Ms. Maria Nowicki is in her 10th year of teaching math at Fenwick.
What is your educational background?
MN: I have a BS from the Kelley School of Business [at Indiana University]; majored in Quantitative Business Analysis. Master of Arts from Dominican University in Teaching.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
MN: I worked for Control Data, a division of IBM at the time, right out of school in the late ’80s. I was the interface between programmers and the sales forces. I loved it because it combined my programming background with customer communication on a daily basis.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
MN: I am just finishing The Secret Life of Bees. I love to read and catch up on my reading in the summer. During the school year, my husband makes fun of me because I fall asleep with my pre-calc book (my favorite book).
What interests do you pursue outside the classroom?
MN: I enjoy tennis, golf, reading, walking and traveling. I love food, dining and cooking. Cooking and baking for people I love, especially family and friends, is my favorite thing to do.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
MN: I was very involved in athletics: basketball, track, softball and track. I was most involved and committed to the yearbook staff. I was the editor of the sports section and even went to yearbook camp for two summers.
Which clubs/Sports/Activities do you run at Fenwick?
MN: I have coached all levels of Scholastic Bowl, all levels of bowling, math club, Friar Mentors, tennis and Kairos. I love coaching athletics and had so much fun coaching tennis, my favorite sport. I have met so many amazing students in the Friar Mentor program. I am always impressed by the students who give their time before and after school to help others. These students are what Fenwick is all about: giving back.
What qualities and characteristics marks a Fenwick student?
MN: It is difficult to be objective, but they are hard-working, thrive on discipline, understand how to study and, for the most part, are very appreciative of education.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
MN: I come from a long line of educators and have always loved children. When I worked at Control Data in the 1980s, I explained things well when it came to computers and programs. I became a corporate trainer and loved teaching large classes of people. I felt good when people “got it” for the first time. I started a family and went back to school. It took eight years to get my master’s in teaching but, during that time, I tutored high school students in math and realized I could combine my love of teaching with my love of young people.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
MN: I never thought I would say this: patience. I never considered myself patient but being a parent teaches you patience. I also feel like students think I am fair and that I care. I love young people and am very forgiving when it comes to them.
What do you like most about teaching as a career?
MN: I love coming to Fenwick every day! I love being able to share my love for math, problem solving and being a lifetime learner.
What is your philosophy of education?
MN: We are so lucky to live in a part of the world that has access to education. When students ask “why is this important?” I try to answer that they might not remember trig formulas but they will know how to problem solve, think critically or deductively reason through a case in law, coding programs or designing a bridge or other important structure. Education is about reading, to open your eyes to the world; communicating, through writing and speech, to express yourself with thoughtfulness and to problem solve by reasoning and logic.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
MN: Success is when a student, a former student, reaches out and tells you that you have impacted their life. There have been many moments I would call success. My first year teaching, a girl jumped out of her seat and said she “finally got it and math was so cool.”
My greatest success was when I taught intermediate Algebra II and had these students for two years. They graduated four years ago, and they accomplished things beyond my imagination. Many of them went on to be successful in math. Teaching that group of students was my greatest success. I keep in touch with most of them and they have been very successful in class and outside. I am so proud of them.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
MN: Technology! It can be so wonderful and be such a distraction.
How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom setting?
MN: My lectures are interactive. While introducing a topic, I will call on students for insight or prompts in the discussion. Often times, students have a great way of explaining or elaborating on a topic.
What is the most meaningful thing you do at Fenwick?
MN: I have been involved in Kairos since I started at Fenwick. I have always felt it was the most meaningful thing I have been a part of. I am now the Director of Kairos, stepping into the big shoes of Ms. Lucy White. Many students have said that Kairos has been the “best experience” at Fenwick or in high school. It is wonderful to see students grow closer to God or “find faith” and work on mending relationships because of this experience. It is an honor to be part of this retreat.