Living Our Witness

Many students have said you were part of what makes St. Anthony such a great school. Are you able to maintain relationships with your students after they graduate?

It’s always nice to hear that the kids have nice things to say about you. It made me happy to hear that. A lot of them come back in the first year or two, when they still have the connection to the school, but then rightfully, as they move on, they need us less, so they come back less, which is what you hope. It is nice to see the adults they turn into when they come back. I coach basketball. I have three of my former students on staff coaching with me, which is nice as well.

Is coaching something you have always wanted to do?

If you had asked middle school me what I was going to be doing, I would have said that I was probably going to be teaching high school English and coaching basketball, so it worked out the way that I wanted it to. I played basketball growing up — my dad was my coach. I had a tough experience with some injuries in high school that forced me off the court and onto the sideline, but I wanted to stay connected to sports and had a good opportunity to coach the JV boys when I took the job at St. Anthony, and now coach the varsity boys team. It’s a lot of work, but it’s something I really enjoy, and it’s a big part of who I am.

Your current advising students have been with you since they were ninth graders and are now seniors. Was it hard to keep a relationship with them throughout all the pandemic changes?

You missed everybody. You missed the kids, the building, the teachers, the routine. The normalcy.  The relationship remained strong; we were able to maintain it and then strengthen it on the other side. There’s something really rewarding about watching a kid grow up, to go from a 14-year-old freshman to an 18-year-old senior. You were there when they were in English 9, and now, you’re helping them apply to college. The growth you get to witness helps you realize why you do this. Watching them move from the children they were to the adults they will be is very rewarding.

What are you most excited about with the return to fully in-person instruction?

(During the virtual and hybrid school period) Learning was happening, it just looked very different. It’s nice to be back in what feels “normal.” (I am looking forward to) discourse and discussion, especially of a piece of literature that you’re experiencing together. Nobody wants to unmute and talk on Zoom when you’re trying to discuss the themes and values found in Beowulf.  You can get to a little bit more of that discourse with in-person learning.

Are there any other things you look forward to?

Really meaningful collaborative work. I don’t think there’s any horror greater than a Zoom breakout room filled with teenagers. When you ask kids to work together in a normal school setting, it’s where they excel and where you really see some skills shine. After a full year of teaching off slides and every response is typed, there’s something missing in freewriting a response, planning an essay on paper or filling out a graphic organizer. You can’t do those things as easily in an electronic format, and it just allows you to approach learning from a different angle.

St. Anthony has grown in the past few years. How do you help keep the school community close-knit with all this growth?

Any time you’re bringing people into an existing culture, there’s at least that to pin back to. I teach primarily seniors. We’ve got 10 or 12 new-to-the-building seniors. In the first few years, I’ve tried to make them feel welcome and to make them know that I can be their advocate, introducing them to kids they can work with and people who can be their friend. We’re not letting anybody slip through the cracks or not feel seen and welcomed.

What caused you to seek a career teaching in Catholic schools?

Part of it is from my upbringing. I went to Catholic grade school, where there was a picture of my grandmother sitting on my second grade wall because she was a veteran Catholic grade school teacher. My maternal grandparents are very strong in their faith and very active in their church community. Faith has been a component of my family my whole life.

What brought you to St. Anthony and keeps you coming back year after year?

Coming to St. Anthony, I didn’t know much about the school, but during my interview, I was made to feel particularly welcome and made to feel that it was a particularly good fit. From there, the work that we do here feels urgent. It feels necessary. It is a place where I know the work I’m doing matters, and hopefully, I will be able to make a difference for students in a community that needs good teachers. I don’t feel that my work is done. I have a lot of things that I want to accomplish at St. Anthony yet. It’s a community that’s made me feel like I’m valued. It’s connected to the values I had growing up and the type of person I want to become.