Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience

By Marlon R. Hall, Sr., EdD., Guest Blogger

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”  ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Dr. Marlon Hall

My journey to Fenwick High School began as a student in 1972. I was one of 11 African-American males that year who entered as freshmen. At the time, there were only two African-American males in the entire school. The most memorable episode of African-American student integration of schools in the history of our nation occurred 15 years earlier when nine students entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. They were called the “Little Rock Nine.”  I am calling us, “The Fenwick 11.”

The route to Fenwick began at my grammar school, Our Lady of Sorrows, on the West Side of Chicago. During our eighth grade year, high school representatives traveled to our school to speak about the advantages of attending Gordon Tech, Providence-St. Mel, Hales Franciscan, Holy Trinity, St. Ignatius, Loyola Academy and Fenwick.

The Fenwick representative was a man by the name of Mr. Kennedy. At the time, he was the Dean of Students/Vice Principal. His presentation really fascinated me. He spoke about the famous alumni, the class schedule and the opportunity to be enrolled in a Physical Education course for four years. The athletic prowess in me loved the idea of time in the gym for four years. Previously, I had the privilege of attending a basketball game in the old Lawless Gym in 1965. My cousin, Darnell, was playing for the St. Phillips High Lightweight basketball team in the Annual Fenwick Junior Basketball Holiday Tournament, so I was aware of the school, the township of Oak Park, and the ‘el’ ride from the West Side of Chicago.

Marlon Hall as a Fenwick freshman in 1972-73.

I decided that Fenwick was the place for me after Mr. Kennedy’s presentation. I arranged a campus visit with Mr. Kennedy, and he introduced me to Greg Stephans, an African-American student at Fenwick who took me on a tour of the campus. After the tour, I took the entrance exam with five of my classmates. After the testing was completed, one of my classmates was fully accepted, one was rejected, and the rest of us were told that we needed summer enrichment in math, English or reading. For four weeks in the summer, I took a math course with Mr. Finnell and a reading course with Mr. Kucienski (self-appointed ‘Sir’). During those few weeks, I became acquainted with the Fenwick community, travelling to Oak Park, and met new people like Don Howard, Henry Tolbert, George Kas, Kevin Galvin and Kevin Prendergast. They became freshman classmates of mine at Fenwick. I finished the courses sufficiently and I was fully accepted into Fenwick High School.

The ‘N’ word and other slurs

What happened during the next year was unexpected! I guess I was naïve coming from the West Side of Chicago. After the summer school experience, I thought that I would be able to successfully integrate into the Fenwick community. But I was called nigger, bourgie, burrhead, “boy” (by the Disciplinarian), and one upperclassman one day decided to take it out on me and slapped me across the head and said, “Nigger, why did you come to this school!” This was not part of the program.

I was spit upon. Pennies were thrown at me, and my classmates threw rocks at us as we walked to the bus stop or the el stop. I can look through my Blackfriars 1973 Annual and remember every Fenwick student who communicated some type of racial slur or comment at me during my brief tenure at the school. The insults hurt but made me stronger. I decided to leave Fenwick after my freshman year. I transferred to Hales Franciscan, where I completed my high school education. Out of the 11 freshman, only three remained to graduate in 1976. They were Donald Howard, Henry Clarke and Wilbur Parker.

In the early 1970s, racial tension ran high in schools across America, from Virginia to Illinois. Oak Park and Fenwick were no exceptions.

Since leaving Fenwick in 1973, I realized that I should have remained and completed my education there. I have voiced that opinion to other members of the Fenwick 11 whom I remain in contact with. They agree. But, why did nearly all of us leave? Fenwick is one of the greatest educational experiences any student could have, especially a “ghetto” kid from Chicago’s West Side. The ridicules, the snickers, the violence afflicted, the racial slurs that I suffered made me a stronger individual.

Continue reading “Black History Month: My Fenwick Experience”

Fenwick Faculty Focus: Alan Howell, Foreign Language Dept. Chair

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Alan Howell, the Chairman of the Foreign Language Department, is in his 34th year of teaching at Fenwick.

What is your education and background?

