“I have been thinking about the anecdotes I recall from my years at Fenwick …,” alumnus Judge Donald Bernardi ’69 wrote some 20 years ago from his Bloomington, IL office to then Social Studies Teacher Mr. Louis Spitznagel. More than three decades had passed since Mr. Bernardi’s high-school graduation:
I will go to my grave recalling the image of Tony Lawless standing on the balcony of the pool prior to our exercise and lecturing on the importance of common sense. Mr. Lawless (see above) was fond of reminding all of us that, although we may walk around with a stack of books a foot high under our arm, it doesn’t mean anything if you ‘don’t have common sense.’ These comments were usually preceded by some event that occurred that day which demonstrated a lack of common sense on the part of one of the students.
The second memory that I recall vividly would be that of either an AM or PM assembly resulting from student rule violations. Generally, the assemblies were not pleasant occurences because we were typically advised of what the rules were and who had been breaking them — and then warned not to break them again in the future. Father Pieper would always end these speeches with the following words: ‘Those are the rules, and if you don’t like it, there is the door,’ as he pointed to the back of the auditorium.
most vivid recollection I have of being at Fenwick in the 1965-69 era was the
atmosphere of discipline created by the faculty and staff. The notion of group
discipline was foreign to me when I arrived at Fenwick and it caused me to be
on edge and alert to problems constantly throughout the school day. I recall
numerous ‘Class JUGs’ [detentions] as a result of various persons in my class
having misbehaved ….
“Overall, the high quality of the students and the intense academic competition [at Fenwick] made the transition to college remarkably easy.”
up with Friar young alumni Karina
Banuelos ’18 and Luke Cahill ’16.
Fenwick Graduation: 2018 Hometown: Chicago Grade School: St. Richard Current School: University of Illinois at Chicago Major: Pre-Med Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology
Summer Internship: I had originally planned to intern as
a part of the “Women in Science” Field Museum summer program, researching plant
and fungal interactions in their lab, but due to the ongoing pandemic, these
plans had to change. Instead, I currently volunteer at the UI Health Hospital
in the Inpatient/Outpatient Pediatric Center, helping children and their
families before their appointments, reading to babies, and trying to bring the
most fun, interactive engagements I can to patients, even with COVID
limitations. Additionally, I volunteer in the Surgical Services Department of
the hospital, assisting nurses by providing pre-op and post-op patients with warm
blankets, informational take-home folders, and contacting families after
surgery. This experience has allowed me to make connections within medicine and
view firsthand the intensive work and passion these women and men put into what
they love. I also had the opportunity of completing two neuroscience courses
offered through Harvard University this summer!
Career aspirations: Ever since I took Ms. Lilek’s [now Mrs. David] Psychology course senior year, I realized my love and fascination of the human brain and its complications, making it more invigorating to learn about! She made the class interactive, challenging us to create our own experiments, testing them out, and then sharing our unique results with the class. These research experiments peaked my interest into what is now my focus in college and career aspiration for the future! After touring the University of Illinois College of Medicine, I was offered the opportunity to be recently placed with a medical student who is now my Neurology mentor throughout my undergraduate career, which I could not be more thankful for! After undergraduate school, I would love to go onto medical school and accomplish my long route dream of becoming a future neurosurgeon.
Fenwick Achievements/Activities: H.O.L.A Club, Medical Club, German Club, Girls’ Water Polo, Girls’ Bowling, St. Catherine/St. Lucy Tutoring
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: I
had a couple of faculty members who had much influence on me throughout high
school, such as my German teacher, Frau Strom, and my counselor, Mrs. Docherty.
