The word Christmas has different meanings for different people. Many may picture snow, gifts under a colorfully decorated tree or frosted sugar cookies. For Marian students, the word Christmas took on a whole new meaning this October. Mrs. Christmas Kitko, one of the school’s newest addition, brings students the gift of her passion for teaching. Mrs. Kitko started teaching Composition and Literature and American Literature in October and has many talents that extend beyond the classroom. She was thrilled to add Intro to Theatre to her courses in January.
Many may wonder the story behind Mrs. Kitko’s name. Although her name may suggest otherwise, Mrs. Christmas Kitko was not born on Christmas day. The story behind her name goes way back to before her two brothers were born. Kitko’s parents made a deal that her mom would name the boys and her dad would name the girls. Her first two older siblings were boys. “When my mom got pregnant the third time, my dad was worried he wouldn’t get to name any of the kids,” she said. When she was born, Kitko’s mom asked her dad what her name was. He said, “Well, I finally got my little girl, which is the best gift I could have ever gotten, and the best gifts come on Christmas, so her name is Christmas.”
Kitko grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio where she met her husband of 16 years. He is a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, which has caused her family to move around to many different states. They moved to Oklahoma, then to Omaha in 2004 where she lived until 2008, then to Florida, Mississippi, and finally back to Omaha in June 2018.
Based on her faith, Kitko was inspired to adopt children. Kitko has a chromosome abnormality called Turner Syndrome, which has caused her to be infertile. “Adopting was what God was calling us to do.” Kitko and her husband have two adopted children. Their 14-year-old son is from Korea and is a freshman at Prep, and their 10-year-old daughter is from China and goes to St. Pius. Their daughter has cleft palate and is due for a surgery this summer.
Kitko double majored in English and Theatre at Ohio State University for her first two years of undergrad and finished getting her Bachelors degree at Northern Kentucky University. She got her Masters in Education from the University of West Florida in December 2011.
Her path, however, did not begin in education. Kitko initially went to college to become a veterinarian. “I was never good at science, so Chemistry 101 didn’t go well,” she said. After this, Kitko had to set out to find what else she was passionate about. “So for me it became, ‘What else do you love?’ Theater was that love. I knew I would never make it to Broadway, (I mean, I’m 4’11”) so my dream came to be running a theatre department.” She now teaches Marian’s Intro to Theatre class. “This is the first time I have gotten to teach theatre; I got to fulfill that dream.”
Kitko has talents that extend beyond the classroom as well. Kitko got a blackbelt in taekwondo in 2007. In 2008, she auditioned for the Eighth season of American Idol and sang “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins. “I got cut right away,” she said.
A teacher Kitko had in high school inspired her to teach, but not in the way one would expect. “I had a teacher in high school who told me I would never go anywhere in life. I never wanted a student to feel like that ever again, and this birthed my love for teaching.”
Before teaching at Marian, Kitko worked mostly as a substitute teacher. However, for the last three academic years, she taught freshman English, Public Speaking, and British Literature at Columbus high school in Mississippi. “At Columbus, drugs and gangs were rampant, but that job did teach me importance of relationships with students. This became the backbone of my teaching and where I found my success as a teacher.”
Kitko’s favorite part of Marian is her students. “No matter how hard it is to get up in the morning, I think of the girls in my room, and it makes me want to come to school every day,” she said. “Some of my girls already have inside jokes with me, and it’s just fun to teach here.”
Kitko describes Marian as a much more encouraging atmosphere compared to other places she has taught and the all-girls Catholic high school she attended. “Students, administrators and teachers are all invested in the school,” she said. “At Marian, I hear encouragement, I hear friendship; I hear girls spurring each other on to do better.”