AH: I attended Kalamazoo College as an under-graduate and earned a major in Spanish language and literature and a minor in instrumental music. I spent my junior year in Spain living with a Spanish family and studying Spanish history, art and literature. I completed the requirements for a Michigan teaching license as part of my under-graduate program. After graduation, I returned to Spain and taught English to Spanish students for several months. I did my graduate degree at University of Michigan, where I was a teaching fellow and earned an MA degree in Hispanic language and literature.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

AH: Before coming to Fenwick I taught junior high English and high school Spanish at Whiteford Agricultural School in Ottawa Lake, Michigan. When I moved to Chicago, I took a job at an elementary alternative school teaching all subjects. Following that experience, I spent three years at the Academy of Our Lady on the south side of Chicago. I began my years at Fenwick in the summer of 1983.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

AH: I am reading the following books for my personal enjoyment: Science and the Afterlife Experience, When Healing Becomes a Crime and Secret History of Extraterrestrials. 

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

AH: My interests include gardening, watching classic films, reading and exercising.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

AH: As a student my main interest was band.  I played in the marching band, concert band and the jazz band. My instruments were the trumpet and baritone.  I was a member of the JETS club. I served as editor of the school newspaper one year. I wrote a weekly column about my high school’s events which appeared every Sunday in the Kalamazoo Gazette along with articles submitted from students of other area schools.

Continue reading “Fenwick Faculty Focus: Alan Howell, Foreign Language Dept. Chair”

STEM Studies Can Lead to Biotech Careers

 

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Fenwick alumnus Ray Bandziulis says he has spent his entire, 28-year career in the biotech field. 

By Mark Vruno

Courses related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are some of the more popular classes among Fenwick’s student body. Several members of the Class of 2021, for example, are enrolled in Freshman AP (Advanced Placement) and Honors Biology taught by Ms. Amy Christophell ’06. They, along with upper-classmen and women, were treated last semester to a visit by a distinguished Friar alumnus and biotechnology expert Ray Bandziulis, PhD.,’76.

Dr. Bandziulis is Vice President of Quality Assurance & Regulatory Affairs at Lucigen Corp. in Middleton, WI, near Madison, where he helps to design and manufacture reagent tools for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid) research as well as molecular diagnostic devices for infectious diseases. With annual sales of approximately $15 million, the 20-year-old company now sells internationally. Bandziulis defines the biotech industry as “an interesting blend of science business and engineering skills – working together to solve problems in the life sciences and in human medicine by the application of DNA technology.”

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A scientist at work in the Lucigen lab near Madison, Wisconsin.

Essentially every cell within each person’s body contains the same hereditary DNA – and this is where the differences begin to emerge. “Our unique ‘DNA signature’ identifies us as individuals,” Bandziulis explained to four groups of about 150 curious Fenwick students assembled in the school’s Auditorium in mid-November. He returned to visit his alma mater and reconnect with John Polka, his former biology teacher who retired last June after 52 years at Fenwick. Continue reading “STEM Studies Can Lead to Biotech Careers”

Thomist School Curriculum

Fenwick considers our minds, our bodies and our faith to be gifts from God. It is our moral obligation to grow in all three of these areas.

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher and Faculty Mentor

St. Thomas Aquinas

As some of us may know, Fenwick is the only high school sponsored by Dominican Friars in America. As such we are a national lighthouse for the Thomist educational philosophy.

 

Thomism evolved from the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., an Italian Dominican (1225-1274).  Aquinas was educated at the University of Paris by a German Dominican, St. Albert the Great, O.P. (1200-1280). It is the greatest joy of every teacher to be surpassed by his student. Thomas brought joy to the heart of Albert. St Dominic de Guzman, O.P. (1170-1221), a Spanish Dominican and the founder of the Order of Preachers, believed in an educated clergy. To that end he sent the Friars to study the Liberal Arts at the great universities of Medieval Europe. The liberal arts influence the Fenwick curriculum today.

