Teaching Literature with Musical (and Written) Notes

Progressive Fenwick English Teacher Geralyn Magrady finds common ground with students; treats sophomores to live duet in classroom.

By Mark Vruno (photos and video by Scott Hardesty)

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Local musicians Rob Pierce (left) and Terry White performed recently for sophomores in Ms. Magrady’s English II College Prep course as part of their Tale of Two Cities literature lesson. (It was a pre-Christmas dress-down day for students.)

What’s on your playlist? A playlist is, of course, a list of digital, audio files that can be played back on a media player either sequentially or in a shuffled order. In its most general form, a playlist is simply a list of songs, according to Wikipedia. And almost all the kids have their favorite, thematically inspired lists these days — and they’re quite passionate about the music they like.

One may not think that playlists in 2019 have much in common with Charles Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities, the historical novel written about the French Revolution 160 years ago. Fenwick English Teacher Geralyn Magrady, however, would beg to differ. Ms. Magrady was introduced to a creative, character-analysis activity when she participated in Stevie Van Zandt’s (“Little Steven”) TeachRock professional-development program. (Yes, that Steven Van Zandt – Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Bandmate and of “The Sopranos” HBO/cable TV fame.)

“The idea is to develop a playlist for a main character, and I chose Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities,” Magrady explains. The next day, she asked her English II College Prep students to do the same. The assignment took off running.

“The final result turned into a virtual album with a mix of every student’s top song,” she reports. In addition to the collection, each morning the classes listened to part of a classmate’s pick. “They took notes as to the connections found between the characters and the lyrics,” she says, “and then discussion was opened to share those insights.”

The teacher asked students which of their peers’ selected songs worked best to describe the Carton character? Responses in one class were as eclectic as the children are diverse: “Humility” by the Gorillaz, “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Lucid Dreams” by Juice Wrld, “Drinkin’ Problem” by Midland and “Reminds Me of You” by Van Morrison.

Along with her students, Magrady continued her own character-inspired playlist, which included original songs by some local musicians whom she knows. These two artists agreed to perform those tunes for her classes: Strumming their acoustic guitars at Fenwick, Rob Pierce sang “Rise Above” and Terry White played “When Your Hour Comes.”

That resurrection thing

Before beginning, Mr. Pierce offered some context for his young audience: “Just so you guys know, ‘the 101’ is a highway in Los Angeles.” One student recalled, “Hey, there’s a ‘Highway Man’ in the beginning of the book!” The song’s concept of rising ties into Dickens’ resurrection theme, which recurs throughout the story. Brain synapses clearly were firing as students diligently jotted down notes and observations while they listened to the live music. Pierce’s refrain was, “Rise above, rise above; all we do, we do for love.” Another student chimed in after the song was finished: “It makes sense. Sydney [Carton] will do anything for Lucy.”

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FUTURE LEADERS: Fenwick Boasts at Least 13 Highly Accomplished Scouts This School Year

Eight Friars have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout – plus, two Gold Award-winning girls.

By Mark Vruno

Throughout the course of 90 school years, Fenwick High School has seen its fair share of high-achieving scouts pass through its storied doors. Earning the Boy Scouts’ distinction of Eagle Scout or receiving the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award are akin to graduating as a Friar: They are highly significant accomplishments that, quite frankly, may never get removed from someone’s résumé.

Ian Havenaar ’19 (LaGrange Park/St. Francis Xavier)

 

Jacob Marchetti ’19 (Forest Park/Ascension)

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded more than 106 years ago. Only 4% of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill. Since its founding in 1912, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by nearly 2.5 million young men. Fenwick senior Ian Havenaar reports that he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in May 2017. Classmates Ethan Baehrend, Daniel Barry, Erik Janc, Jacob Marchetti, Sam Patston, Salvatore Siriano and Matthew Nolan Walsh also are Eagle Scouts, as are juniors Patrick Barry and Billy Brown as well as sophomore Aidan Janc.

Sam Patston ’19 (Oak Park/St. Giles)

 

Billy Brown ’20 (Berwyn/Ascension)

Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages. For example, Sal Siriano’s Eagle project was planting a garden at Fraternite Notre Dame in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood near Fenwick.

Eagle Scout Sal Siriano, a senior, and Dr. Jerry Lordan are all smiles in front of the garden, which will look even better this spring.

 

Sal Siriano ’19 (Berwyn/St. Celestine)

It’s “a Mother House that serves Austin with childcare, food pantry, [and] clothing drives, among other things. Dr. Lordan helped a lot, finding a project with me as well as getting the project started,” says an appreciative Sal.

“The … sisters explained that they had nothing on the side of their convent, and they asked me to build a garden in the fall that will bloom this spring,” he explains. “We mulched, planted bulbs, bushes and existing perennial flowers.

Some Girls Are Golden

Anai Arenas ’20 (Brookfield/S.E. Gross Middle School)

Riverside senior Natalie Skiest has achieved the gender equivalent to Eagle Scout rank : The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA. Junior Anai Arenas is working toward her Gold Award as well. Earned by Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts in high school, only 5.4% of eligible girls successfully complete the Gold Award: In 2018, approximately 5,500 girls received it nationwide.

The award allows young women to make lasting change on an issue about which they are passionate — from human trafficking to ocean pollution to education access to expanded STEM training for girls in underserved communities. By the time a girl puts the final touches on her Gold Award, she will have taken seven steps to develop a lasting solution to the challenge:

  1. Identify an issue: Use your values and skills to choose a community issue that you care about.
  2. Investigate it thoroughly: Use your sleuthing skills to learn everything you can about the issue you’ve identified.
  3. Get help and build your team: Form a team to support your efforts and help you take action.
  4. Create a plan: Identify the root cause of an issue, and then create a plan to tackle it.
  5. Present your plan and gather feedback: Submit your Project Proposal Form to your Girl Scout council for approval.
  6. Take action: Lead your team and carry out your plan.
  7. Educate and inspire: Tell your story and share your results.

