Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle
Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (John Baptist de La Salle) was a French priest, educational reformer, and founder of an international educational movement, who dedicated more than forty years of his life to the education of the children of the poor. In the process, he standardized educational practices throughout France, wrote inspirational meditations on the ministry of teaching (along with catechisms, politeness texts, and other resources for teachers and students), and became the catalyst and resource for many other religious congregations dedicated to education that were founded in the 18th and 19th centuries.
When just 16 years old he was appointed a canon of Reims cathedral. He was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 27. Two years later he received a doctorate in theology. He would later leave his position as canon priest at Reims and found a religious community devoted to teaching, distributing his fortune to the poor during a particularly harsh winter.
In 1680 La Salle became involved in an educational venture that led to the founding of a new order, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers, or, most commonly in the United States, the Christian Brothers.
In 1685 La Salle founded what is generally considered the first normal school — that is, a school whose purpose is to train teachers — in Reims. Currently, about 6,000 Brothers and 75,000 lay and religious colleagues worldwide serve as teachers, counselors and guides to 900,000 students in over 1,000 educational institutions in 84 countries, carrying out the work of the founder into the 21st century.