A curriculum is the set of planned activities designed to change the observable behavior of a student. There is a curriculum continuum. One end of that continuum has a Roman influence. The word curriculum comes from the bales of straw that delineated the chariot race course in the Colosseum. The goal of this curriculum is to cover all the prescribed material and nothing but the prescribed material in the shortest possible amount of time. The other end of this continuum has a Chinese influence.  It is the dao, the vast treeless grassy plain of western China. There is not a set course of travel. Everything looks the same in all directions all the way out to the horizon. One may, therefore, go wherever one wishes, when one wishes, at the speed one wishes.

The 1959 movie classic “Ben-Hur” was remade in 2016. But what does chariot racing have to do with curriculum?

Continue reading “Thomist School Curriculum”

Representing the Shield through Good Sportsmanship and Building Relationships

‘Coaching soccer at Fenwick is integral to my ministry as a Dominican Friar’ — especially in the heat of battle! 

By Father Dennis Woerter, O.P. ’86

Brazilian fútbol super-nova, Pelé, performing his now-famous “bicycle kick” in 1968.

Pelé, whom I consider to be the greatest soccer player of all time, said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do.”  Certainly, he had much success, helping Brazil win three World Cups and currently holding the fifth spot in the list of top World Cup goal scorers, with 12.  At Fenwick, we want our students to be successful, and we never shy away from the fact that success requires hard work, perseverance, studying, sacrifice and love.  Pelé’s words apply to us all!

I have coached both boys’ and girls’ soccer at Fenwick for six years, beginning with the fall season in 2012.  Soccer strategy is the same for both: Coaches adapt formations to the personnel and make adjustments throughout the season.  The skills are the same for all who play soccer, but there is a lot more to the game than winning and losing.

Coach Woerter on the sideline (in white) this past fall.

I tell my players before the first game to “remember the shield.”  When on the field, they represent Fenwick; and referees, opponents, opposing coaches and spectators notice the ways in which a team respects all aspects of the game.  It is telling that the Fenwick boys’ soccer program has won the Chicago Catholic League Sportsmanship award a few times!  This award is given to the entire program.

It is important, though, to reflect on how coaching soccer at Fenwick is integral to my ministry as a Dominican Friar.  I played soccer at Fenwick and Loras College.  Fenwick had started soccer in 1981, so my freshman year of 1982 was the second year of varsity soccer. Both our boys’ and girls’ programs are now consistent winners.  My first year at Loras (1986) was their first year as an NCAA program.  They are now a Division III powerhouse!

Pele’s words resonate for us as coaches.  We work our players hard.  We encourage them to keep going when they may want to give up.  We have classroom sessions where we design plays and explain strategy.  When faced with obstacles, coaches figure out new ways of integrating team personnel.  The demands of a season result in coaches and players spending a lot time away from home.  Most important of all, though, we share the love of the sport with those we are charged to coach.  This love is not only for the sport, but for the players we coach.

Fr. Dennis was the tallest Friar (center) on the 1985 Fenwick soccer team.

The foundation of ministry is forming relationships.  Coaching is a lot like ministry.  In order to be a successful coach, relationships must be formed with players.  In order to influence players, they must see the coach as someone who is competent and compassionate!  The coach also must have the player’s best interest in mind.

This can be exemplified by an experience I had during a game last spring.  We were winning a particular game, but one of the referees was one we had trouble with before.  During the course of the game, he showed some amazing disrespect to me by some things he said.  I reacted by saying some things only the girls on the bench could hear.  One of them, a captain, led me aside and said, “FD (my nickname), don’t lower yourself to his level. We all know you are right.”

Notice, she didn’t say, “I know you are right.”  She said, “We know.”

About the Author

A Class of 1986 alumnus, Fr. Woerter teaches Theology at Fenwick and is the Director of Campus Ministry. Father Dennis (FD) also coaches as an assistant on the sophomore boys’ and junior-varsity girls’ soccer teams. He received a B.A. in speech communication (journalism) from Loras College, a Master of Divinity from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a M.A. in Theology (Catholic Social Teaching) from the Aquinas Institute and a Doctor of Ministry degree (Preaching in the Practice of Ministry) from the Iliff School of Theology.