Gold Award recipients also have a competitive edge in the college admissions process and are eligible for scholarships, says the Girl Scouts organization.

Future Eagle

Conor Kotwasinski ’20 (Cicero/St. Mary’s)

Junior Conor Kotwasinski is close to completing his quest for prestigious Eagle status. This past October, he partnered with CVS Pharmacy in Brookfield to organize a preservative-free Flu Vaccination Clinic (for ages 10 and up) at St. Mary Church in Riverside. Now that his service project is complete, he only needs his “Personal Fitness Merit Badge and to complete my Board of Review,” says Kotwasinski, a member of Troop 92.

More Scout Photos

New Eagle Scout Ethan Baehrend ’19 of River Forest (Roosevelt Middle School), flanked by his parents Diana and Ed, at an April 2019 ceremony.

 

Elmhurst brothers Erik ’19 and Aidan Janc ’21 pose with proud Cross Country Coach and Fenwick alumnus Dave Rill ’87 at their Eagle Scout ceremony.

 

Daniel Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Patrick Barry (Elmhurst)

 

Matthew Nolan Walsh (St. Vincent Ferrer, River Forest)

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT Shines on Coach John Teerlinck, Friar Class of 1969

April 25, 2019

The former LaGrange Park resident and NFL ‘sack tasker’ is Fenwick’s newest inductee into the Chicago Catholic League Coaches’ Hall of Fame.

By Mark Vruno

A defensive lineman, the 6’3″ 225-lb. Teerlinck (#77) was CCL All-Conference for the Friars in his senior season of 1968. “Playing for Fenwick was a big deal,” he says.

Fenwick Fact: Highly acclaimed Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck ’69 is the only Friars’ alumnus with three Super Bowl rings from the National Football League (NFL). Teerlinck knows how to creatively apply pressure — in a football context, that is.

Teaching elite athletes the proper techniques needed to effectively rush the passer is his specialty, and the coach excelled at the collegiate and highest professional level. Teerlinck has coached in 32 NFL playoff games, including six AFC Championship Games and four Super Bowls.

He is one of only 23 coaches to win a Super Bowl with more than one team: two back to back with the Denver Broncos (1997 and 1998) in the John Elway era and one with the Indianapolis Colts (2006) in the Peyton Manning era. (“Sorry, Bears fans,” jokes Teerlinck, whose family moved when he was eight years old from upstate New York to suburban LaGrange Park, IL.)

In recognition of his sideline accomplishments, this evening the Chicago Catholic League (CCL) will induct Teerlinck, its native son, into the 2019 Coaches Association HALL OF FAME class. Many football observers refer to Coach “Link” as the GOAT: the greatest defensive line coach of all time. The “John Teerlinck Award” is given annually to the best defensive line coach in the NFL.

Teerlinck is being inducted into the CCL Coaches Association Hall of Fame on April 25, 2019.

“Coach Teerlinck has coached many former teammates of mine, and we have friends in common from throughout our professional careers,” says Gene Nudo, Fenwick’s present Head Coach, who was a coach and executive in the Arena Football League before joining the Friars in 2012. “It surprised me to learn that this great coach was an alum of Fenwick. He, like so many others, has done the ‘Shield’ proud with his many professional achievements,” which is what led Nudo to nominate Teerlinck for the CCL HOF honor.

Without much offensive fire-power, the ’68 season was a bit of a disappointment for the Friars and Teerlinck (#77).

When he played defensive line for Fenwick in the 1967 and ’68 seasons, the Fighting Friars’ varsity went a combined 10-5. After a 7-2 junior campaign, a 3-5 record as a senior was disappointing. The defensive unit gave up a respectable 15.5 points per game (ppg) in the autumn of 1968. However, an anemic offense could muster only nine touchdowns all year for a paltry average of 7.25 ppg. Teerlinck was an All-Conference selection and went on to become an All-American for the Western Illinois University (Macomb, IL) Leathernecks. “We used to get New York Giants games at Western and I’d watch No. 89, Fred Dryer, and copy his moves,” Teerlinck told Chicago Tribune writer Don Pierson in a 1992 article.

When he wasn’t playing football in college, Teerlinck was studying the moves of New York Giants’ 6’6” 240-lb. DE Fred Dryer on TV.

A member of Western Illinois University’s Hall of Fame (inducted in 2000), Teerlinck was a team co-captain and defensive MVP as a senior in 1973. He was the first WIU player ever to record four sacks in a single game and still remains one of only four Leathernecks to ever accomplish that feat.

Teaching the Art of the Sack

In 1974 he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers (fifth round, 101st overall pick) and started as a rookie. Teerlinck played four seasons, on the other side of ball from an offense led by future Pro Hall of Fame QB Dan Fouts, until a severe knee injury led to his early retirement as a player. “When I played for the Chargers, I’d get updates on Fenwick and Chicago three to four times a year from referee Jerry Markbreit, who coached in the Catholic League,” Teerlinck said. (Markbreit is a fellow CCL Hall of Famer.)

50 years ago: John Teerlinck’s 1969 yearbook photo from Fenwick.

Some of football’s best quarterbacks feared many of the defensive linemen who trained under Teerlinck’s tutelage during nearly four decades spent coaching college and pro football. With four pro teams – the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, Broncos and Colts — his players either set the record or came in second in total sacks.

