Faculty Focus: Geralyn Magrady

Prior to coming to Fenwick in 2015, English Teacher Ms. Magrady taught for mentor Dr. Lordan in Forest Park 28 years ago!

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What is your educational background?

GM: B.A. – Dominican University; M.Ed. – Northeastern Illinois University

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

GM: The first principal to hire me right out of college (1990) was from St. Bernardine School in Forest Park; his name was Dr. Gerald Lordan. Little did I know back then how blessed I would become with the teaching profession and with that professional mentor. After St. Bernardine, I taught in the English department at Proviso East High School until I became a mom. I stayed home with my sons (Ethan ’18 and Liam ’19) while an adjunct [professor] at Wright College and substitute at Ascension School. In 2008 I returned to full-time teaching as the middle school Language Arts teacher at St. Luke School in River Forest. In 2015, Dr. Lordan welcomed me again, this time as a colleague at Fenwick High School.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

GM: I enjoy reading and writing. I am currently in research mode for my second work of Chicago historical fiction, the sequel to LINES. That novel earned me the title, 2016 Winner of the Soon to be Famous Illinois Author Project (a self-publishing initiative sponsored by the Illinois Library Association and Reading Across Illinois Library Systems). Since receiving the award, I’ve been speaking at libraries throughout the state about my writing journey. I also dabble in poetry and essays for personal and publishing purposes. I tend to be my most focused and inspired while writing at my favorite spot called the Friendly Coffee Lounge (Berwyn). Being part of a music community (there’s a live music venue next door and a music school upstairs), I’m surrounded by another “love” (music). I’m always taking notes for a future project, a non-fiction book called Friendly Folk, to share the vibrant history of these businesses as well as the heartfelt stories of musicians and patrons who call this place “home.”

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

GM: Growing up with four brothers and a sports-fanatic father, I’ve always appreciated sports. Unfortunately, I never got much of a chance to play them because my grade school only offered cheerleading as an organized sport for girls; thus, I started cheering when I was in second grade, a tag-a-long for the 8th grade team (my dad was the basketball coach). So, that’s all for sports, but not for team/club involvement: theater, dance, speech, yearbook, student government, multicultural club, choir, church youth group… I was the Marcia Brady of the ’80s.

Which clubs/Sports/Activities do you run at Fenwick?

GM: I am the Speech Club moderator, and I also coordinate a tutoring program with St. Catherine/St. Lucy School. I enjoy both endeavors but am especially proud of the Fenwick students who tutor with me. The subject? Math!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

GM: All Fenwick students — no matter their religion or class, nationality or race, ability level or personal interest — ALL Fenwick students come from homes that value education and service. A student’s academic progress is a priority, and we all do our part in helping others. We’ve actually talked in my classes about those characteristics, and my students agree.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

GM: Respect. There are plenty of rules in life, but that’s my umbrella rule in the classroom. It works. I respect my students, they respect me.

I tell them to succeed in my classroom and in life in general, before they act or speak, ask themselves two things:

  1. Will my actions/words annoy Ms. Magrady?
  2. Will my actions/words disappoint Ms. Magrady?” If the answer is yes to either question, I tell my students to avoid the action or word.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

GM: Each year at St. Luke, the graduating class truly believed they were my favorite class. And they were always right. 🙂

How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?

GM: Everyone should be ready to participate. A hand-raiser might not be the one called on in class. I also like to use group activities like Quizlet Live, GoogleDocs/Slides for presentations.

Any memorable moments?

GM: Being invited to the Fenwick Hockey Teacher Appreciation Night and accepting the St. Catherine of Alexandria Award. I am truly blessed. A very personal, memorable moment was being on the stage when my son, Ethan [’18], received his diploma. I look forward to a repeated memory this coming May with my son, Liam!

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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.

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Preaching Through Artistic Creation

Father Mike looks back at how the Fine Arts program got its start at Fenwick nine years ago – and how art plays an integral role in a well-rounded education.

By Fr. Michael Winkels, O.P.

Senior Victoria Brzostowski solders a stained-glass window.

A valuable part of an educated person’s life should include an interest in and appreciation of art. That is certainly true of a Fenwick education. Besides Science, Mathematics, English, Foreign Languages and History, an understanding and appreciation for Fine Arts helps to complete a well-rounded student in the Dominican tradition. The Dominican motto is Veritas or “Truth.” The search for truth encompasses all aspects of human experience. In a Dominican school, art is one component that is essential in the formation of our students as they seek veritas.

After my ordination in 1976, a Sinsinawa sister encouraged me to explore my interest in art. In 1979, at the encouragement of the Order, priests who have been ordained three years were encouraged to begin studying something complimentary to theology. I enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where three years later I received a B.F.A. degree in Studio Art.