They both immensely aided and guided me when I had several questions about the
college process and financial aid, needed help with tutoring, or was just
someone to help me catch myself when I felt overwhelmed. If it wasn’t for my
sophomore chemistry teacher, Ms. Timmons, I don’t believe that I’d be where I
stand today. When there was something I didn’t understand, she always offered
to stay late and give extra help before class until I confidently understood
the lesson, which later led me to my love of science to this day. Even outside
of academics, Ms. Timmons made a memorable impact on me that I will always
cherish: When I joined water polo my freshman year, I had absolutely no
experience competitively swimming and playing sports in the water. From day
one, Coach Liz asked me to set goals for myself and constantly pushed me to
achieve my best. In the pool and in the classroom, she made me realize that
there is no shame in struggling and making mistakes, because that’s how we
learn to build that greater version of ourselves and grow into what we want to
accomplish. We should also never be afraid to ask for help, because there is
probably someone else out there who has the same question as you!
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: I had the fortunate and beautiful chance of taking Fr. Joe’s theology class my sophomore year. Fr. Joe is someone you can never forget — always happy, laughing and loving life, and putting others first before himself. He didn’t care who you were or where you came from; just that he loved each one of us individually, and that’s how he went about his teaching. With the same passion and love he had for God, he displayed it onto the students in an interactive way: By dancing, praising and singing to the Lord, and always praying for one another. Much like Kairos, Fr. Joe’s theology class incorporated the Dominican Catholic pillars of prayer, study, community and preaching into our academic and personal lives, which has allowed me to deepen my relationship with God and remind myself to take each beautiful day as it comes.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: My freshman year at Fenwick, I knew no one going in. Keeping this in mind, I decided to join clubs that I’d thought would help me meet new people. Joining H.O.L.A (Hispanic Outreach and Latino Awareness Club) was probably one of the best decisions I made early on and would love to live again. I was able to connect and share my story with incoming freshmen during open houses and fortunate enough to meet many families from all backgrounds who were interested in learning more about our culture! Mrs. Gallanari also made this club a safe, inviting, fun and informational place where I was able to meet students from similar backgrounds, take part in food drives and Day of the Dead celebrations, learn more and inform others of the Latino culture within the Fenwick community, and ultimately create relationships with the people who are now my closest friends to this day.
Fenwick experience that changed you the most: I am blessed and forever grateful to have gone to a school that allowed me to open myself to new surroundings, people and experiences, while having an extensive support system to creating my own path. Attending Kairos was the experience that motivated me to grow into the woman I want to be and realize that we should not take our everyday interactions for granted. Life can be simply based on how you perceive it: “Is your glass half full or half empty?” In other words, never be afraid to compliment or share a smile with that random stranger or to just give your family member an extra- long hug or even check up on your loved ones. Be happy and always spread that love around you, because you never know when someone could be needing it. I also learned that we tend to get ahead of ourselves and become so preoccupied with the world around us, that sometimes we need to hit “pause” on our life, and be thankful for what and whom we have. So, to everyone at Fenwick who has watched me grow as a student, friend, athlete and, now alumna, and to those who have helped me when I struggled, a huge THANK YOU for everything you’ve given me those four years and now!
Fenwick Graduation: 2016 Hometown: Naperville, IL Grade School: Washington Junior High College: Graduated from Regis University (Denver, CO) in May 2020 Major: Finance & Accounting
A morning reflection to open the new school year at Fenwick.
By Caroline Darrow ’21
From the COVID-19 pandemic to the fight for social equality in our nation, these last six months have been a time of turmoil. For some, this time has strengthened their faith as they have turned to God in these times of trouble. For others, this time has stressed their faith as they witness so many strong examples of the universal question: “How could bad things happen to good people?” It is okay to have stress put on your faith. However, as we have begun to come back into this school year as stronger, wiser, more conscientious people, we can now use one another to help find hope and strengthen our faith.
What does it mean to find hope? I see hope as signs of God’s love and work in this world. Whether it be something as small as a friend’s laugh, to something as big as a loved one winning a battle with Covid-19. God has been working through these difficult times, through small moments, to show his love to all of us. We just need to seek out these signs of love or, as one of my good friends calls, them: “the God sightings.”