Coach Teerlinck, who now is retired and recently celebrated his 68th birthday, stands 6’5” but many of his star speed rushers over the years were not quite as tall (see below). He coached 31 Pro Bowl (All-Star) players, including four defensive MVPs:

Perry

Michael Dean Perry, AFC Defensive Player of the Year (’89), Cleveland Browns. Out of Clemson, the Fridge’s younger, “little” brother, who is 6’1” and weighed 285 pounds, tallied 61 career sacks.

Doleman

Chris Doleman, NFC Defensive POY (’92), Minnesota Vikings. At 6’5” 290 lbs., he was a tall one. Doleman played collegiately at Pittsburgh, then registered 150.5 sacks during his NFL career.

Randle

John Randle, Minnesota Vikings; NFL sack leader in ’97; 137.5 career sacks. Randle stood only 6’1” and struggled to get his weight up to 275 lbs. College(s): Trinity Valley Community College and Texas A&M University – Kingsville (Div. II).

Freeney

Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts; 125.5 career sacks and a “patented” spin move. At 6’1” 270 lbs., he sprinted 120 feet in 4.48 seconds at the NFL Combine in 2002. The freakish athlete also could leap up to 40 inches vertically. College: Syracuse. (Freeney was a four-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, baseball and soccer!)

During his tenure, Teerlinck coached seven players (Bubba Baker, Doleman, Freeney, Kevin Greene, Robert Mathis, Randle and Neil Smith) to reach 100 career sacks: the ultimate benchmark for a defensive lineman. Both Doleman and Randle have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF). Teerlinck became only the ninth assistant coach selected to present a player at a HOF induction when he presented Randle in 2010

Motivational Coach

“Wax on, wax off, Daniel -san.”

His players remember their coach as an unconventional teacher who believed in their abilities and who also helped to motivate them to reach their potential. “John Teerlinck is kind of like Mr. Miyagi [the character in the ‘Karate Kid’ movies],” John Randle has said. “He’s very unorthodox: a different breed; rough around the edges. He tells you things that are funny, but they register if you just listen. That’s why he’s the guru.

The player and coach at Randle’s Pro Football HOF enshrinement nine years ago.

Here’s how Randle began his HOF acceptance speech in 2010: “First of all, I want to thank John Teerlinck for presenting me, motivating me, focusing me on the game that I love. I also want to say, John, thank you for saying I could excel and play in the National Football League, even though I wasn’t drafted, didn’t play for a major school. Also thank you for showing me what sometimes I didn’t see in myself.”

VIDEO: Coach Teerlinck shares his memories of DL John Randle.

A Proud Friar

Before coaching in college and the pros, however, Teerlinck was just proud to be a Fenwick Friar. “Going to Fenwick was a big deal,” he recalled last week from his home in Indiana. Literally thousands of boys would take the admissions test in those days, he said. “Only three of nine [boys] from my school got in,” remembers the straight-A student from St. Louise de Marillac. “About 150 guys would try out for football in those days.” Youthful John is pictured among the 47 new Friars in his freshman Blackfriars yearbook (1965-66) photograph. (The team finished 3-2-1.)

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Let There Be (LED) Light!

EARTH DAY SPECIAL

Green initiatives on campus, including “smart” lighting upgrades, keep Fenwick’s facilities cleaner and more energy-efficient — while saving the school nearly $84,000 last year!

By Mark Vruno

If Fenwick seems a little brighter lately, that’s because it is. Beyond the sharp, young minds honed in classrooms, we literally are talking light bulbs – namely, vibrant ones employing LED (light-emitting diode) technology.

The Fenwick Library was empty and dark during Easter Break, but the new LED lights were turned back on Tuesday, April 23.

From the John Gearen ’32 Library to labs and classrooms; from the Fieldhouse Gym to the Dan O’Brien ’34 Aquatics Center and adjacent locker rooms/showers; from hallways, stairwells and the Auditorium to parking lots and emergency-lighting systems; the LED lights shine more brightly nearly everywhere in our building, parts of which are 90 years old come fall. In the past year or so, hundreds of fluorescent and metal-halide fixtures have been replaced by Custom Light Solutions (CLS), a retrofit firm based in Roselle, IL. CLS is a business agent for American Green Lights, a manufacturer of LED and induction lighting headquartered in San Diego, CA.

“Thanks to the Fenwick facility team’s leadership and foresight, the school has quite a story to tell from a savings, energy and environmental perspective,” says CLS principal and Fenwick alumnus Dave Segerson ’71, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side and attended old St. Thomas Aquinas Church in the Austin neighborhood. The latest Friar lighting “footprint” improvements since 2016 have resulted in “a significant reduction in electricity expenses,” according to Mr. Segerson’s calculations.

Fenwick Operations Director Jerry Ruffino notes, “The savings is not only in energy but also in ‘man power’ and labor. My guys don’t have to replace bulbs and ballasts nearly as often with these LED lamps.” Adds Denis McCauley, Special Projects Manager at Fenwick: “They last substantially longer [than fluorescent and metal-halide ones], with warranties of five years and longer.”

Fieldhouse Gym

More than four years in the making, the lighting conversion project is spearheaded internally by Mr. McCauley and overseen by Mr. Ruffino. The total team effort is led by President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., Chief Operating Officer Nancy Bufalino and the school’s Finance Committee.

“Upgrading our lighting from incandescent, fluorescent and metal halide [MH] to LED has reduced the load on our existing electrical system,” McCauley says. (A type of high-intensity discharge (HID) gas lamp, MH produces light by an electric arc through a gaseous mixture of vaporized mercury and metal halides — compounds of metals with bromine or iodine.) He cites as an example the building’s upper West Wing hallway, where 77 single fluorescent lamp fixtures have been replaced with 41 LED units. “We went from 2,464 kilowatt-hours [kW⋅h] to 1,640 kW⋅h. So we are saving more than 800 kilowatts just there, every hour of every day. The payback comes quickly!”