At the invitation of Fr. Richard LaPata, I joined the Fenwick community in 2000, working in the area of Technology. I continued working in my art studio whenever I could find the time. In the Fall of 2010 I was asked to develop a Studio Art program. With the support of the school and several generous financial donations of one of our families, we gradually purchased the necessary equipment and supplies.

Sophomore Aldo Scudiero experiments with the screen-printing process.

The program started out modestly with seven students the first semester. From the beginning it was our intention to not just study about art but to introduce students to a variety of ways of helping them make art. The “Survey of Studio Art” class was the first class offered. It has remained the backbone of the Studio program. In this class, students are introduced to 11 media: drawing (pencil, conté crayon, charcoal), water color, acrylic painting, ceramics, wire sculpture, screen and block printing, digital photography and batik. They gain a wide range of experience in both two- and three-dimensional art as they learn about the theory of color, understanding of shading and value, negative and positive space, composition, form, texture and perspective. At the end of the semester they choose one media that they particularly liked and do a more detailed project as a final. As I remind the students even today, you will not be good at or enjoy every media we do, but I guarantee that they will like something in the Survey class. And that has proven to be true.

After students complete the Survey of Studio Art class, they can sign up for a 2-Dimensional and/or a 3-Dimensional Studio Art class. Each of these classes can be taken at four different levels. Students continue to learn and develop in their favorite media as well as improving their artistic and creative skills. At each level of these advanced classes, students learn additional art media, e.g., etching, aquatint, lithography, stained glass, ceramic wheel work and making of mobiles.

Showing Off

Students checking out the Fenwick Art Show this past January.

Each semester, the classes end with an Art Exhibit of all student work. Invitations are sent out to family and friends inviting them to come to school to enjoy the fruit of a very busy and productive semester. It is a joy to see the smiles of confidence on students faces as they hear family and strangers comment on their talents and hard work. Many students are surprised at what they have been able to accomplish and are gratified for the opportunity to expand their educational opportunities.

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Faculty Focus: November 2017

Meet English Department Chair, French Teacher, Fall Play Director and Alumnus John Schoeph ’95.

 

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What is your educational background?

JS: I am an alumnus of Fenwick with an undergraduate degree from Dominican University in English and education and a postgraduate degree from DePaul in English (literature).

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

JS: I enjoy music and writing quite a bit. From listening to almost all genres of music, including techno, indie, and opera, to playing piano, I find such enjoyment in music. And I like writing poems, stories, and plays for fun these days. Crafting a poem or a story helps keep my eye critical when it comes to literary analysis in class. Above all else, though, I love to pray and laugh.

What did you do to prepare for becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

JS: Both prior to and during my first few years, I studied and researched. I researched extensively to ensure a strong command of the subjects, skills, and topics I was teaching in both English and French. I did the same with theater. I can picture myself taking notes from stacks of books and organizing lectures and designing lessons. I know Fenwick students. I need to know the material well and present it well. Back then, I relied on only certain persons for advice and ideas, and, with their blessing, ran with their ideas in my own way. I never borrowed a lesson plan. With the exception of keeping some Fenwick traditions alive and making sure Mr. DePaldo’s vocabulary notebook lived on, I never asked for someone’s quiz, test, vocabulary list, or assignment to use. At the most, I relied on others’ good lessons as springboards to design my own.

Among the “certain people” I relied on for sound advice in preparing were my parents and grandparents, Mr. DePaldo, Frau Barr, Madame Schnabel, Mr. Arellano, Dr. Lordan, Mrs. Marcotte and the Dominican University Sisters. Mr. Finnell was incredibly helpful in preparing me for directing.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

JS: The hats I currently wear outside teaching include serving as director of the fall plays and as the English coach for WYSE. I truly enjoy both because I see our students’ excellence at pursuits and passions outside the classroom. Our fall plays are not typical high school quality — they are exceptional. Our WYSE team wins State. It’s so neat to be a part of two such special groups of students and moderators. The energy in the theater program is contagious, and we work to touch patrons’ souls through our craft. The scholarship in the English WYSE sessions is admirable and showcases a concern for the mastery of our language. What’s more is that these are extra-curricular activities, and students don’t have to do extra when they work as hard as they do on coursework alone. They take these on because they enjoy them and want to grow in the skills each activity offers. That’s dedication!  And I love being a part of that!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

JS: While they may develop over time, the qualities that mark a Fenwick student include striving for excellence in all pursuits, a strong constitution — Friars are “of steel” — and well-rounded, fun-to-be-around personalities. We have some of the best students in the world. I love that our students see the teachers as persons to work with, not against. I love that they not only don’t mind being nudged to step it up, but request that extra push when they know they need one. If most Fenwick students think they have done mediocre work, no one will be harder on those students than those students themselves. Despite this tendency, they are fun-loving, well-balanced, and virtuous individuals.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

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