I challenge all of us to go into this school year with open minds and hearts and search out our God sightings. Bask in the small moments, and let them grow into a positive mindset. Enjoy the little things, like a sunrise over a clear sky, because no matter what happens this year, the sun will always rise. As American writer Robert Breault once said, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
I would like to close with a short prayer for all of us to Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes but also … of hope and prayer.
Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Please intercede on our behalf. Make use of that particular privilege given to you to bring hope, comfort and help where they are needed most. Come to our assistance in this great need that we may receive the consolation and help of heaven as we work with our challenges. We praise God with you and all the saints forever. We promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as our special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you.
V.: Saint Jude, Apostle of Hope R.: Pray for us!
VIDEO:CLICK HERE for the full “Opening of School” morning prayer.
Alumnus Mr. Raymond Kotty ’85 begins his 28th year teaching math at Fenwick.
What is your educational background?
RK: I attended grammar school at St. Barbara’s in Brookfield and then Fenwick, followed by:
University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) – B.S. (psychology) & M.S. (teaching of mathematics)
Illinois Institute of Technology – Post-graduate work (math and science education)
Northeastern Illinois University – Teaching License Endorsement (Computer Science)
Illinois State University – Teaching License Endorsement (Computer Science)
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
RK: After graduating with my B.S. degree in psychology, I was accepted into the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great as a novice. After a period of discernment, I left and returned to the University to obtain my Illinois teaching license and an M.S. degree in mathematics education.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
RK: I go though phases of genre in my recreational reading. Currently, I am reading books that require slow and careful reading with a lot of opportunity for independent contemplation. Right now, there are two books that I’m involved in. The first is Computability and Logic by George Boolos et alia. It has many well thought out problems that need to be worked out by the reader. It’s quite satisfying to be engaged with a book in this way. The second is Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker. Maybe a quote from the introduction can explain this one: “The first time I met [proof theorist] Takeuti, I asked him what set theory was all about. ‘We are trying to get an exact description of thoughts of infinite mind,’ he said. And then he laughed, as if filled with happiness by this impossible task.”
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
RK: Last year, I had my 25th anniversary of practicing the martial art of Aikido.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
RK: I don’t have my yearbook with me at the moment. I guess the highlights list would be four years on the math team, editor-in-chief of the yearbook and computer club (yea, TRS-80!).
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
RK: I am co-moderator of the Student Council.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
RK: It’s a big deal that this question was written with singular nouns. I’m going to assume that wasn’t a typo and you are looking for a single characteristic. I’m going to go back to my own experience to answer this. Somewhere in my life, I don’t know if it was as a Fenwick student or a Dominican novice, someone told me that the goal of a Dominican education was to discover Christ in all things. That’s a pretty deep and philosophical undertaking. Here is my practical interpretation. Fenwick seeks to produce a person who can discern the truth in all things independent of outside agendas (other gods) and emotionally held opinions (human weaknesses).
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
RK: “For in spite of his lonely past, Jonathan Seagull was born to be an instructor, and his own way of demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen to a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.” – Richard Bach
Catching up with recent college graduates and 2016 Fenwick classmates Bridget Corcoran and Brendan Jones.
Fenwick Graduation: 2016 Hometown: Elmhurst, IL Grade School: Visitation College: Saint Louis University Major: Investigative and Medical Sciences (IMS)
Internship: My sophomore year at SLU I accepted a position at St. Louis Children’s hospital as a phlebotomist and laboratory assistant. I had the opportunity to work with the greatest kids, exercise the diagnostic laboratory science I learned at SLU, and collaborate with some of the most prestigious pediatric medical professionals.
Career aspirations: I am applying to Physician Assistant (PA) schools all across the country. I have three interview offers already and cannot wait to see where I end up!