Another dozen fixtures in each of the wing’s 11 classrooms also were replaced, he adds. Electricity provider Commonwealth Edison (ComEd)/Exelon estimates that, since incorporating the LED technology, Fenwick is saving about 40 cents per watt reduced.

$aving energy and money

As down in the pool, MH fixtures were replaced upstairs in the new gym – 48 of them, each with two lamps – with 144-watt LED high-bays. The energy/wattage savings amounts to 68% per fixture, according to CLS statistics, which translates to more than $11,300 off Fenwick’s electricity bill in the Fieldhouse alone (factored on a cost of 10 cents/kWh). Nearly 100 more LED installations can be found in the Fenwick Auditorium, including house lighting and on-stage “show” lights.

The pool area was the “guinea pig” for Fenwick’s LED lighting experiment, receiving 48 new units.

Tack on another almost $6,000 a year in maintenance savings and more than $26,000 in federally funded incentive rebates from ComEd as well as state-funded Illinois Energy grants, and the cost benefits become apparent. Similar savings (of nearly $40,000 annually) are being realized in the pool area. The total 12-month savings for those two areas adds up to $83,424, which is the equivalent to about five full tuitions for the 2019-20 school year.

McCauley adds that the brightness effect is no optical illusion. Everything under roof at Fenwick “looks more brilliant,” he explains, because LEDs offer a high color rendering index (CRI) — the measurement of how colors look when compared with sunlight. The green tint under fluorescent lights is noticeable, he adds. (See graphic.)


Comparing full-spectrum to intermittent-spectrum light sources: The top image is the spectral color distribution of light produced by American Green Lights’ PerformaLUX LED. Every wavelength within the visible spectrum of light is present and in significant strength, while the fluorescent lamp’s spectral distribution is full of peaks and valleys — with dominant wavelength in the green color wavelengths and smaller peaks in the orange, yellow, cyan and blue wavelengths, and a tiny little peak of red.

Going forward, “every replacement bulb at Fenwick High School is going to be LED,” Ruffino announces. Or at least until a newer, more energy-efficient lighting solution is invented in a near-future decade or two.

Editor’s note: CLS supply partner American Green Lights is one of only eight such companies in the Greater Chicago Area — and approximately 200 nationwide — recognized with an Illumination Merit Award from the Illuminating Engineering Society in 2017.

Bye, Bye “Big Bertha”

As part of the construction preparation for Fenwick’s new, six-level Michael R. Quinlan ’62 Parking Center, set to break ground in June, McCauley and Ruffino also are supervising another massive undertaking: the replacement and relocation of the school’s back-up generator. The existing 500-kVA diesel model from Generac Power Systems “is absolutely huge,” McCauley observes, “and pumps out half a million watts of power.” (1 kilo-volt-ampere is equal to 1,000 volt-ampere.)

About to be retired, “Big Bertha” is almost the size of a school bus!

This past weekend, power was shut off to the entire school building(s) as “Big Bertha” was disconnected. In her stead is a pair of smaller, natural gas-fueled Generac units (250 kVA each) installed atop the Priory roof. The end result is the generation of cleaner-burning power when the need arises during a power-outage emergency. “Without a doubt, these gas generators burn cleaner [than diesel], resulting in the discharge of fewer emissions” into the atmosphere, say thermal engineers from ThermFlo, Inc., the Buffalo Grove, IL-based firm working on the project. LaCrosse Electric Co. (Bensenville, IL) is the other key contractor.

“Plus, we won’t have to rely on a tanker [for diesel fuel],” McCauley notes. “This is a more up-to-date system for our purposes.” So far as the nuts, bolts and piping of the operation, the rooftop is a natural choice that provides convenient service access. “The Priory is built like a fortress,” he says. The choice of location on this sturdy structure is ideally suited to handle the weighty steel of the two gas generators. “The West Wing or the Link simply couldn’t handle them,” McCauley points out. “The main [old] building could, but it’s farther away. The piping runs up to the Priory are minimal.”

To ensure that his calculations were correct, McCauley sent his drawings to structural engineer and Friars’ alumnus David Fanella, Ph.D. ’78, Senior Director if Engineering at the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) in Schaumburg, IL. “Dave came highly recommended by another alum, Tony Garippo ’76, who is a Fenwick Life Trustee and serves on the Facilities Committee.”

Denis McCauley (far left, without hat) supervised the new generator deliver on the Priory roof.

Each generator unit is enclosed in boxes to muffle the noise if and when they run. “We don’t want them roaring across the neighborhood,” McCauley concludes. “That’s not fair to the residents who live across the street and nearby.” As for Big Bertha, a crane and flatbed truck soon will take her away to be recycled and reused.

How LEDs Work

Extreme close up of an LED bulb.

In scientific terms, a light-emitting diode is a semiconductor light source that emits light when current flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor recombine with electron holes, releasing energy in the form of photons. This effect is called electroluminescence. 

According to the howstuffworks.com website: LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. But unlike ordinary incandescent bulbs, they don’t have a filament that will burn out, and they don’t get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor. The lifespan of an LED surpasses the short life of an incandescent bulb by thousands of hours. 

An electrical ballast is a device placed in line with the load to limit the amount of current in an electrical circuit. (It may be a fixed or variable resistor.) In a fluorescent lighting system, the ballast regulates the current to the lamps and provides sufficient voltage to start the lamps. Without a ballast to limit its current, a fluorescent lamp connected directly to a high voltage power source would rapidly and uncontrollably increase its current draw, according to the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), which for nearly 30 years has sought to “advance the effective use of light for society and the environment.”

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Green Photo Gallery

Fenwick’s hallowed halls are brighter and less dingy with the new lighting source.
Bright classrooms for bright students (not pictured!).

