Spanish Teacher Mrs. Denise “Dee” Megall celebrates her 25th year at Fenwick in 2017-18.
What is your educational background?
DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at FHS?
DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.
To what teams did you belong as a student?
DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau, which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.
What activity do you run?
DM: I schedule the group photos for the yearbook. We start in mid-October and finish the majority of the pictures by November. This year is the 26th year that I have coordinated the organization of the yearbook club pictures.
When did you decide to become a teacher and why did you choose this field?
DM: Until I had to answer this question I had forgotten that one of my favorite games as a child was “Go to the Head of the Class.” It was a game that showed desks on the board and you had to move cardboard students up the row as they answered questions correctly. Little did I know it was a foreshadowing of my future! I kept getting good grades in Spanish and developed a love for the language. My early success in school motivated me to pursue a major in Spanish at the collegiate level. I originally intended to go into business, but my mother suggested that I take some education classes and student teach. I student taught at a school very much like Fenwick, and the minute I stepped in front of the first class and started teaching, I loved it! The students make it so much fun! When I tell them that I have been in my classroom for their entire lives they can’t believe it and they always ask me why I don’t get bored. It is because of them. Every day is different and every class is different. They are the ones that make it fun and exciting for us.
What personal strengths do you find helpful in your teaching?
DM: I am organized and I try to make my expectations as clear as possible. I try to be fair and I admit when I have made a mistake. I give homework geared to help the students practice what they have just learned in class. I try to correct their tests and quizzes as quickly as possible and return them just as quickly because I know they are anxious to find out how they have done. Language learning is a cumulative process and everything the students learn builds upon itself, so it is important they understand it and can use it correctly each step of the way.
What is the greatest challenge facing students today?
DM: I think the greatest challenge facing students today is the ability to control their use of technology. Every time my students have written an essay regarding their computer/iPad/iPhone use they acknowledge the time wasted looking at pictures, playing games, scrolling through Instagram and numerous other distractions they have available to them at all times. The majority of my students say the same thing – that if they turned off the technology they would get more sleep, have better grades, do their homework, study more, and spend more time with their family members. I hope our students learn to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities technology has to offer while still allowing for positive life experiences outside of “screen time.”
What is your greatest success?
DM: I love it when students I taught the previous year stop by my room to tell me how well they are doing. They are so excited and proud of themselves. It is also so heartwarming to hear from former students who are majoring or minoring in Spanish or who are now spending a semester in a Spanish-speaking country. I cherish hearing about all of their wonderful experiences and their success in using the language outside of the classroom. In addition, some of my proudest moments are hearing from past students who are now teachers who have written to me to say thank you, as they now realize firsthand what it takes to be a teacher.