Lucky 7: New Courses Coming for Fenwick’s 92nd Academic Year

Four advanced computer science classes, one advanced theatre class, Mandarin and yoga headline exciting curriculum additions for Friar students and teachers!

By Mark Vruno

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).

Dave Kleinhans

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 for Cybersecurity.

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.

Don Nelson joined Fenwick’s faculty in the 2019-20 school year.

“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.

Shana Wang

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.

Principal Peter Groom

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)

Caleb Faille

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.

Rizelle Capito

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.

Find complete course descriptions in Fenwick’s 2020-21 Course Selection Guide.

Continue reading “Lucky 7: New Courses Coming for Fenwick’s 92nd Academic Year”

Fenwick Launches Engineering and Innovation Laboratory

Facility represents the ‘stem’ of flowering course offerings in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

By Mark Vruno

Science Department Co-chair Mr. Dave Kleinhans (right) works with a student on a laptop computer in the new STEM-focused facility.

Fenwick High School has ushered in its 91st academic year with a new Engineering & Innovation Laboratory. At the Open House in late September, prospective students and their families had an opportunity to see the modular classroom (Room 57), which features 25 new drafting and programming laptop computers, six 3D printers and five interactive, “smart” monitors. These technology equipment upgrades are a major part of the more than $70,000 investment in the refurbished lab space.

“We are teaching in the lab to packed computer-science classes,” Science Dept. Co-chair Dave Kleinhans reports. In an effort to prepare students for business and STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) degrees in college, he adds, many of these courses were co-developed with a University of Illinois, student-run consulting organization. At professional-development sessions in mid-September, faculty members received training on the three-dimensional (additive-manufacturing) printers. 

Principal Peter Groom adds, “The development of our Computer Science curriculum has been a collaborative effort. We put a lot of faith in our faculty, and they really ran with it. In some cases, our teachers took existing courses and tailored them to the 21st-century world,” Mr. Groom explains. “In other cases, we started brand new courses. The opening of the new lab is just the beginning of a facilities transformation that will allow our excellent CS/Physics faculty to maximize the student experience.”

Fenwick’s Engineering & Innovation Lab “is what software labs look like at some of the companies I still communicate with in the private sector,” notes Kleinhans, who started up three software firms over two decades before embarking on a career change to become a teacher. IBM (Cognos) acquired one of his companies, but Kleinhans insists that teaching and mentoring young people bring him far more satisfaction and joy “than any bonus check for selling a company or being a CEO.”

Mr. Don Nelson (center) joined the Fenwick faculty this year to help run the computer-science segments of the new lab.

Joining the Fenwick faculty for this school year is Donald Nelson, who is “taking over a lot of our CS [computer science] classes,” according to Kleinhans. “Principal Groom made a great, strategic new hire in Nelson,” Kleinhans believes. “Don is a 30-year business person/nuclear engineer who wants to be involved with students as a second career.” Nelson, who previously has taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology and DePaul Prep, holds a B.S. in engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.S. in computer science engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. 

Student input and involvement

“It was inspiring to watch Dave Kleinhans empower recent graduates and current Friars to be project managers for the new lab,” adds Math Teacher and alumnus Kevin Roche ’05.Kevin Brosnan ’20, Spencer Gallagher ’19 and Jack Vomacka ’18 [helped] make it all happen. They met with architects, researched the best equipment, presented to the Board and even were present for the painting and carpeting subcontractors to ensure the job got done. That was my favorite part of it all: those three gain valuable project-management experience thanks to Dave.

Continue reading “Fenwick Launches Engineering and Innovation Laboratory”

Collegiate Friars: July 2019

IMG_6594

OLIVIA EVANS

Fenwick Graduation: 2018
Hometown: La Grange, IL
Grade School: St. John’s Lutheran
Current School: The University of Wisconsin-Madison
Current Major: Animal Science (Pre-Vet)

Summer Internship: I do not have a formal internship through the university this summer, but I work as a groom for a few Argentine polo pros. I gain experience through working with the horses as well as by assisting the vet when the horses need treatment. I am also involved in a biomedical research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This lab work will extend through my entire undergraduate schooling.

Career aspirations: I aspire to go to go to vet school.

Fenwick achievements/activities: I was a member of the National Honors Society, Tri-M Honors Society, Friar Mentors, was an Illinois State Scholar, a Eucharistic minister and was on the State Team for WYSE. I also ran track for three years and was in choir for four years.

Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Mr. Kleinhans had the most influence on me. I learned a great deal in his physics class, but most of all I learned from his example as a role model, teacher, mentor and WYSE coach. Some of my favorite class memories are from his “feel good Fridays” where he connected life experience to prayer and the importance of being a genuine person while working hard and enjoying life.

Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: AP Biology with Mr. Wnek was one of my many favorite classes. Mr. Wnek is a fantastic teacher, and what I learned set me up for success in college biology and other lab work.

Fenwick experience you would like to live again: I would relive the whole experience. From classes, sports and clubs, to friends, I had a great experience at Fenwick. I am extremely grateful for the community and for the way it set me up for success in college and in the future. I am thankful for the relationships I formed with teachers and the way that impacted my growth as a student and as a person.

Continue reading “Collegiate Friars: July 2019”

High-Tech Education Came to Fenwick a Quarter-Century Ago

Where in the World Wide Web has “FenTech” gone and, more importantly, where is it headed? Answers can be found in the growth of the school’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory and CS programs.

By Mark Vruno

In 1993, could we have fathomed high-school educators teaching entire courses to teenagers on tablet computers? iPads weren’t even a tech “thing” 25 years ago, yet this past school year at Fenwick, the “Introduction to Computer Science” (CS) class was taught entirely on Apple iPads, reports Science Department Co-Chair Dave Kleinhans.

Turning Fenwick’s tech visions into realities over the past two-and-a-half decades has been made possible, in large part, by initial, generous funding from alumnus Bernard Brennan ’56, former chief executive (from 1985-96) of the Montgomery Ward department-store chain. Bernie is the younger brother of the late Edward Brennan ’51, former CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Ed and Bernie, the Brennan Bros., are a couple of Friars’ heavy-hitters:  Bernie is a member of the school’s Board of Directors as well as a 1986 Fenwick Hall of Fame inductee; Ed followed him to the school HOF in ’91.

A peek inside Fenwick’s Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which officially was dedicated on February 28, 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, the younger Brennan and his family made a major leadership donation to create the Bernard F. Brennan Computer Science Laboratory, which was dedicated in early 1993. Students at the time, as well as members of the Fenwick Mothers’ Club, also contributed financially to the lab’s creation. Now 80 years old, Bernie Brennan’s blue-sky vision of “computerization projects” today partly resides in the virtual “Cloud,” of course. But keep in mind that, in early 1993, while email may have been a mainstream form of communication at most corporations, the Internet was a fledgling technology. Ever so slowly, companies were beginning to launch new, online branding devices called “websites.” The dot-com bubble (1997-2001) was still a few years off.

For Fenwick’s new Brennan Computer Lab, initial purchases in the mid-1990s included hardware, such as AST Bravo workstations and Netstore SCSI CD-ROM subsystems (used for information retrieval long before web browsers and cloud computing became popular), as well as software, electrical upgrades and accessories, including printers and furniture. The lab was designed to be used by the Math and Science Departments as well as the Library and the English Department. Tech-hungry teachers welcomed the new writing-lab segment, which featured desktop publishing systems for the Blackfriars Yearbook, The Wick student newspaper and staff newsletters.

Bernie Brennan’s 1956 yearbook portrait.

“It was clear to me that we were moving into the technology world at that point in time, and I wanted Fenwick to be in the leadership position,” Mr. Brennan reflected recently. “Ironically, I have been heavily involved in the technology sector for the past 20 years! It is easy to give back to Fenwick and our Dominican friends as they have done so much for the Brennan family. Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.”

“Fenwick’s focus on intellectual curiosity, discipline and uncompromising ethics is a beacon for us all.” -Bernie Brennan ’56

New Millennium’s Web of Tech

Freshman math students in Mr. Andrew Thompson’s class, using their iPads (2017 photo).

It is interesting to note that each of Fenwick’s 1,152 incoming students this fall will have an iPad in her or his backpack. (Members of the outgoing Class of 2018 are the first Friars to have had tablet computers in their collective possession all four years.) With improved anti-cheating security measures in place, some high schools in Illinois already have adopted online final exams. Fenwick teachers have administered online quizzes and tests via their students’ iPads, but most educators in the building are proceeding with caution on that electronic front.

