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.
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.