Learning from My 50th Fenwick Reunion

By Mike Shields ’67

I graduated from Fenwick in June 1967 and attended my 50th class reunion this past September 9th. Class reunions, particularly 50th reunions, by their very nature, are always fraught with surprises. And there is always the question of ‘going or not going,’ but this reunion was well planned, energetic, hit the right notes and, overall, my wife and I had a wonderful time. More significantly perhaps was the fact that I learned a few things about Fenwick, or was reminded about a few things, and what it meant to me and likely many of my classmates – things that one can see more clearly looking back over 50 years – a very unique perspective.

Shields, the author, knows never to stand on the Fenwick Shield!

In this blog post, I mention below some of the things that really stood out for me at this class reunion. Hopefully, these recollections will encourage others to reconnect with Fenwick and, in general, support the school’s ongoing mission to guide and inspire each and every student to lead, achieve, and serve – not only to help oneself but also to help make the world a better place.

  • Surrounded by my many classmates, almost all who had lives of achievement (i.e. U.S. Ambassador, Governor, Judge, Architect, Doctors, Lawyers, Business Executives, Entrepreneurs, etc.), I had a profound sense of feeling very fortunate of having gone to Fenwick. There is no doubt in my mind that Fenwick’s unique combination of strong ethics, drive for academic excellence and serious thinking, and its competitive and ambitious student body elevated us all to a much higher level than many other schools, not an insignificant thing during our formative teenage years. I mentioned the word fortunate but we were also very lucky to have gone to Fenwick even though I suspect many of us didn’t realize it at the time.
  • Although many of us had not seen each other since June of 1967, it was very easy to ‘pick up the conversation.’ We really enjoyed each other’s company. Why? I think the reason is that during our Fenwick years we were a lot closer to each other than we realized. Fenwick in those years was a very serious, no-nonsense place that stressed discipline, learning and achievement, and I believe we came to depend on each other to successfully make it through its rigors and challenges. That easy camaraderie was clearly visible five decades later at the reunion.
  • Throughout the evening we talked and talked, and even had a group sing of the Fenwick Fight Song. Even though so many of my classmates had truly notable life achievements, no one came across as ‘full of themselves.’ These guys were down-to-earth and seemed very satisfied with their lives. That was really good to see. And in the many conversations, it was clear they had a genuine fondness for Fenwick and what it provided them.
  • The final thing that really stood out for me during the evening was how truly dedicated the people who run Fenwick are to this day. The list of these people is long, and several were at the reunion from the school’s current President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. to dedicated teachers like Roger Finnell (who taught his very first math class at Fenwick to us in September 1963 and is still teaching!) to key staff such as Vice-President of Institutional Advancement Chris Ritten and Director of Alumni Relations Cameron Watkins; it was really clear and impressive that all of these people not only want Fenwick to continue on but to thrive and excel. They are an inspiring and dedicated group just as their counterparts back in the ’60s, etc. were.
Mike Shields in 1967 (yearbook photo)

In closing, I do hope that this blog post of my perspective on Fenwick and its lifelong value and positive impact might be read in particular by some younger alums and even a few current students. I say this because I myself over the years, as I became busy achieving my own high goals and raising a family, sometimes ‘forgot’ about Fenwick. This 50th reunion, reminded me, however, of many things, as I’ve noted above, with perhaps the most important thing being how lucky I was to go to Fenwick. It truly made a huge positive difference in my life.

About the Author: After graduating from Fenwick, Mike Shields received a bachelor’s degree in economics, graduating with Phi Beta Kappa Honors, from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1971; he received a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of Chicago in 1973. Shields spent almost all of his professional career at Abbott Laboratories focused primarily in financial management. Mike and his wife, Karen, reside in Niles, IL.

Humble in Victory, Proud in Defeat

Like strong support of an argument, good mentors come in threes.

By John Paulett

St. Ignatius was established in Cleveland in 1886.

Perhaps it is a bit of nostalgia. It has been almost 50 years since I graduated from high school. That is enough time to make things appear better than they were. But when I remember the teachers that had the greatest effect on me, I am pretty sure my memories are something more than nostalgia. There were some giants in my classrooms — teachers who changed many lives, including mine.