Fenwick achievements/activities: Some of my activities at Fenwick included: 4 years on the Poms team, 3 years on the soccer team, Banua, Write Place tutor, Friar Mentor, Latin Club, Illinois State Scholar and Student Council.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Although it is almost impossible to pick just one, I would have to say Mr. Trankina. Taking Anatomy with Mr. Trankina my senior year was my first didactic medical experience and really got me excited about pursuing a career as a PA. He also went out of his way to help tutor me in AP Chemistry during my study hall, which really showed his dedication to his students and their success.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Besides Anatomy, a close second in my most influential Fenwick classes would have to be AP Language and Composition (APLAC) with Mrs. Visteen and Mr. O’Connor. It was my first purely discussion-based class on such a wide variety of topics that it undoubtedly prepared me the best for college classes.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: I would easily choose to relive my Poms performances at the homecoming pep rallies every year. During these performances, I felt so much pride in being a Friar and loved every minute of energizing the crowd with a dance we put so much hard work into. I can definitely still remember the choreography for these dances four years later!
What Fenwick experience changed you the most: My four years participating as an Irish dancer in Banua taught me so much about supporting my classmates, appreciating our talent diversity, and working hard to put on the best show. The love and support I felt from the Fenwick community during Banua season was undeniable and showed me how lucky I was to attend a high school with such an uplifting environment.
Fenwick Graduation: 2016 Hometown: Riverside, IL Grade School: St. Mary’s College: Marquette University Major: Economics
Post-graduate plans: After graduating from Marquette University in May, I was fortunate enough to accept a position as an Operations Assistant at Guaranteed Rate in Chicago. I help mortgage brokers and their clients throughout the lending process. During these hard times, it is rewarding to help people make their dreams of buying a home come true.
The Fenwick administration and faculty are excited to offer several new courses to students this coming school year. A series of four Advanced Computer Topics (ACT) classes as well as a new World Language course (Mandarin), an Advanced Theatre class and a new Physical-education class (yoga).
In discussing the new Advanced Computer courses, “Close to 30% of Fenwick’s graduates pursue a degree in STEM [science, technology, engineering or mathematics],” reports Computer Science & Physics Dept. Co-chair Dave Kleinhans. “Our investment in courses and physical spaces must match this interest.” The school’s new Computer Science Engineering & 3D Printing Lab, which debuted in the fall of 2019, will support four new advanced Computer Science (CS) classes: Data Structures & Algorithms, Introduction to Robotics, 3D Printing and IT Fundamentals forCybersecurity.
The four, half-credit “ACT” classes are designed for students interested in diving deeper into the so-called computer sciences. They will have the opportunity to explore specific topics beyond the College Board’s AP Curriculum in an online format during scheduled CS class time. Each course has a programming or computer-aided design (CAD) requirement and is taught via an online, education-software platform.
“These topics represent areas that provide valuable preparation to students interested in pursuing technical disciplines — and those that are hot in today’s computing market,” adds CS/Physics Teacher Don Nelson. He should know. Mr. Nelson spent 30 years as a business person/nuclear engineer before embarking on a second career in education. (Prior to coming to Fenwick in 2019, Nelson taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology and DePaul Prep, formerly Gordon Tech.)
“Each of the classes offers students with experience and advanced knowledge of CS through two primary activities,” Nelson explains:
The online format is offered through Coursera and more than 100 partner universities (e.g., University of Illinois, Northwestern) and private corporations (e.g., IBM).
A capstone project complements the online format with a hands-on application of the concepts presented.
Upon successful completion, the student will receive a digital certificate and hands-on experience valued by universities and prospective employers. “With Don and our five other engineers serving as teachers here, combined with our recent physical space and course investments,” Mr. Kleinhans continues, “Fenwick is uniquely positioned in the high-school arena to serve students interested in STEM.” (See sidebar for additional course details.)
“If you want to talk to someone, speak in your language. But if you want to connect with someone, speak in theirs.”
– Nelson Mandela
Mandarin I (1.0 credit)
“The sixth language offered by Fenwick will be Mandarin [Chinese],” reports Principal Peter Groom. It is the language of government and education of the Chinese mainland and Taiwan (with the notable exceptions of Hong Kong and Macau, where a local dialect of Chinese called Cantonese is more often used.) Mandarin is one of five major regional languages of China.
