Faculty Focus: July 2020

Math Teacher Mrs. Toni Dactilidis, who recently completed 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?

Ms. Dactilidis likes to travel the world, too.

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. 

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: July 2020”

Faculty Focus: June 2020

Math Teacher and Coach Matt Barabasz will begin his fourth school year at Fenwick in August.

What is your educational background?

MB: I graduated in 2014 with a BS from Illinois State University in Secondary Mathematics with a Middle Level Education Endorsement. In 2019 I earned my MA from Concordia University (River Forest) in Educational Leadership Program. Right now, I am looking to begin a Doctorate Program in Educational Leadership; currently looking into Lewis University.

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

MB: Upon graduation from college I took my first teaching job at Saint Patrick High School. During my first year teaching, I also coached the sophomore football team and both varsity/JV track. The following year I was named the head sophomore football coach and head varsity track coach, which I continued to hold until I made my move to Fenwick.

During my time teaching and coaching, I also gave presentations on different educational philosophies and skills that I have been learning and using within my years as a new teacher. In 2015, I presented “Brain Breaks” at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) Conference, and in 2017 I presented “The Use of iPads to Create an Engaging Classroom” at the Mathematics Teacher Association of Chicago (MTA) dinner. (Roger Finnell has been on the board of this committee since 1968.)

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

MB: I am reading Teacher Man by Frank McCourt, which is a tribute to teachers everywhere. I was given this book from my then great mentor and now friend, Chad Cluver. Chad was my corresponding teacher while I was a student teacher at Moroa-Forsyth [near Bloomington, IL]. During the year I spent there, I learned and grew an incredible amount due to Chad and the amount he continued to push and support me. He is currently doing amazing things both in and out of the classroom. I am truly blessed to have a great friend to continually provide me advice and guidance.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

MB: I have many interests that take up my time outside of the classroom. Aside from continuing my education through completing various grants and courses, I also coach football for Fenwick. Away from Fenwick, still working within education, I am a member of AdvancED, which is an organization that conducts rigorous, on-site reviews of a variety of educational institutions and systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential.

On a more personal level, I compete in many intramural leagues, football and softball, across the different neighborhoods in Chicago. I love animals and the outdoors. From sixth grade until I accepted my first teaching job, I volunteered and worked at the Park Ridge Park District Nature Center. When I was younger, I would volunteer every Saturday at the Nature Center. Once I turned 16 I took on many roles there. I was hired as a manager to oversee the volunteer staff, run nature birthday parties, run campfires, run outdoor skills courses, and for six years I ran one of their nature summer camps.

Animals have been and are a huge part of my life.  In the summer of 2018 I adopted my dog, Bella, and she takes up a lot of my time. Each day we go on a lot of walks and adventures around the city. Also, almost every summer morning I will drop my kayak into the Chicago River and spend a few hours paddling. 

When I have time I love to get out my old charcoal and graphite supplies to draw. Art has always been a big passion of mine as well. At Illinois State University, my original plan was to double major in Mathematics and Art; however, the scheduling did not work within the four-year constraint I wanted to complete it in.

Lastly, I am a huge Chicago sports fan. If there is a Bears, Cubs or Blackhawks game on, if I am not there I am watching it.

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

MB: Going back to when I was in high school I was a member of Student Council, Art Club, Football and Track.

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

MB:

  • Sophomore Football Coach: 2017-19
  • Freshman Football Coach: 2020 – current
  • Sailing Club Moderator: 2019 – current
  • PAWS Club Moderator: 2019 – current

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

MB: The two biggest qualities I see in all the students I teach are determination and self-advocacy. Each year I am continually surprised by how much I can educationally push these students and what they can achieve. Also, I am continually impressed by how much they will speak up for their learning and themselves. It is amazing to see this skill being engrained with so many of our students. So many people are okay being passive and not speaking up for themselves; however, at Fenwick the students advocate for themselves and their learning and will not settle for anything but the best.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