Even the bronzed cleats of Johnny Lattner ’50 (below, right) look better under the new, brighter lights.
LED components from Custom Lighting Systems (CLS) and American Green Lights.
CLS’s Retrofit Kit
The two new, gas generators await a crane on Scoville Ave. in late March.
Up, up they go to the Fenwick rooftop!
“Steady,” says the LaCrosse Electric engineering crew.

Continuous Learning for Fenwick Faculty and Staff

In-house Professional Development, which began in earnest during the 2016-17 school year, helps our teachers sharpen their skill sets.

By Mark Vruno

Starting in the fall of 2016, Fenwick’s administration implemented its own Professional Development (PD) program for faculty and staff. The ongoing teacher education program is spearheaded by Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton and Digital Learning Specialist Bryan Boehm.

Ms. Laura Pendleton, Assistant Principal

“At Fenwick, through the Dominican pillar of study, we do an excellent job of instilling the value of life-long learning in our students,” says Ms. Pendleton, who also is the Orchestra Director at school. “The in-house professional development program was created out of the need to provide opportunities for our faculty to spend time in community learning new skills and sharing expertise with each other. It has grown a great deal in its first three years and, in the future, will serve to be a space for our faculty to continue to work together to model life-long learning and exhibit their own love of learning to our students.”

Mr. Bryan Boehm, Digital Learning Specialist

Mr. Boehm adds, “Fenwick students are always being challenged to learn new ways of gathering information and data. Our faculty need to have the same experiences to be our leading force in their fields and subjects. Peer-led courses have been great for teachers to learn from one another and collaborate,” he continues. “Offering new perspectives, new experiences and alternative ways to teach the material that they have so much success with over their career will only benefit the students.”

Math Teacher and sophomore football assistant coach Matt Barabasz is one of four PD faculty leaders. Last year he conducted a session about how teachers can “flip” their classrooms. This technique “allows the students to watch and learn at home, while we then use instructional time to engage in meaningful conversations and applications. This session went into detail on how I use this process within my mathematics course, when applicable,” explains Mr. Barabasz, who came to Fenwick two years ago from St. Patrick High School in Chicago.

Contemplation: Golden Apple-winning Theology Teacher and Fenwick blogger John Paulett (center) inquires about a tech topic at a March 8 break-out PD session.

This school year one of his sessions is how to use Google Forms to facilitate parent communication. “Families are incredibly important within a student’s learning process,” Barabasz acknowledges. “Without the support of families, we as educators cannot fully unlock a student’s potential. This series went into how I communicate regularly with parents using Google Forms and how I keep the parents in the loop, on a weekly basis, on their students’ progress.”

Kudos from faculty participants

Now in its third year of customized PD, the faculty/staff sessions at Fenwick are wide ranging and run all year long on most Tuesdays and Thursdays, either at 7:30 a.m. or during lunch periods. Required to attend at least three sessions per academic year, most teachers seem to be buying into the idea. “I feel that the PD sessions are a great opportunity for a teacher to learn new ideas and strategies on how to become more effective,” says Spanish Instructor and alumnus Jim Reardon ’86. “Fenwick teachers are willing to share their time, knowledge and expertise with other faculty members. The sessions are not very long [about 25 minutes each] but allow you the opportunity to learn and develop new ideas.”

Spanish Teacher and Fenwick alumnus Jim Reardon.

Mr. Reardon add that he has taken PD sessions on Schoology, the learning-management system employed by Fenwick, as well as on EdPuzzle, which is a way to employ video technology in the classroom. “The PD sessions allow a teacher to better understand a topic, and then it is up to him or her to further develop their understanding and usage of the particular topic,” he notes.

English Department co-worker and alumna Theresa Steinmeyer ’12 attended Pendleton’s series on William Bender’s Strategies for Increasing Student Engagement as well as some sessions on ways to further incorporate technology into instruction. “As a new faculty member at Fenwick [2018], I have enjoyed these opportunities to continue growing as an educator while getting to know colleagues from other departments,” Ms. Steinmeyer says.

More than 20 PD sessions have been conducted this school year on topics such as:

  1. Schoology Refreshers – Bryan Boehm
  2. Schoology Gradebook Refreshers – Mickey Collins ’03
  3. Magnus Health System – Donna Pape (School Nurse)
  4. Apple Classroom – Tim Menich
  5. Classroom Management with Technology #1 – Alex Holmberg ’05
  6. Fall Book Club – Laura Pendleton
  7. Individual Educations Plans (IEPs) Level 1 – Grace Lilek David ’08
  8. CleverTouch Interactive Displays – Fr. Mike Winkels
  9. Tips & Tricks in Schoology #1 – Holmberg
  10. Dealing with Difficult Conversations – Pendleton
  11. Google Forms for Parent Communication – Matt Barabasz
  12. Learning Differences – Kyle Kmiecik ’00
  13. iPad Basic Maintenance / Troubleshooting – Boehm
  14. Assessment Strategies Through Schoology #1 – Holmberg
  15. IEP Level 2 – David
  16. Writing Across the Curriculum – John Schoeph ’95
  17. Pythonista for iPad & iPhone – Dave Kleinhans
  18. Tips & Tricks in Schoology #2 – Holmberg
  19. Science PD Series
  20. EdPuzzle – Brian Jerger
  21. Classroom Management with Technology #2 – Holmberg
  22. Assessment Strategies Through Schoology #2 – Holmberg
  23. iPad Basic Maintenance / Troubleshooting Level 2 – Boehm

In early April, Barabasz led a session on using “Google Forms for Class Data Collection” while Math Dept. colleague Kevin Roche ’05 is coordinating the Spring Book Club. Pendleton and Boehm then wrap up this school year with “Differentiated Instruction” and “Apple Classroom Level 2,” respectively.

