening, and exercising at her hip-hop class. She also enjoys traveling, cooking, and watching TV and quality films with her husband, Bart, a self-professed movie buff. Oh, and, one more thing—she teaches piano—mainly to children at her home, or theirs, if, and when, appropriate. That is our Paula King, always the teacher, whose “kingdom” is the classroom, no matter where that room may be, and one whose little “subjects” always learn the Golden Rule. It is her mission in life. Guess she did become a missionary after all!
(P.S. If you would like to stay at the Kings (and Queen’s) castle, Paula and her husband, Bart, rent out a room within their home through the web-site Air B‘n’B).
–by Denise Rush
Paula’s artwork: Paula’s credo poster (reads at the bottom “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”):