I went to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio. The experiences were the same, I think, for students at Fenwick, Trinity, De La Salle, Leo, Mother McAuley and so many great Catholic schools with so many great educators. Three teachers come immediately to my mind.

Father John Miday, S.J., liked his arguments in threes, former student John Paulett recalls.

When I am writing or speaking today, I always form my arguments into a group of three. That comes from Father Miday, an imposing Jesuit who taught Senior English. I once answered a question he posed with just two proofs. He stared at me and his body seemed to rise up until it filled the front of the room. With a voice that rumbled from the floorboards, he said, “Do not triangles have three sides? Are not the ancient pyramids made of threes? Why, God himself! Is God not a three? And yet, young Mister Paulett has asked us to accept his argument with only two arguments.” The word “two” withered. It turned as it fell to the ground in a lonely death. I have never since tried to support a claim with less than three arguments.

I was not a football player but I knew and admired Coach John Wirtz as much as any Ignatius man. He had been at the school for many, many years. The Coach had a list of sayings, motivational phrases, I suppose, that he had mimeographed and distributed through Freshman Religion classes. We were told to memorize the adages. When Coach Wirtz met a student in the hall (not just a football player–any student), he would check on how well we had learned the lessons.

Mr. John Wirtz taught freshman religion and coached the Wildcats’ football and basketball programs for decades.

“How are you in victory, son?”

“Humble, sir.”

“And in defeat?”

“Proud, sir.”

“How do you come to the field?” Continue reading “Humble in Victory, Proud in Defeat”

Friars Basketball Legends to Have Jerseys Retired

Three women’s basketball superstars from Fenwick – Erin Lawless, Devereaux Peters and Tricia Liston — soon will have their numbers hanging from the rafters in the Catholic school’s gym.

Compiled by Mark Vruno

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Tricia Liston (from left), Devereaux Peters and Erin Lawless back in their Fenwick days.

In the illustrious, nearly 90-year history of Fenwick High School, only two retired jerseys have been displayed atop the Fieldhouse Gymnasium: those of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner ’50 (football) and former NBA player Corey Maggette ’98 (boys’ basketball). But that number is about to more than double in a pregame ceremony (2:30 p.m.) on January 13th, when the jersey numbers of three alumnae will be added: Erin Lawless #34Tricia Liston #32 and Devereaux Peters #14.

“Lattner and Maggette: That’s some elite athletic company,” observes Dave Power, Head Girls’ Varsity Basketball Coach who mentored all three of the honorees when they played for his Friars. “Each of these women is so well deserving of this recognition from our school,” adds Coach Power, now in his 41st year of coaching (first at Proviso West, then at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westchester).

Power is one of only three 900 (935 now and counting) game-winning basketball coaches in Illinois history, and teams on which the trio of Lawless, Peters and Liston played contributed to nearly 43% of that win total. Keep in mind that Fenwick was an all-boys institution for its first 63 years; it went coed in 1992 – the year Power came to Fenwick. Here, in chronological order, is who these players are, what they did at Fenwick, and what they’ve done since moving on from Oak Park:

#34 Shoots, She Scores!

ErinLawless_at_Purdue

Lawless played her powerball for the Boilermakers.

Erin Lawless ’03 is no relation to legendary Fenwick Coach Tony Lawless, but the 6’2” Berwyn native set her own reputation as a center on the hardwood. Post-Fenwick, Lawless played in the Big Ten at women’s basketball powerhouse Purdue University. She also played professionally, briefly for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and then in Europe, where she enjoyed an eight-year career.

As a Friar Lawless won a state championship* (AA) as a sophomore and twice earned first-team All-State honors (as a junior and senior). Other highlights:

  • scored more than 2,000 career points in high school
  • averaged 21.6 points per game as a senior
  • as a junior, averaged 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 3.7 assists (the Friars went 30-4)
  • scored a school-record 51 points vs. St. Ignatius
  • overall record: 125-12

Lawless was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in ’03 and a McDonald’s and Nike/WBCA All-American. She was first runner-up for the Chicago Tribune’s Ms. Basketball in Illinois. (Naperville Central junior Candace Parker won her second Ms. Basketball title that year, and would win her third as a senior in 2004. In the ’03 state title game, the Friars lost to Parker’s Redhawks by four points in overtime.) Lawless was named second-team Parade All-American and third-team USA Today All-American.