MB: There are two distinct things that have paved my path. I remember sitting in my sophomore Geometry class, thinking, “What the heck are we learning?” This is a typical thought that runs through most sophomores’ heads as they are trying to grasp the brand new concept of Geometry. Mathematics was a subject that I was always okay in. I didn’t hate going to class, but most of the time, like most students, I felt lost and confused. It was in the Sophomore Geometry class where I started to realize [that] everyone is just as confused as I am! Once that reality clicked, I started to put more time into studying with friends and concepts started to click. As we would work together and learn, I gained a feeling of great accomplishment. When something finally makes sense to someone else, there’s this little look that always happens. It is that look and that feeling of accomplishment that partially drove me to the field education.

The second was my grandfather. As a child, I only had one pair of grandparents (my father’s parents both passed when he was a teenager). My grandfather was a man I cannot even begin to describe. Anytime there was something wrong, he was right there with me. He sparked my passion into the arts, being an incredible artist himself, and was always someone I needed by my side. When I was younger, I was always spending my weekends with my grandpa. My grandfather made a huge impact within the educational world. He was a teacher for many years, but then made his way to being the president of a Chicago school. To this day, my grandma shows me articles of the amazing things he had accomplished and all the recognition he gained for his hard work and dedication to the students and families. If I can become half the teacher and man that he was, I will have a very successful career and life. [Note: Matt’s grandfather, the late Dr. Allen Zak, retired in 1991 as superintendent of School District 102 in La Grange Park, IL. He also was a former superintendent of schools in West Northfield District 31 in Northbrook, IL.] 

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: June 2020”

Faculty Focus: May 2020

Even from home, 3rd-year Fenwick Social Studies Teacher Brian Jerger loves Western Civilization — and working with freshmen!

What is your educational background?

BJ: I went to high school in the southwest suburbs — Oak Lawn Community High School (’09). I have my B.A. in History from the University of Notre Dame (’13). My M.Ed. is from Notre Dame as well (’15).

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

BJ: I was a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Heredia, Costa Rica, for nearly a year before coming to Fenwick. Before that, I taught World Geography & Cultures to freshmen at Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas as part, of Notre Dame’s ACE Teaching Fellows program (2013-15).

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

BJ: It may not be for enjoyment, but it is almost impossible to avoid trying to stay current with the COVID-19 news. Aside from that, I am currently trying to finish The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

BJ: I really love to cook. Fall weekends are for ND football and the Green Bay Packers. Wednesday nights are Trivia Night for me. In the summer, I like to travel and try to get outside, whether it be for hiking, fishing, brunch, baseball games or something else. I also help out as a young adult leader for a youth group at my parish throughout the year. 

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

BJ: A little bit of everything. I played golf and ran XC/distance track. I also participated in student council, class advisory boards, student helpers and a really unique group called Cross Countries — not to be confused with cross country. Cross Countries was a small group of eight students who fund-raised over $40,000 in three years to complete an international service trip to Bolivia to help build a hospital. I even did a group interpretation theater production my senior year. I was also really active in my youth group, Foundations, at Old St. Pat’s in West Loop.

Even eTeaching from his “home-classroom” can’t keep down Mr. Jerger!

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

BJ: I am the assistant debate coach and the assistant freshmen girls’ basketball coach. I also go on every Kairos [retreat] Mrs. Nowicki will let me!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

BJ: In general, I think they push themselves and are gritty. Fenwick is not the ‘easy’ choice; students are challenged here. That said, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Our students come out on the other end far ahead of their peers and ready to lead. And, in the end, they still wish they had “FOUR MORE YEARS!”

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: May 2020”

FACULTY FOCUS: Fenwick Theology & Film Teacher John Paulett

Renaissance Man: Clevelander, Golden Apple winner and Fenwick Theology/Film Teacher for the past 12 years, Mr. Paulett also is a writer, musician and theater aficionado.

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Mr. Paulett enjoying his vacation in Paris, France, this summer.

What is your educational background?                  

