Faculty Focus: Meet Science Teacher and Alumnus Kevin Roche

Science Teacher Kevin Roche is the subject of our monthly series focusing on Fenwick’s fabulous, award-winning faculty.

What is your educational background?

After graduating Fenwick, I attended U of I to get my degree in civil engineering. I also minored in Spanish there. I also am about to get [fingers crossed!!] my Masters in the Art of Teaching Math from Dominican University in May.

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

I was a technology consultant for Accenture (a consulting and professional services firm). My main role over those two years was working with electric utilities to better engage customers with their usage information. We designed and implemented online portals and in-home devices that would update in near real time so customers would see how their actions impact their energy. We also worked on the social science side to better motivate customers to save on their energy usage.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

I just finished this book, The Road to Character by David Brooks. It dove into emblematic lives of character over history – some known and some not – and spoke honestly about their lives showing their weaknesses and strengths and how, as the author sees it, they came to greatness. I am also reading this nerdy, fantasy book called The Name of the Wind. To be honest, I have been reading it for about a year now as it is my bedtime book (read one page and fall asleep). It is fun though and takes me to another world.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

I love coaching! When I first came to Fenwick, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. Whether it is Cross Country or Track, the girls bring such joy to my day. Who they are and what they bring to the team is inspiring. Of all the things that I have been a part of or earned over the past five-plus years at Fenwick, these runners bring me the most pride. I feel honored to be able to be with these athletes at some of their highest and lowest moments. I count myself lucky to have the slightest impact on such a remarkable group of young women.

Away from Fenwick, I love being active. Going for a run in the morning or even just a walk in the evening brings me such serenity. This year I have taken up rock climbing. My brother John and I try to meet up and do it weekly. It is a great physical challenge, but more so mental. It is like solving a puzzle as you workout. Tons of fun.

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

As a Friar, I was a distance runner for Coach Polka on both the XC and Track teams. I played soccer my first two years and also basketball my freshman year. After sophomore year track, I wanted to fully commit to running, so cross country took the place of soccer my junior and senior years. I was a member of the Write Place tutoring center and a Friar Mentor. I benefited from each of those my younger years as a Friar, so I felt called to pay it forward.

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

I am a cross country and track coach. I also coach the engineering competition team called TEAMS with Mr. Kleinhans. I help out with the Kairos retreats, which I very much enjoy.

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

This story is too long for a newsletter, but I’ll make it brief: My old job was good, but I didn’t love it. My thinking was, ‘If I am going to work for a third of my life, I want to do something that I love and feel called to do.’ After speaking with the important people in my life and much prayer, I realized that I was being called to teach. After taking the leap almost 6 years ago into this vocation, I have woken up each day excited to work with the high schoolers. I am so lucky to have found a job that I have such passion for.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

When I started this job, I was told by my mother, who was a teacher herself, that in order to be a good teacher you need two things: content knowledge and love for your students. I couldn’t agree more. Although I feel strong in each, I need to stay sharp on the material as once in a while I get stumped and there is always a time or two a year when I ask God to help me love a little more. Also, my geeky enthusiasm for math I think really helps. Although I often see eye rolls in the class, at least I am having fun.

What do you like most about teaching as a career?

It is selfish, but each day I get a tangible reward—I can see the growth right in front of my eyes! A kid actually understanding systems of equations or an athlete overcoming a hurdle through steadfast dedication, each gives me such purpose and joy.

What is your philosophy of education?

My philosophy is much like the great John Dewey. I believe that academics is a medium for creating people of character. It is not the material learned that is most valuable (though I have to qualify there is still great value in it), but who they become as they are learning the material that is most valuable. It is what I call the ‘soft skills’ that make up their character (discipline, work ethic, critical thinking, kindness, organization, teamwork, etc.) that is what we truly want out of education.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

I would say the relationships that I have built. It gives me great meaning and joy when a student comes to me with the good or bad of their day. I want to laugh with them during their great times, and I want to cry with them during their hard times. Truthfully though, with just short of six years, I couldn’t tell you what or who my greatest successes are. Ask me in about 15 years. When my students and athletes are devoted husbands and wives, selfless parents, industrious employees, engaged citizens, dedicated friends, and faithful souls — then I can see my successes.

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