Such accolades are even more impressive for the tall, former seventh grader — Lawless was 5’11” at age 12 — who started playing hoops on doctor’s orders at Lincoln Middle School (Berwyn). Two years earlier, “I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called ITP,” she was quoted in a Purdue University publication as a college freshman in 2003. ITP is short for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease that causes a low platelet count in the blood. (Sonya Lawless, Erin’s mother, also suffers from the condition.) “My hematologist told me that if I picked up a basketball, it actually builds up my immune system and would help keep me active and keep me healthy,” Lawless said.

Once she caught the basketball bug, Erin’s late Uncle Bud helped her to hone her skills. Fast forward three years, to when Lawless cracked the starting varsity line-up as a Fenwick freshman in 1999-2000. The rest, as they say, is history. The ITP has gone into remission, and basketball probably played a large role in helping to build up her immune system and get the platelet count to a safe level.

Today, Lawless is in her second year of coaching at La Plata High School in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and two-year-old daughter. She also teaches Chemistry and AP Environmental Science. “The team I coach has not had a successful track record, and I am working on changing that for the program,” she reports. The 32-year-old adds, “While I have ‘retired’ from basketball, I continue to get offers to play — and if the opportunity presents itself, I may just go back!”

#14 Perseveres through Adversity

Continue reading “Friars Basketball Legends to Have Jerseys Retired”

Flipping the Classroom

A FENWICK ALGEBRA TEACHER IS TURNING THE TRADITIONAL LECTURE MODEL UPSIDE-DOWN.

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Rather than listen to his teacher lecture in class, freshman Emmett Koch works through an algebra equation with Mr. Thompson.

By Mark Vruno

For three school years now, Math Teacher Andrew Thompson has been “flipping” the educational experience for his freshman College Prep Algebra I students at Fenwick High School. Unlike their predecessors of decades past, these frosh do not sit through traditional lectures in the classroom. Instead, for homework, Mr. Thompson’s students listen to and watch 15-minute digital, audio-visual files of their teacher explaining algebraic concepts and, literally, working through equations. “They can see everything I’m writing as I’m doing it,” he explains. Then, the next day in class, students work (often together) on practice problems from their algebra textbook.

LISTEN IN AS MR. THOMPSON EXPLAINS THE CONCEPT OF COMPOUND INEQUALITIES.

Thompson spent the better part of a summer preparing and pre-recording the video files to reverse his conventional learning environment, and he has been tweaking and improving the content ever since. (He employed the use of Explain Everything, an interactive whiteboard app for Apple iPads.) One major upside of this teaching style is that a student truly can work at his or her own pace.

“An advantage of the flipped classroom model is that the videos are pause-able and re-watchable,” the teacher points out, “and they’re always available for review and/or reference via Schoology,” the school’s online learning-management system. “My students are given time almost every day to work at their own paces in class,” Thompson adds.

On the course description that Mr. Thompson distributes to parents and students at the beginning of the semester, he outlines a typical night of homework:

  • Watching one video and taking thorough notes on the [built-in] Notes Guide, which is available as a printable PDF document, or on a blank sheet of paper. “I ask students to at least copy down exactly what they see on the screen, even if they’re confused,” he explains.
  • At home, students also may finish up any in-class bookwork from the previous day. (Mr. Thompson does not grade the bookwork for completion, “only effort,” but adds that he stronglyrecommends that his students do it.)
  • Other reinforcing homework might include completing a practice quiz/test or extra practice worksheet, which also are completed for a homework grade.