PD Leader Mr. Alex Holmberg (at right, Fenwick Class of 2005) helps to “train” social studies colleague Brian Jerger.

“I try to run sessions with practical take-aways for teachers to immediately use in their classrooms, regardless of subject area or grade level,” explains fellow PD leader and Social Studies Dept. Chair Alex Holmberg ’05, who also is Fenwick’s Director of Clubs and Activities. “I’ve also tried to tailor specific PD sessions to address needs brought up from our end-of-year iPad Survey last school year. One of the positive aspects of the model of PD that we use is that it allows teachers to present on topics that they see as learning opportunities in their classrooms throughout the school year.”

“It has changed the way I manage my classroom.” – Brian Jerger

Participant and fellow Social Studies Teacher Brian Jerger adds: “The Apple Classroom presentation by Tim Menich has afforded me an easy, hands-off deterrent that has helped curb iPad abuse/distractions in class. It has changed the way I manage my classroom.”

Mr. Brian Jerger teaches U.S. History and Western Civilization at Fenwick.

Mr. Jerger, who joined Fenwick in 2017, also enjoyed Laura Pendleton’s Book Club presentation. “It provided a setting for teachers to come together and discuss the interesting methods, techniques and philosophies we all utilize in our classrooms,” he says. “In that same vein, I think the greatest benefit of the Professional Development series is it exposes the faculty to all the interesting work we are doing in the classroom that we do not normally get to see from each other. Due to all the ways in which teachers are pulled and stressed for time (and our humble natures), it is incredibly easy for us to get trapped in our own individual silos leaving us unaware of the great work our colleagues are doing. The Professional Development series pulls back that curtain, to some degree, and allows us to share some of this great work with one another.”

Continue reading “Continuous Learning for Fenwick Faculty and Staff”

Baseball Alumni Playing in College

19 of Coach Hogan’s boys are running the bases at the next level.

FENWICK FACT: 19 Friars’ alumni student-athletes are playing baseball collegiately this spring. Ian Crowell ’16 (not pictured) is a pitcher from Elmhurst who plays for the Boston University Terriers’ Club Team. Three others also are not pictured:
  • Oak Parker Zack Pacer ’17, an outfielder for the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Scarlet Hawks.
  • Owen Wauun ’18, a catcher from Western Springs who plays for the DePauw University Tigers out of Greencastle, Indiana.
  • KJ Slepicka ’18 (River Forest), is a pitcher/outfielder for the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Fightin’ Engineers in Terre Haute, Indiana.Here are the other former Friars players still playing:
Class of 2015

Quinn Snarskis (Chicago), Pitcher –  University of Illinois

Kevin Forde (Western Springs), Pitcher  – St. Joe’s/ Valparaiso (injured)

Justin Rodriguez (Wood Dale), Catcher – Concordia University of Chicago (River Forest) 

Class of 2016

Sean Herbert (Riverside), Pitcher – Viterbo University (La Crosse, Wisconsin)

Class of 2017

Anthony Cavalieri (Western Springs), Middle Infield – Lewis University (Joliet, Illinois)

Mike Fiorito (Franklin Park), Infield – Cornell College (Iowa)

Ethan Gerstner (Riverside), Catcher – University of Wisconsin at La Crosse

Casey O’Laughlin (Glen Ellyn), Outfield – Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois)

Justin Sosa (Chicago), Pitcher – Benedictine University (Lisle, Illinois)

Continue reading “Baseball Alumni Playing in College”

Dominican Formation Among Fenwick’s Faculty and Staff

While students sleep in, instructors and school administrators reflect on the spiritual side of their teaching ministry.

By Brother John Steilberg, O.P.

During the course of the school year, the faculty and staff at Fenwick participate in Dominican Formation Days. These late-start dates for students are an opportunity for the faculty and staff to reflect on who we are as a Catholic and Dominican school. Dominican formation stems from our need for ongoing education and formation in Catholic values vital to the mission of our school. We would like to share some thoughts shared by our faculty and staff after attending our most recent Dominican formation day in February.

One faculty member commented, “Dominican formation helps us better understand the Dominican tradition central to our school identity and helps us strengthen community with one another.” Another faculty relayed these sentiments: “It is important for us to participate in Dominican formation so that we can continue to grow spiritually as a community and to continue to remind us of our mission.” Another stressed the need to extend our mission to how we live, teach and preach here at Fenwick every day. “I would see the purpose as continuing to reflect on how we can best understand and live out our Catholic Dominican identity in specific ways.”

Dominican formation centers on the Four Pillars of Dominican Life:

  1. Prayer
  2. Study
  3. Community
  4. Preaching

The Four Pillars are a descriptive way of explaining the essence of and daily practice of Dominican life. The Dominican friars here at Fenwick live out the pillars in a very intentional way and oftentimes in a very external way. But all of our faculty and staff, in a wide diversity of actions, live out the pillars as part of their particular Christian vocation.

“Our job at Fenwick is to do more than teach and support academically, but to show through our actions the meaning of Christ’s love.”

One teacher described this shared mission of both the Dominican friars and the staff in this way, “As teachers, we must be able to model the Dominican Catholic values of the school.” Another teacher asserted, “Also, to remind us that our job at Fenwick is to do more than teach and support academically, but to show through our actions the meaning of Christ’s love.”

The Fenwick Community

Campus Ministry Director and proud alumnus Fr. Dennis Woerter, O.P. ’86 (with his back to us) co-led the Dominican Formation Day with Br. Steilberg, O.P.

Each year, our Dominican formation programs focus on one of the four pillars in particular. This year we reflected on “community,” how we are called by God to live together as Christian people. As a community, we discussed questions such as:

  • What is the most important thing we do that brings us together as a community?
  • What issues divide us at times?
  • What items do we need to work on?

