Faculty Focus: April 2017

Meet Fenwick English Teacher Mary Marcotte.

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

MM: This is my 43rd year of teaching and my 22nd year at Fenwick. My past teaching experience before Fenwick was both public and private. People often ask me to explain the difference between the catholic and public school environments. In a word, the answer is “atmosphere.” But to explain atmosphere, I would point to the Dominican philosophy. The aura surrounding a Friar is one of developing leadership, seeking discourse in scholarship all the while united in Prayer. As a teacher here at Fenwick, I am constantly in awe of our students’ potential and am privileged to help them realize that potential.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

MM: I am an avid gardener, and my garden was featured on a garden walk in 2002. When I am not outside, I love growing orchids, particularly miniature varieties. Also, I love and frequently attend Shakespeare plays at Navy Pier and at the Stratford Festival in Canada.

Which clubs/Sports/Activities do you run at Fenwick?

MM: My past sponsorships/advisories have included: Speech and Debate, Touchstone Magazine, Yearbook (8 Gallery of excellence awards) and Write Place Advisor. I was also English Department Chair for seven years. Currently, I am Director for Student Publications.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

MM: A Friar is a curious student – one who is open-minded and listens to the opinions of others before carefully formulating his or her own opinion. A Friar is open-minded as he or she analyzes any given situation. A Friar is generous in spirit from service to others to an awareness of the greater community needs. A Friar is globally minded – one who has an awareness of issues within various world communities.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

MM: I actually wanted to be a nurse, but life takes mysterious turns. In the summer before college, I was in a car accident and suffered several broken vertebrae. I could not meet my college commitment for nursing, so I became friends with a wonderful librarian who kept giving me lists of literary classics. Along with my mother, this librarian inspired me to major in English, particularly World and British Literature. I also have certifications in World Religions and Church History. Today one of the influences I want to have on my grandchildren is to value the opportunities presented by local libraries. We are so fortunate to live in a country where these services are provided and we can never take them for granted.

What is your philosophy of education?

MM: Oliver Wendell Holmes best defined my classes when he said: “There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors who have no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, and generalize using facts collected as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, and predict their best – illumination comes from above the skylights!” In my classes, students are challenged to be three-story persons.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

MM: My students and the relationships I have with them and their parents. It is gratifying to hear of their successes at and beyond Fenwick.  I am also proud of my work with students as they construct their College Essays. This is such an enriching personal experience, from the drafting to the final copy, whether the essay is just part of the college application or awarded scholarship monies. I get to see and appreciate the core values of many of our Friars, and I am humbled to have had these experiences. We truly have remarkable young men and women among us.

I am also certainly proud of my teaching awards over the years:

  • 1997 Rev. George Conway O.P.Outstanding Teacher Award voted on by peers.
  • 2001 Golden Apple Finalist
  • 2006 Archdiocese of Chicago Innovation and Creativity in Teaching Award.
  • 2015 20 years at Fenwick!!!!!

    What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?

    MM: Anything that attempts to tell you how to think. Students who maintain their ability to critically analyze any given situation will always land on solid ground. Also, anything that detracts from a commitment to faith. This involves not just asking for God’s help but taking time to thank Him and develop a generous spirit.

    How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?

    MM: I teach WITH my students. Lively discourse and enlightened essays ensue when students become confident in their opinions.

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