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Faculty Focus - September 2019

September 3, 2019

Beginning his fifth year at Fenwick, Br. Joseph Trout, O.P. offers hope to students in his Moral Theology classes.

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What is your educational background?

JT: I graduated from Purdue University in 2009 with a B.S. in Mathematics Education and from Aquinas Institute of Theology in 2015 with an M.A. in Theology.

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

JT: I taught math at Northridge Middle School in Crawfordsville, Indiana, after I graduated from Purdue and before entering the Dominican Order. From there I had five years in formation split between studies in St. Louis and a year-long internship doing youth ministry and catechesis at a Latino parish in Minneapolis (sadly, my Spanish has gotten quite rusty). 

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

JT: I am reading Journal of a Soul by Pope St. John XXIII and The Bird Artist by Howard Norman. (I have bookmarks in about five other books but I’m not sure how “current” those are.) I generally read some theology, philosophy and an odd assortment of fiction. If Patrick Rothfuss ever finishes the Kingkiller Chronicle, I may call in sick to read it all day.  

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

JT: I love running and reading. Those two take up quite a lot of my time beyond work and prayer schedules. I love spending time outside as well. I got to do some hiking in Colorado this summer and made my third Quetico trip with Mr. Draski, which was a delight. 

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

JT: Well, I was actively involved with the math and science teams, theater, art club, speech team, campus ministry club and National Honor Society. I ran briefly before breaking my foot and regrettably abandoned that. I remember being in the yearbook photo for a few other clubs but couldn’t even tell you which ones they were or if I ever went. 

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

JT: I am an assistant coach for girls’ cross-country, work with campus ministry and Kairos, and hope to help keep the Quetico trip going one day when Draski stops going (which probably won't be until a few years after he is unable to walk). 

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

JT: Fenwick students are responsible. I was just speaking to a Dominican priest who teaches ethics to college students and was astounded by how much better our students are. He has more problems with students on homework completion, participating in class discussion, and thinking deeply than I have ever seen at Fenwick. Our students aren’t perfect angels, but they step up to the plate and give it their best more often than not.  

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

JT: I began college studying chemical engineering but discovered quickly that I loved explaining ideas to people far more than I liked applying ideas. I started looking back at my years in school and realized how much I had always enjoyed tutoring others. Helping people to understand what they didn’t get before is a special joy. While I won’t rule out ever returning to math, I absolutely love teaching theology. Reality is pretty intimidating and complicated, but it is a delight to walk students through Catholic claims about it all and to wrestle with the big existential questions. 

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

JT: I have a great memory and come from a big family with fast-paced, witty conversations, so I am comfortable in some pretty chaotic situations. That helps a lot teaching morality as rarely am I caught by surprise in class. I still enjoy learning myself, which I think makes a big difference in the classroom. The material I teach matters to me, and I keep pondering it. 

What are your favorite classes to teach?

JT: Morality, hands down.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?​

JT: This is a difficult question to answer without naming students -- and the ways I have seen them grow. I mostly teach morality, so the outcome I want to see is a virtuous life. I have had the privilege of hearing from some students how my class inspired them, but please forgive me for keeping that private. Their end-of-year evaluations regularly say that I do a great job at making complex ideas accessible to teenagers, which is a huge success. I take pride in that. But more than anything, I would like to see them give their lives in love of God and neighbor. 

What challenges face students today?​

JT: Not to give away too much from my morality class, but I tend to think the biggest challenges in life never change from generation to generation. I think the big challenge everyone has to face, sooner rather than later, is the role of suffering in life. Does it have meaning? What do I do with it? Should I always avoid it? Our world seems to ignore those questions more than tackle them head on. Yet so many moral issues come down to it in the end: Can I bring myself to do what is right even if I know it is going to cost me? I have read so many reflections from students about troubles in their lives, or their friends’ lives that they just want to understand. They do have scars at their young ages. It’s hiding under the surface in a lot of us. I think the challenge of learning what real, meaningful hope is will always be what young people need so that they are prepared for the adventures of life.  

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