Planting for the future

New botany teacher and greenhouse manager is sowing seeds for a strong and vibrant future at Notre Dame.

One of Notre Dame's new teachers this year didn't take too long to get used to the school's campus in Pontiac. That's because Carolyn Tuski, the school's botany teacher and greenhouse manager, is a 2010 graduate of Notre Dame Prep. 

She's also no stranger to a greenhouse, or, for that matter, to growing things period. That's because Tuski spent her childhood on her family's 60-acre farm near Lapeer, Mich., and then spent about three years working in a greenhouse while going to college.

Now, as one of the newest members of NDPMA's faculty, she gets to combine her love of agriculture with her dream job.

"Becoming a teacher was my childhood dream," said Tuski, who holds a B.A. degree from Aquinas and an M.A. from Western Michigan University. "I've had so many great teachers throughout the years. Teachers who inspired me to go into education myself. Now, as a teacher myself, I really want to instill that same sense of wonder and inquiry I experienced so that students will in turn explore and learn about the world around them."

Notre Dame is not her first teaching job, however. She previously taught three years at a middle school, but now couldn't be more pleased that she's landed back at her old stomping grounds.

"As an NDP alum, I feel very blessed to return to this school," she said. "I wanted to come back to teach at the same school that gave me all the tools I needed to succeed not only academically but as a thoughtful and productive member of society as well."

Growing academically and spiritually

As a student, Tuski, whose three siblings also graduated from NDP, said Notre Dame Prep and its teachers held her and her classmates to consistently high expectations and standards. But she also liked the fact that the school community was very friendly and faith-focused.

"When I first came to Notre Dame as a freshman, I was welcomed warmly into the NDP community, a community where it was safe to learn and grow academically and spiritually," she said. "The teachers wanted to challenge us as students because they believed in us and wanted to see us be the individuals God created us to be. Plus, to be at a school where I could practice my faith, ask questions, and grow spiritually was invaluable." 

Now as a teacher, Tuski says Notre Dame continues to provide the perfect environment for her to combine her strong Catholic faith with the freedom to help bring students into a world that demands strong, independent leaders.

"I think the most important part of my job here as a teacher is to provide students with opportunities to achieve optimal physical, cognitive, and social independence," she said. "It is with this mindset, the teachings of the Catholic Church, and my faith that I plan my lessons, teach my students, and assess their learning each and every day."

Students in charge

Meanwhile, Tuski is throughly enjoying the greenhouse and the science, art and technology wing that opened before classes began in August.

"The students and teachers alike have truly made themselves at home in this new facility," she said. "I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to not only teach botany but to also manage the new greenhouse in the new wing. But, you know, this beautiful facility does not really belong to me or the other teachers; it belongs solely to the students."

Her classes have already begun the growing process in the greenhouse, and the students have taken full control of the process.

"I haven’t planted a single seed myself yet," she said. The students are the ones who are planting and will be taking care of the plants. My job is simply to oversee the students and help them care for the plants. This greenhouse is for them — not me — to explore, grow and learn in."

Tuski added that even though she's only teaching botany this year, she's working on a plan for other teachers in the school on how to integrate the greenhouse into all aspects of the curriculum, from Jr.K through 12th grade. 

"My goal is to have every single NDPMA student in the greenhouse this year, whether it be for science, math, religion, language arts, music, or for any course of study."

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at