At admissions-sponsored events over the past two years or so, “we have heard repeatedly from families that this is an area we needed to seriously consider,” Mr. Groom continues. “We have a current freshman student with some background in Mandarin.” He adds that the language fits within the wheelhouse of faculty member Shana Wang, who offered to teach it as a pilot program this school year.
Last year, incoming Friar prospect Dylan Zorovich ’23 “was looking for a language but could not find it at Fenwick,” recounts Ms. Wang, who describes the free-thinking freshman from Elmhurst, IL, as both “diligent and delightful.” In true Dominican fashion, mentor and student set out on a journey this past August. “Our quest? To find a common language,” says Wang, who has taught in China.
The full-fledged course next school year seeks to provide a lively and challenging introduction to the basics of reading, writing, speaking and listening in Mandarin. Students will aim to identify at least 300 Chinese characters by the end of the year and write at least 150 Chinese characters using the correct stroke order. These characters are used to construct simple sentences while employing the proper grammatical conventions. In addition to learning Chinese characters, students will partake in continuous speaking and listening practice. They will watch videos, listen to dialogues and make presentations about important historical figures and events in China, Taiwan and Singapore. There will also be a focus on various Chinese cultures and their specific contributions to the global society.
Theatre II (0.5 credit)
This course is geared toward musical theatre, performance and design, building on the student experiences learned in Theatre I (which is a prerequisite). Students will engage in activities including music and text analysis, staging, scene analysis, choreography, theatre tech, lighting design, stage management and production. The course will culminate with a musical revue including solo and group numbers. The skills learned will not only enhance students’ musical theatre experience but also expose them to careers off the stage.
“Theatre I is for students with no theatre background,” Mr. Groom notes. “This second-level addition will attract those who do have some background in theatre.” Therefore, previous experience is required, as is approval from Theatre Teacher Mr. Caleb Faille, whose responsibilities within Fenwick’s Expressive Arts Dept. gradually have been increasing. “Mr. Faille now is in charge of our spring musicals,” Groom reports. An additional benefit is that Blackfriars Guild members can study their craft during the school day, he adds.
“Yoga is like music; the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga (0.5 credit)
Also coming to the Fenwick curriculum in 2020-21 is a yoga course, “which can fulfill the P.E. [physical education] requirement, for sophomores,” Groom says. Expressive Arts Chairperson Rizelle Capito will teach the course. She has conducted yoga instruction for Fenwick faculty as well as for the varsity football team.
Ms. Capito says, “Studies and research have shown that yoga and mindfulness exercises not only promote physical health, but also mental health. Our students are under a lot of pressure and stress and we need to provide them with healthy ways of dealing with their stress. The class will include the physical practice of yoga to build physical strength and flexibility, meditation and mindfulness exercises. The hope is that the students will take these tools and incorporate them into their daily lives as a means of staying both physically and mentally healthy.”
Sophomores have the option to choose a regular PE class or yoga as their physical-education credit. (Placement is not guaranteed and is dependent on period availability and scheduling.) The course is designed to introduce students, safely and accessibly, to the basic postures, breathing techniques, and relaxation methods of yoga. Areas of focus will be on low-impact activities to improve overall flexibility, strength, core and cardiovascular endurance.
Catching up with 2019 classmates Laura Durkin and Samuel Saunders at the University of Illinois and Syracuse University, respectively.
Fenwick Graduation: 2019 Hometown: Riverside, IL Grade School: St. Mary’s Current School: University of Illinois (Gies College of Business) Major: Finance and Information Systems
Internship: A summer internship I am currently
pursuing is branching off of the Venture Capital Association club that I
participated in my freshman year at U of I. This internship involves working
with private equity firms across the United States to provide financial
analytics and exit-strategy consulting. This summer I will be continuing
research and performing quantitative due diligence to identify potential target
investments for a private equity firm that I have been on a project with since
the beginning of my second semester. This internship will be paired with an
internship through COVID-19 Business Fellowship Program where I will help small
businesses throughout the Chicago area to reimagine and redefine how they reach customers,
achieve business objectives, and help them to adapt to the new normal by mobilizing in the face of
aspirations: I will be a sophomore in the Gies College
of Business, still mainly exploring my career options and aspirations. I am
looking into a career potentially involving computer science and finance.