Since 2000, Fenwick has had a Technology Services Department in place that today is staffed by four full-time employees. These high-tech staff members manage the school’s more than 400 computer systems and a highly secure Wi-Fi network as well as some 30 switches and 122 access points — not to mention the telephone and email systems and 92 copy machines/printers! Associate Tech Director Fr. Mike Winkels, O.P. also feeds content to a total of six electronic bulletin boards displayed in the cafeteria, outside the library and elsewhere throughout the school.

Fenwick Technology Director Ernesto Nieto

Fenwick’s students, faculty and staff alike often take this tech group’s behind-the-scenes work for granted. Even those of us old enough to remember slow modems and non-connectivity have come to expect our 21st-century, networked, electronic devices to work – “magically” — with no glitches. “We do a lot of things that people probably don’t think about,” says Director of Technology Services Ernesto Nieto, who came to Fenwick in ’01 by way of St. Ignatius College Prep, the Dominican Conference Center, the Shrine of St. Jude and DePaul University.

Continue reading “High-Tech Education Came to Fenwick a Quarter-Century Ago”

Fenwick Senior Is One of Two Students from Illinois to Receive Prestigious Jefferson Scholarship from UVA

Chris Sedlacek joins the ‘Jeff’ Class of 2022 at the University of Virginia and is set to enjoy his ‘full ride’ in Charlottesville.

By Mark Vruno

Early last month, we reported that Christopher Sedlacek ’18 was among the finalists in the running for the University of Virginia’s prestigious Jefferson Scholarship. Fenwick is proud to announce that Chris has become the second Jefferson Scholar in Fenwick’s rich, 89-year history! Seven years ago, the award was presented to math whiz kid Patrick McQuade ’11, who today is enrolled in a Material Sciences PhD program at Stanford University in Northern California.

Awarded on the basis of merit, the Jefferson Scholarship aims to attract well-rounded students who exemplify three qualities that define the life and legacy of the university’s founder Thomas Jefferson: leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Candidates undergo a highly competitive selection process and, if chosen, receive full financial support for four years of study.

“For one high school to have two students recognized in one of the country’s most respected scholarship competitions is a remarkable occurrence, particularly in a relatively short period of time,” notes Richard Borsch, Associate Principal and Director of Student Services at Fenwick.

Accepting a four-year college scholarship valued at nearly $300,000 may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but Sedlacek actually had to contemplate his decision before saying “yes” to Virginia’s generous offer.

180410_Chris_Sedlacek_0008_web

His Jefferson Scholarship is “more than monetary,” insists Sedlacek (donning his UVA swag), who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High School in La Grange Park, IL.

“For me the attraction was more than monetary, more than a tuition check,” explains Sedlacek, whose collegiate short-list included the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Villanova University School of Business in addition to the University of Virginia. He applied and was accepted to other Big Ten schools, too, including the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.

He cites numerous enrichment activities, including networking and internship opportunities, that are a part of the Jefferson Scholarship. “There also are two study-abroad opportunities, leadership workshops and institutes, and small, seminar classes with professors that are only open to ‘Jeff’ Scholars,” notes Sedlacek, who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High in La Grange Park, IL. One college team-building activity to which he looks forward is a camping trip with fellow Jefferson Scholars.

Sedlacek may declare a finance major at UVA, but he also is interested in becoming an Echols Scholar, which could facilitate a cross-disciplinary double major. “I’m very intrigued by the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy,” he shares.

All of these value-added opportunities sealed the deal, much to the relief of his parents, Matthew and Kerri Sedlacek of La Grange, IL. (The couple’s younger son, Joe, is a sophomore at Fenwick.) Matt is a senior VP of U.S. commercial sales for computer data storage firm Dell EMC, where he has worked for the past 17 years. “My Mom and Dad were nice about it,” Chris adds with a smile. “They told me not to feel obligated to accept the scholarship from UVA – that if I really wanted to go to Michigan or Villanova, we’d figure out a way to make it work. But I know it [my acceptance] is a huge relief for them financially because the scholarship covers all four years.” That amounts to $62,000 annually (out-of-state) at UVA. In addition to tuition, the annual stipend also includes fees, books, supplies, room, board and personal expenses.

1437_001_edit

A copy of the acceptance letter (above) that Chris received from Jimmy Wright (below), who has presided over the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation for the past 34 years.

20161027_JSF206_(1)

Continue reading “Fenwick Senior Is One of Two Students from Illinois to Receive Prestigious Jefferson Scholarship from UVA”