We also examined where are the margins of our community are and how we can bring the gospel message to those margins. Our conversation was heartfelt and lively around these difficult questions.

What Makes Fenwick Different?

In later meetings we discussed our identity as a Catholic school. What makes us different, being Catholic and Dominican, from other schools in the area? One teacher explained it this way: “Every school prepares its students to lead, achieve and serve. Not every school’s mission is predicated upon a deep theological commitment to the dignity of the human person.” One faculty member explained, “to be Catholic is to be counter-cultural. Our identity and our values need to be true to who we are — even though that may not be popular or generally accepted.”

“Not every school’s mission is predicated upon a deep theological commitment to the dignity of the human person.”

Brother John
Brother John

We then discussed how to avoid going too far in emphasizing what makes us different, so that we can preach Jesus’ universal message of the gospel that is meant for all of mankind. This can be a challenging balance: to be true to our Catholic identity yet open to diversity, welcoming to all people, and proclaiming God’s mercy available to every person.

Finally, we discussed where God is in this picture here at Fenwick. Faculty members expressed this idea: “God is [present] in relationships with other people, with our students and our colleagues.”

As we strive to build a faith community, what does that say about what we believe about God? What is God asking of us, as a faith community, as a high school? These are challenging questions. These are questions that may take a lifetime to answer. But that is what we are about here at Fenwick. We seek the Truth.

Continue reading “Dominican Formation Among Fenwick’s Faculty and Staff”

CLASSROOM LEADERSHIP

At Fenwick, six top-level administrators also (still) teach. Here’s why.

By Mark Vruno

What sets Fenwick apart from other high schools in the Chicago area and surrounding suburbs? Four differentiating aspects of the school come to mind:

  1. The seven Dominican priests and brothers present daily in the building is one major distinction.

  2. There also are eight PhD-degreed leaders among the Friars’ faculty and administration. 

  3. Another impressive statistic is that more than one-quarter of the teachers working at Fenwick also are alumni

  4. And yet another differentiator that makes Fenwick special is that six administrators also teach courses to students.

This last point of differentiation is akin to the difference at universities and colleges where actual professors teach under-graduate classes (as opposed to those taught by teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school). The six Fenwick administrators in the classroom are (from left in the above photo):

  • ​ Director of Scheduling & Student Data Mickey Collins ’03 – Accelerated Anatomy
  • Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton – Orchestra Director
  • Principal Peter Groom – Foreign Policy (History)
  • President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., PhD – Dominican Spirituality (Theology)
  • Assistant Principal Eleanor Comiskey ’06 – Algebra
  • Student Services/Enrollment Director James Quaid, PhD – Advanced Placement U.S. History

Peter Groom

Every weekday afternoon for 45 minutes, you won’t find Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. in his office or on the phone. Instead, he’s in a classroom teaching Theology (Dominican Spiritualty) to senior students. Principal Peter Groom, who teaches History (Foreign Policy), has said that teaching and interacting with students in the classroom is the highlight of his work day. What is it that they enjoy about the teaching portion of their day-to-day responsibilities?

Mickey Collins

“Teaching is a way for me to be connected to the students on a personal level,” explains alumnus Michael “Mickey” Collins ’03, who teaches a science course in Accelerated Anatomy when he’s not overseeing the scheduling and data of Fenwick students. “I spend most of my time seeing names, test scores, course requests and schedules of students, but not as much face-to-face [time] with those students,” Mr. Collins adds.

“I think the fact that our administrators still teach keeps them more connected than most administrators at other schools.” – Assistant Principal/Orchestra Director Laura Pendleton

Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton notes, “The unique thing about being an education administrator is that none of us chose this profession. We all chose to be teachers first and then ended up in administration for a variety of reasons and circumstances. To be able to work in administration and continue to teach, which was my first passion, is a gift,” says Ms. Pendleton, who also is Fenwick’s Orchestra Director. “It takes you back to your early career, and I enjoy having the time working with the students vs. the adults. They keep you close to the pulse of the school.”

Why They Teach

“I think the fact that our administrators still teach keeps them more connected than most administrators at other schools,” Pendleton continues. “Also, most days teaching my class is a stress reliever!

Laura Pendleton

“It is important for school leaders to stay connected with the student body because,” she says, “first and foremost, we are here for them. I can imagine that if you are not in front of students every day you might start to get a little disconnected. Teaching my own class is very beneficial for me when supervising teachers. Being in their classroom becomes more than just an isolated event and more of a collaboration: I’m also in a classroom with these students every day; I have the same issues. It gives us a very up-to-date understanding of what our teachers are going through. We have a unique student body here at Fenwick, and it’s important to know their needs specifically.”

Dr. James Quaid, former Fenwick Principal and current Director of Student Services & Enrollment, returned to Fenwick this school year.  “I began my career as a teacher and always loved working with students as a teacher, coach and/or moderator,” Dr. Quaid shares. “Administrative work involves planning and finding ways to help students, teachers and parents/guardians. It also involves a lot of reaction to issues in which people are frustrated or upset. When I am in a classroom, I get to work in a very positive environment and enjoy watching students learn and grow. If you plan, communicate and react properly, there really are not that many negative things that happen. For one period each day I can just enjoy the experience.”

Continue reading “CLASSROOM LEADERSHIP”

Baseball & Softball Friars Fly to Orlando, Board Bus to Clarksville

Fenwick student-athletes to thaw out their fingers (and toes) next week on warmer ball diamonds down south.

By Mark Vruno

Head Coach Dave Hogan can shed some clothing layers in Orlando.