Fenwick achievements/ activities: National Honors Society, Latin Club Dictator, Cross Country 4 years, Track 3 years, Cross Country and Track captain 2019, Freshman soccer; Varsity soccer sophomore year, Girls Bowling record holder, Kairos Leader November 2019.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: I was taught AP physics by Mr. Kleinhans and AP Econ by Mr. Gallo. A mixture of both the enthusiastic, heartfelt, and informational lessons I learned that apply both in and out of the classroom by these two teachers is what has been guiding me to find my interests and career aspirations so far in college. I was also blessed to be taught by Mr. Rodde, Mr. Roche and many more influential teachers while at Fenwick High School.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Moral Theology my junior year with Mr. Slajchert and Dominican Spirituality my senior year with Fr. Peddicord. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Slajchert my freshman and junior year. By the time I had him for moral theology my junior, I was very comfortable with his teaching style, and I was able to explore the material of moral theology with his guidance and see the importance of the theology class at Fenwick first hand. My senior Dominican Spirituality class, led by Fenwick President Fr. Peddicord was influential because it was a perfect conclusion to my time at Fenwick learning of the history, pillars, and virtues of what living as a Dominican truly means.
Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: I was recently reflecting on this answer
this past weekend as I was updated with my one year memories on snapchat of my
senior track state and senior prom weekend. I would relive this Fenwick
experience in an instant surrounded by teammates, coaches, friends, and family
celebrating the culmination of my four years of training and closing out my
highschool experience with a sunny weekend out of a fairytale book.
What Fenwick experience changed you the most: My participation on the cross country team changed me the most through my four years at Fenwick. I had never run before high school, but before my first day of classes even began I had already met a group of driven, talented, compassionate, beautiful girls that would be my best friends even after graduation. I learned innumerable hard lessons and built a strong character and culminated my highschool running career by qualifying for state individually. I am now taking the love for the sport that was formed and developed through highschool and currently training for the Chicago Marathon in the fall.
Fenwick Graduation: 2019 Hometown: Wheaton, IL Grade School: St. Petronille Current School: Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY) DoubleMajor: Finance & Entrepreneurship
Involvement on campus: I’m currently a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, NYA chapter where I’m on the Finance Committee. This is a great experience because I get the opportunity to manage a $100,000 budget. Last year, I was elected to be the RHA (BBB) Director of Administration and Finance where my role was to govern student life for the 730 students in my hall and oversee Syracuse’s housing budget. I’m also an active member in Cuse’s Entrepreneurship Club where we bring in prosperous entrepreneurs such as Kenneth Langone Sr. — investor, philanthropist, and co-founder of Home Depot — to guest speak at our business school.
Math Teacher Mrs. Toni Dactilidis, who recentlycompleted her 12th year at Fenwick, is entering her 23rd year as an educator.
What is your educational background?
TD: I was educated in the City of Steel and Stone: Joliet, Illinois. From preschool at the Little Red Schoolhouse to my Master’s Degree at the University of St. Francis, I feel so fortunate that I grew up in a diverse city with valuable lessons surrounding me at every turn. I am reminded of a beautiful quote from the Greek philosopher Diogenes that I saw every day in high school proudly displayed in the building, ‘the foundation of every state is the education of its youth.’ I love my hometown and, as I grow older, I search for ways to give back to show appreciation for all the education I received in that city. I relish all the lessons learned – from sports to dance, music to the Greek language – my education began at a very young age thanks to my mother, Mary Ann, and all the resources she found for me in Joliet.