Meanwhile, back at school in Room 34, a typical day in class could include talking about due dates and upcoming events, such as chapter quizzes and unit tests. Students also will review, together, the material from the video by doing some example problems on the screen. “This is the time where students can ask questions about what they did not understand in the video,” Thompson explains, which can take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. “I highly encourage them to ask questions.” They have multiple opportunities to ask questions in class, either with everyone or one-on-one with Mr. Thompson. The teacher sees value in peer collaboration as well. “They can learn the material from one another as well as from me,” he urges. Continue reading “Flipping the Classroom”

Fighting Hatred with Hope

An African journal from Fenwick alumnus Brian Hickey ’12, who is thankful for many of the freedoms we take for granted back home.

Brian Hickey (right, sporting the Fenwick shield) with a new friend.

“It is much more difficult to hate a particular group of people after interacting with them,” explains Brian Hickey ’12. We learned about the inspiring work that Brian is doing in Djibouti from two of his former tennis coaches at Fenwick: Science Teacher Mr. Tom Draski and English Teacher Mr. Gerard Sullivan. “I’ve always bragged about the daring careers my ex-players go on to have, from landing planes on aircraft carriers to deep sea diving,” says Mr. Sullivan. “This is a more special type of bravery, though.”

Brian continued his tennis career at Valparaiso University in Indiana, playing there for four years and graduating in 2016. “He has taught tennis in summers to a lot of our kids in Western Springs,” Coach/Mr. Sullivan recalls. Then, “he traveled to teach school in Bethlehem (West Bank) after graduating and wanted more of that experience,” which led him to the tiny nation of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, some 7,500 miles from Oak Park.

Located in eastern Africa on the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti is a mostly French- and Arabic-speaking country of dry shrub lands, volcanic formations and beaches. It is populated by 942,333 souls, most of whom are practicing Muslims. Lying on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, Djibouti serves as a gateway to the Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Only 25 miles across the Red Sea sets the Islamic, civil war-torn Republic of Yemen, where 7 million people are facing starvation due to a Saudi Arabian blockade, instituted last month, that is holding up food, fuel and medical aid. Malnourished children are dying at an alarming rate of one every 10 minutes, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP), and many Yemenian parents are fleeing in droves the air strikes and lack of food. “We are on the brink of famine,” WFP executive director David Beasley told  CBS’s “60 Minutes” in November. (See video link below.)

Caritas is the Latin term for charity (virtue), one of the three theological virtues. Brian Hickey got involved with Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of more than 160 members who are working at the grassroots in almost every country of the world. (They have a Facebook page, too.) Mr. Sullivan calls Brian “a special person: very strong and very mild.” In two separate emails this fall, his former student and player shared insights into the joys and struggles of the migrants, natives and refugees in Djibouti:

By Brian Hickey ’12

September 19, 2017

Greetings from Djibouti! After more than two weeks in the Horn of Africa I now understand why Djibouti is considered one of the hottest countries in the world. One is perpetually sweating due to the weather feeling like a sauna EVERY HOUR of EVERY DAY. Thankfully, my colleagues claim the weather will start to cool a few degrees in October [to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or so].

Brian dons a Valpo shirt (his collegiate alma mater) in Djibouti while one of his barefoot students wears Michael Jordan sweatpants that he has outgrown.

I am the only American on the campus of people in the different ministries in Djibouti. Despite this, I am fortunate to already have a close bond with those who speak English.

Mission

Sixteen hours into arriving in Djibouti, the Bishop/person in charge of all the ministries and schools in Djibouti and Somalia drove me around part of the city I will be living in for the next year. He told me the following that articulates the vision I have of what I am committed to doing this year and in the future.

Soon after the U.S. military established a base in Djibouti as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the commander of the base met with the Bishop. The Bishop explained to him that they are both fighting extremism and terrorism, just in different ways.

Through Caritas’ many facets of aid and the schools in the area catering to a multitude of nationalities and Muslim students, we fight terrorism by providing opportunities to those who do not have much or anything at all.  We give them an opportunity for real hope instead of the empty promises groups such as al-Shabab, al-Qaeda or ISIS offer. It is much more difficult to hate a particular group of people after interacting with them. Our mission is to be the light of the world to anybody we encounter in the vast darkness that envelopes this area. Continue reading “Fighting Hatred with Hope”