JP: My undergraduate degree was in Linguistics and Classical Languages from Georgetown University. I have a Master’s degree in Theology from Felician University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. During my Golden Apple Sabbatical, I began a doctoral program in religious studies at Northwestern University.

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

JP: I taught for 10 years while I was in my twenties — at Lake Catholic High School in Cleveland and then at Kent State University, where I was doing doctoral work in theater and film. I then left teaching for family reasons and went into business. I had planned to work in business for two years but it turned into 25 years. I had always planned to return to teaching. When my daughter was through college, I had my opportunity and joined Fenwick.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?               

JP: I always have several books going at the same time. Right now, I am reading David Brooks’ new book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. I am also reading a history of the Second World War in the Aleutian Islands. Rounding that out is Wasn’t That a Time? — the story of the folk singing group The Weavers. 

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

JP: I am a theater fanatic. In most weeks, I attend two or three performances. I love opera and subscribe to the Lyric Opera. I also subscribe to the Chicago Symphony, the Music of the Baroque and three theater companies. I fill in the other nights with smaller theaters and films at the Gene Siskel Center. I am a writer (I have four books published) and am active writing almost every day. I have a new book in progress that I hope to finish by fall. I play music (guitar, banjo, mandolin) and usually pick up an instrument for a few minutes every day.

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

JP: When I was in high school [at St. Ignatius in Cleveland], I was a member of the Debate Team and was fortunate to have some success. I was also in the theater. I acted in several plays and, during my senior year, wrote and directed a play. I sang in the choir and played in a rock band. I was a dreadful athlete and got cut from every sport I attempted. I wrote for the school newspaper and, for a while, published an underground newspaper. The teachers caught me running this off on the mimeograph machine and the paper was ended.

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

JP: I have moderated a variety of groups at Fenwick. I was the chess coach and the moderator of Touchstone [the student literary magazine] for several years. I directed the spring musical and was music director for Banua. I have been the moderator of the Photography Club for the last few years. Next year, I will guide the new Film Club.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

JP: Fenwick students generally have a seriousness of purpose that sets them apart. I teach Moral Theology. In that class, we study philosophers such as Kant, Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Most students will not encounter these thinkers until junior year of college. Fenwick students deal with this advanced content with thoughtfulness and diligence.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

JP: I was deeply affected by several teachers in high school, probably none more than my speech teacher Mr. William Murphy. He was an intense, rigorous and sometimes difficult man who drove, excited, demanded and inspired his students. I suppose that my desire to become a teacher started with a hope to be like Murph. I have been very blessed in my life, and I think I have an obligation to give back. Teaching has been the best way I have found to return what I have been given.

Continue reading “FACULTY FOCUS: Fenwick Theology & Film Teacher John Paulett”

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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Fenwick Faculty Focus: Biology Teacher Dan Wnek

Science/Biology Teacher Mr. Wnek dons his summer-school attire (below). The father of three young daughters came to Fenwick seven years ago from St. Patrick High School in Chicago.

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W
hat is your educational background?

DW: I have a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and I’m currently working on my Master’s in Biology from Clemson University.

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

DW: I taught Chemistry and Biology at St. Patrick High School, where I also coached track, cross-country, soccer and volleyball.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

DW: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.  Both myself and my one-year-old daughter, Julia, enjoy it immensely.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DW: Outside of the classroom, my main interest is my family, which includes three daughters under the age of six.  When I find extra time, I enjoy playing volleyball, ping pong, soccer and cooking.

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

DW: I ran track and cross country, and was part of the NHS [National Honor Society].

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

DW: At Fenwick, I coach track and cross country.  I’m also part of the Robotics Club and Kairos.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

DW: Motivated and courteous.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

Continue reading “Fenwick Faculty Focus: Biology Teacher Dan Wnek”

Faculty Focus: Spanish Teacher Dee Megall


Spanish Teacher Mrs. Megall celebrated her 26th year at Fenwick in 2017-18, after migrating from Trinity H.S. in River Forest.

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.