If you have never visited Joliet, please do! My high school alma mater, Joliet Central, is one of the most beautiful schools I have ever seen – Forever the Steelmen! I tell my students that the reason I teach high school students is because I loved my high school experience so much. Thank you to all my teachers, both in the classroom and beyond, in Joliet throughout the years!
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
TD: I will begin my 23rd year of teaching in August. Next month will definitely look different than other school year beginnings; but, I am excited to connect with a new group of Friars. I started teaching young people right out of college. I have taught students from the grade school level up to the college level for the past 22 years at Gompers Junior High School to Joliet Junior College. I completed my student teaching at Joliet Catholic Academy, where I truly witnessed the power of a Catholic high school education for young people. Prior to Fenwick, I taught at Rich Central High School [Olympia Fields, IL], where I really fell in love with teaching high school students. As a novice teacher, I was surrounded by amazing mentors who supported and guided me. My students there were wonderful, strong, smart young people that worked hard toward all their goals. I loved my time at Rich Central. But my experience at JCA inspired me to teach at a Catholic institution one day; luckily, I found Fenwick in 2008 in search of an AP Statistics teacher and a crew moderator for theater productions, all of which, I had experience with at Rich Central. Needless to say, the stars aligned for me perfectly.
As I reflect back on my 22 years in education, I think about all the wonderful mentors from whom I have learned. Anna White, the Gompers principal, comes to mind. She taught me so many great lessons on being an effective educator. She created a school climate where students felt loved and had a safe environment to learn. Ms. White showed me daily that loving your students must still involve having good structure and discipline – a priceless lesson indeed! I thoroughly believe love is the foundation of every classroom where learning and supporting each other will then fill the room. From the very beginning of the year, I show my students that I love and care for them as people with hopes, desires, dreams and ambitions. I start the year with a project no matter what the class is and incorporate our mathematical concepts into the project. My students feel loved and appreciated right from the onset because I create a supportive environment where we all feel comfortable to learn together. The ‘T-Shirt’ project is one of my favorites – come by my room during the year; I love to hang the “T-Shirts” up so we are reminded each day of the strong community we have together.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
TD: Shout out to my book club – we just finished reading and then discussing Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips: a beautifully written book with themes and experiences that speak to all of us in America even though the book’s setting is the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. I have wonderful colleagues at Fenwick that are dear friends and we share a passion for reading and continuing to learn and grow in all we do. We love to gather as well: community!
I am currently reading Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning; I enjoy reading about history, and this book is challenging me to think so very differently from the historical stories I usually read. Next on my list is Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell; this has been on my reading list since Dr. Tracy Gau recommended it to me in January. Gladwell’s books have always been favorites of mine.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
TD: I have so many interests and now [summer] is the time when I can really enjoy so many of them. I love being outside all year round but the summertime allows me to do that more than ever. In the summer, one will usually find me around the yard playing in the dirt. I have a big garden filled with delicious vegetables – lettuce, spinach, onions, beets, herbs, peas and beans are some of the veggies that I have enjoyed up to this point in the summer. My zucchini are close to harvest and then cucumbers will be coming in. I cannot wait for the peppers and tomatoes to start exploding as well! My husband and I start everything from seed and it is truly a labor of love to tend to a thriving garden. Each year, I become more enamored with my perennial flowers – I love the ability to transplant them and separate them to expand my garden or share with family and friends. I relish the quiet time in my veggie or flower garden in the morning as the warmth of the summer sun rises over me. It is precious quiet time that is so appreciated after a long school year. It is a time to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit.
Besides my yard, another favorite location of mine is Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. I enjoy hiking, biking and cross country skiing through the preserve, which is a short walk from my backyard – nature at your doorstep!
My family jokes that I sponsor ‘Camp Toni’ at my house as well during the summer. I teach my youngest family members how to swim, explore nature and be active just as kids are meant to be! These are some of my favorite summertime endeavors. Time is the most meaningful thing we can give one another. I love that I am able to spend so much time with them during the summer.