Last week a group of Fenwick “snowbird” alumni gathered in the Arizona desert on March 15 to watch the Chicago Cubs defeat the White Sox under partly sunny skies and 71-degree temperatures. The school’s baseball and softball teams have caught the warmer-weather bug, too, as the annual spring athlete migration is set to begin.

The evening before the crosstown-classic rivalry at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ, a handful of faithful fans braved howling winds and biting, 43-degree temps to watch the Friar boys’ baseball team demolish Ridgewood’s Rebels from Norridge/Harwood Heights by a score of 15-2. It was 2019 opening night under the lights at Triton College.

The highlight was senior Lucas Kolovitz (above, in Florida last year), a D1 recruit committed to Purdue University – Fort Wayne, blasting a towering homerun that, with Mother Nature’s assistance, traveled nearly 400 feet into the angry, River Grove sky. (Junior Will Hendricks also smashed a triple, while fellow junior Greyson Cone’s cannon-like arm was on display at third base.) The windy win marked number 817 for Varsity Baseball Coach Dave Hogan, who is entering his 39th season as the Friars’ skipper. Coach Hogan has tallied the second most baseball victories at one school in Illinois, dating back to 1980.

Cousins face off: Tommy Groom and the Hornets of Bishop Moore (Orlando) will try to sting the Friars — and his older cousin, Jimmy — on March 25.

“We have eight games scheduled in Florida, three of them in the Atlanta Braves’ spring training big-league stadium,” reports Assistant Varsity Coach and baseball alumnus Kyle Kmiecik ’00. On Monday, March 25, the top end of a double-header features the cousins Groom on the mound: Fenwick senior pitcher Jimmy Groom will try to match heat with his younger, flame-throwing cousin Tommy: a right-handed junior who hurls 90-mph fastballs for Bishop Moore out of Orlando. (Tommy’s father, Chris, taught Spanish at Fenwick in 1994-96, Principal Groom says of his brother.  “He also coached sophomore baseball,” reports Mr. Groom.)

The projected high temperature for game day is a balmy 82 degrees at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The nightcap pits the Friars against the Lions of Orange High School from Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland.

The following evening Fenwick faces the Quakers of Sidwell Friends, a selective, private school in the Washington, D.C.- Bethesda, Maryland area. Next up on Wednesday is another Quaker team from Philadelphia: the William Penn Charter School; on Thursday it’s the “Fords” from the all-boys Haveford School, also in Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia).

Our Chicago-area boys close out their trip in the sun with a mid-day double-header on Friday, March 29: Game 1 (10:30 a.m.) brings competition from the Patriots of Germantown Academy (Washington, PA), originally called the Union School and dating back to 1759. Game 2 (first pitch at 1 p.m.) is against the Bears of Landon School, a 90-year-old, college-prep school situated in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.

Continue reading “Baseball & Softball Friars Fly to Orlando, Board Bus to Clarksville”

Alumna Anne Smedinghoff Is a ‘Beautiful Soul’

Fellow 2005 Fenwick graduate and Math Teacher Kevin Roche reflects about his late friend and classmate’s generosity – and her lasting legacy.

By Kevin Roche ’05

The Chicago Sun-Times headline the week Fenwick alumna Ms. Smedinghoff was tragically killed in early April 2013. She was 25.

It was about the time that Anne was killed that a show called “The Newsroom” came out. Aaron Sorkin started his hit HBO show with a piercing diatribe by the star Will McAvoy, contesting, “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

I concur; polarizing viewpoints from those that refuse to find the middle ground, lackluster statistics on our health, academic performance, and mass incarceration, and embarrassing stories about our elected leaders are a few of the examples that have me nodding along with the tirade. The character played by Jeff Daniels ends his rant hopefully with, “but it can be.”

Anne is my ‘but it can be.’

Anne was killed in a terrorist attack delivering books to a local school in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in 2013. She was a part of the United States’ diplomacy efforts to create lasting and sustainable peace in Afghanistan by fostering positive relationships. Anne died a martyr-like death, being killed while spreading nothing but goodness; she was delivering books to young kids.

Anne was a classmate of mine for 12 years of our young lives. From crowning The Virgin Mary her 8th-grade year to riding her bike 4,000 miles in college to raise money for cancer research, she exemplified, even before her foreign service career, what makes me so proud to be an American. Anne “stood up for what was right, she fought for moral reasons, cared for her neighbors, never beat her chest, reached for the stars, aspired to intelligence; didn’t belittle it, and was courageous,” just what Will McAvoy commended America’s past for.

Although it is the better part of a decade that we have been without Anne, I see her everywhere in my life. On one of my running routes, there is a black and white portrait of her (top and at left) along the train tracks. At St. Luke’s, I see her parents who are regulars and ministers during the Mass. Coaching girls’ cross country, the program she was a part of, I see Anne in the supportive, altruistic teammates. Walking to my parent’s house, I pass by the Anne Smedinghoff Memorial Garden at the public library. I see Anne when I talk to her teachers like Mary Beth Logas who encourages her students to understand the system in order to do the most good. I see Anne in my colleague, fellow ’05 grad, and dear friend of Anne, Crissy (Tallarico) Lilek, who exudes the same serene magnanimity that Anne did. I see Anne everywhere.

At each athletic event, during “The Star Spangled Banner,” I think of my contemporaries and former students that have selflessly dedicated themselves to serve our country. Different faces come up each time and I beam with pride knowing such wonderful people. Without fail, Anne Smedinghoff crosses my mind during, “the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.” I become emotional as I imagine the attack on her as she was about to donate those books, but I also see the American flag raised high over Lake and Lathrop by fire truck ladders as her family leaves with her in casket after the funeral Mass at St. Luke’s.

Continue reading “Alumna Anne Smedinghoff Is a ‘Beautiful Soul’”