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: Spanish Teacher Dee Megall”

FACULTY FOCUS

Spanish Teacher Mrs. Denise “Dee” Megall celebrates her 25th year at Fenwick in 2017-18. ​

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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.

Faculty Focus: October 2017

Alumna Ms. Samantha Carraher ’96 is in her 18th year teaching Spanish at Fenwick.​

What is your educational background?
SC: After finishing my elementary education at St. Giles in Oak Park, I had the honor of attending Fenwick as part of the first class of girls in school history. When I graduated from Fenwick, I went to the University of Dayton, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish. I also have my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College and had the opportunity to study in Spain (Segovia and Madrid) on two separate occasions.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
SC: I actually began teaching at Fenwick immediately after graduating from Dayton in 2000.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

SC: After seeing “Hamilton,” I decided to read the biography about the title character to learn more about him and the impact he had on our nation’s development following the Revolutionary War.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

SC: I am an avid fan of the men’s basketball team from Dayton and the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. (I’m pretty sure I heard an exasperated groan coming from the direction of Mr. Arellano’s classroom before I even put the period on that last sentence.) I also love gardening and musical theater. My husband and I have tried to get into a variety of shows on cable and Netflix. However, with a two-year-old at home, our television viewing consists primarily of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig.”

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

SC: I played volleyball and basketball during my first two years at Fenwick, and Coach Power is still trying to recover from the experience. I was a member of Fenwick’s varsity softball team for four years and played for a traveling softball organization called the Windmills. I was also in the cast of the spring musical my sophomore year.

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

SC: I am a coach for both the freshman girls’ volleyball team and boys’ varsity volleyball team. I am also a moderator of the Friar Mentor tutoring program.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

SC: There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the quality and character of our students. They are dedicated learners who are incredibly intelligent and hard working. They also exhibit a genuine kindness, concern and compassion for others on a daily basis. I truly appreciate what outstanding people our kids are both in and out of the classroom.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

SC: While I knew I wanted to teach Spanish early on in my high school career, I struggled with the language quite a bit during my freshman year at Fenwick. However, thanks to the quality of the teachers and instruction I had access to, I eventually had that “ah-ha” moment when it all clicked and I fell in love with the language. Continue reading “Faculty Focus: October 2017”

Faculty Focus: October 2017

Alumna Samantha Carraher ’96 is in her 18th year teaching Spanish at Fenwick.

Sam_Carraher_2017_sm

What is your educational background?
SC: After finishing my elementary education at St. Giles in Oak Park, I had the honor of attending Fenwick as part of the first class of girls in school history. When I graduated from Fenwick, I went to the University of Dayton, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish. I also have my master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Elmhurst College and had the opportunity to study in Spain (Segovia and Madrid) on two separate occasions.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
SC: I actually began teaching at Fenwick immediately after graduating from Dayton in 2000.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

SC: After seeing Hamilton, I decided to read the biography about the title character to learn more about him and the impact he had on our nation’s development following the Revolutionary War.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

SC: I am an avid fan of the men’s basketball team from Dayton and the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. (I’m pretty sure I heard an exasperated groan coming from the direction of Mr. Arellano’s classroom before I even put the period on that last sentence.) I also love gardening and musical theater. My husband and I have tried to get into a variety of shows on cable and Netflix. However, with a two-year-old at home, our television viewing consists primarily of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig.”

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

SC: I played volleyball and basketball during my first two years at Fenwick, and Coach Power is still trying to recover from the experience. I was a member of Fenwick’s varsity softball team for four years and played for a traveling softball organization called the Windmills. I was also in the cast of the spring musical my sophomore year.

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

SC: I am a coach for both the freshman girls’ volleyball team and boys’ varsity volleyball team. I am also a moderator of the Friar Mentor tutoring program.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

SC: There is no shortage of superlatives to describe the quality and character of our students. They are dedicated learners who are incredibly intelligent and hard working. They also exhibit a genuine kindness, concern and compassion for others on a daily basis. I truly appreciate what outstanding people our kids are both in and out of the classroom.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: October 2017”