Debbie Liberto combines her faith and love of teaching in the classroom at St. Stephen School

Posted at 8:02 AM, Dec 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-21 08:02:19-05

Kneeling on the ground, white board in hand, Debbie Liberto walks her second graders through the steps of subtraction. 

"This is a dream come true to not only be teaching but to be teaching second grade," she said.

In her 20 years of teaching, Liberto has taught different grade levels and different schools. This is her first year at St. Stephen School in Kingsville and she says its the perfect fit.

"I just feel like this is where I need to be. If there is a problem, you stop and pray about it."

Her Catholic faith has played a major role in her life and Liberto is now watching with pride as it becomes a part of her students' lives. She is currently in the process of preparing them for the two sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion.

"To see these little kids go through this and get excited about it, its unbelievable," she said.

Liberto focuses on the whole child, not just their education. One of her daily lessons is on manners and kindness. She uses the "bucket filler" method to encourage good behavior in her young pupils.

"If they're doing good things, I'll say 'Oh, I love the way you're doing that, you just filled my bucket!' and I'll give them a ticket."

The students collect the tickets for little rewards like sitting at Liberto's desk for the day, or a PJ party. Even parents know about the bucket fillers.

"My kids talk about the bucket fillers all the time," said Amy Przywara, whose twin children are in Liberto's class. "Its awesome because she's teaching them to be good citizens and do good deeds."

She's only been at St. Stephen School for a few months yet her colleagues say it feel like she's been here for years.

"She's been a huge inspiration to me with her teaching and her ideas," said Lauren DeMarco, a reading specialist at St. Stephen. "You can tell that she comes here everyday ready to teach and ready to learn from her children. She gives them 110 percent every single day."

And every single day, Liberto takes joy in knowing she's living out her dream.

"I've wanted to be a teacher my whole life," she said. "This is where my heart is."