Alumna Samantha Carraher ’96 is in her 18th year teaching Spanish at Fenwick.
What is your educational background?
SC: After finishing my elementary education at St. Giles in Oak Park, I had the honor of attending Fenwick as part of the first class of girls in school history. When I graduated from Fenwick, I went to the University of Dayton, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish. I also have my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College and had the opportunity to study in Spain (Segovia and Madrid) on two separate occasions.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
SC: I actually began teaching at Fenwick immediately after graduating from Dayton in 2000.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
SC: After seeing Hamilton, I decided to read the biography about the title character to learn more about him and the impact he had on our nation’s development following the Revolutionary War.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
SC: I am an avid fan of the men’s basketball team from Dayton and the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. (I’m pretty sure I heard an exasperated groan coming from the direction of Mr. Arellano’s classroom before I even put the period on that last sentence.) I also love gardening and musical theater. My husband and I have tried to get into a variety of shows on cable and Netflix. However, with a two-year-old at home, our television viewing consists primarily of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig.”
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
SC: I played volleyball and basketball during my first two years at Fenwick, and Coach Power is still trying to recover from the experience. I was a member of Fenwick’s varsity softball team for four years and played for a traveling softball organization called the Windmills. I was also in the cast of the spring musical my sophomore year.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
SC: I am a coach for both the freshman girls’ volleyball team and boys’ varsity volleyball team. I am also a moderator of the Friar Mentor tutoring program.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
SC: There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the quality and character of our students. They are dedicated learners who are incredibly intelligent and hard working. They also exhibit a genuine kindness, concern and compassion for others on a daily basis. I truly appreciate what outstanding people our kids are both in and out of the classroom.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
SC: While I knew I wanted to teach Spanish early on in my high school career, I struggled with the language quite a bit during my freshman year at Fenwick. However, thanks to the quality of the teachers and instruction I had access to, I eventually had that “ah-ha” moment when it all clicked and I fell in love with the language.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
SC: Despite how much grief my husband gives me for the size of my to-do lists, I have found organization and structure to be essential to my sanity and success both personally and professionally. I promote the importance of both on a regular basis in an effort to help our students effectively manage the challenges and maximize the opportunities that coincide with being members of the Fenwick community.
What do you like most about teaching as a career?
SC: I absolutely love everything about teaching at Fenwick. What I have found to be particularly rewarding are the relationships I have established and maintained with students and their families over the years. I also appreciate working in a place that many consider to be a leader in education. There is something truly satisfying about having people outside of Fenwick compliment the quality of the school when they learn that I work there or see me wearing a Friars T-shirt.
What is your philosophy of education?
SC: It may be cliché, but there is something to be said about having a willingness, desire and drive to never stop learning. That is why I continue to seek new and innovative ways to teach content and engage my students even after 18 years of service as an educator. For example, I am partnering with my students to identify ways to incorporate more impromptu speaking in the target language in my classroom.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
SC: I get the most satisfaction when former students tell me they have tested out of a number of Spanish credits in college. I think that is a testament to the rigor of our Foreign Language Department and the excellent reputation Fenwick has for preparing students for the next level of their academic careers.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
SC: I think our students place an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to be the very best at everything they do. While I know it is difficult for some of our kids to understand, I genuinely believe there is value in tripping up or falling flat from time to time. It is in those moments that I feel we learn the most about ourselves. I also encourage our students to find time to enjoy their high school experience. Amassing accomplishments in the classroom or on the field of competition are special and meaningful. However, it is the friendships we forge during these formative years of our lives that last forever.
How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?
SC: This is an area in which our students deserve a wealth of credit. They come to class each and every day ready to learn and motivated to succeed. It is truly a rare occasion when my students did not give 100 percent effort on a lesson or activity.
Any memorable moments?
SC: I find it somewhat ironic and incredibly amusing that the reasons I have for giving out “JUG” are the same ones Mr. Arellano and Mrs. Megall busted me for back in my high school days. I am also incredibly proud that I converted my husband, who graduated from OPRF High School, into a huge fan of Friar athletics. Although, he contends that he only goes to the games for the popcorn.