“A long road in the right direction.” That is how Bill Stanwood described his roundabout journey into the field of education. The phrase could also well describe the way by which Bill has steadily walked his faith.
Born nearly 80 years ago in Pitman and raised there as a Methodist, Bill enrolled at the University of Delaware where he “fell in love with this Catholic girl.” Bill and Kris, who will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year, were married at the end of their sophomore year. They moved to Pitman, where Bill was hired at the Post Office. When they began their family, Bill decided to convert to Catholicism. He also decided to enroll as a student at nearby Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) while continuing to work full time at the Post Office. “I didn’t want to be a teacher,” he said, “but Rowan was a teachers’ college at the time.” After nine years of part-time study, with a degree finally in hand, Bill took his first classroom job. To his pleasure, he realized he had both a passion and a skill for teaching.
Bill had a long career in the Woodstown Public School district, first as a sixth-grade teacher and later, for nearly 25 years, as principal of the middle school. For ten years he supervised student teachers and taught educational methods courses at Rowan University. He said his “favorite gig” was at Atlantic Cape Community College, where he was asked to work with chefs who taught in the culinary program to improve their teaching skills. The chefs initially put up stiff resistance, but Bill won them over. “I think they will tell you that I taught them a lot of things that spared them difficulty,” he said. Plus, he brought home some great recipes.
Over much of his adult life and in three different parishes, Bill was a volunteer teacher in religious education classes for children. He taught in his own parish in Pitman while his daughter and son were enrolled in CCD. Next, he volunteered at a church in Woodstown near his school. Then after he and Kris (also a school administrator) retired to Ocean City, Bill taught four additional years in St. Damien Parish. When Sister Joelle discovered his background, she also asked him to make occasional presentations to the teaching staff.
Bill has always responded when the parish is in need. He is an usher and a Eucharistic minister at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. He also is a member of the Knights of Columbus. For several years he served on the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, taking a turn as president (as did Kris). Among other duties, he helped to operate the Food Pantry, doing everything from making bread runs to negotiating grant applications.
About two years ago, Bill and Kris found their help was needed closer to home when their daughter-in-law died suddenly of undiagnosed leukemia, leaving their son and three young teenaged grandchildren to absorb the loss. Bill and Kris temporarily moved in with the family to provide stability. It was a period when they were especially grateful that their son as well as their daughter carried their Christian faiths into adulthood. They are also grateful that they enjoy close relationships with all five of their grandchildren.
Bill discusses his own faith in an understated way. “I don’t talk about it much, but I pray a lot,” he said softly. “God is just part of our lives.” From his wife’s perspective, Bill’s actions speak louder than words. “Teaching and working with other teachers is where he has taken his skills and applied them to his faith,” Kris said. Even in retirement, after a long and demanding career, “Bill knew he had these skills to contribute,” Kris continued. “He did it for God, for Jesus, and for the Church. It is a big demonstration of his faith.”