What is your educational background?
AA: After graduating from De La Salle Institute on the South Side, I went to MacMurray College, a small Methodist liberal arts college, that awarded me a super academic scholarship that allowed me to earn a bachelor’s degree in Speech. Later, while teaching at Fenwick, I earned a master’s degree in Speech Communication from Northeastern Illinois University on the North Side of Chicago.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
AA: Upon graduating from MacMurray, I came to Fenwick and taught freshman English and helped Fr. Motl, a great guy and my predecessor, coach the speech, debate, and Congress teams. The following year, Fr. Motl went off to teach future priests how to deliver quality sermons. I then took over teaching the sophomore Speech class and coaching our speech activities which had been the goal behind the work that I had done with Fr. Motl during my first year at Fenwick. (One should also note that Fenwick’s requirement that every student must take one semester of Speech in order to graduate came about because Fr. Motl believed that our students needed to learn how to speak in order to gain success in our society. If anything, this requirement fits into the Dominican mission as the Order of Preachers. Fenwick is one of a limited number of schools to have this requirement.)
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
AA: During the school year, my reading tends to be largely focused on current events and the news so that ties can be made between Speech class and what is going on in the world. This past summer, the last book that I read was Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Senator Al Franken. In sections, the book contained some humor. Other sections sadly showed how dysfunctional our government can sometimes be.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
AA: My wife and I like to travel, eat at small mom-and-pop restaurants, visit art and other types of museums, be with our one-year-old grandson when possible (he lives in Colorado), and go to various movies. I also enjoy listening to Ed Farmer who announces Sox games on the radio. (Farmer too is from the South Side, and he pitched for the Sox for a while.)
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
AA: While in school, I competed in speech activities, wrote for the school paper, served in student government, volunteered for various service organizations, participated in academic honors organizations, and was a lector at my parish.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
AA: Currently, I coach speech contests that are sponsored by various fraternal organizations, such as the Optimist Club, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The prizes usually consist of money. In fact, since 1993, Fenwick speakers have won over $191,000 for themselves as well as trips to various national contests. I also run the Grade School Speech Contest that our school sponsors for grade school students. After school, I am responsible for running “JUG” (detention). I also assist Dr. Lordan in mentoring the faculty members who are new to Fenwick.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
AA: First, Fenwick students are intelligent. They have been blessed by God with a great deal of ability, both mentally and physically. They tend to be driven to do well. Many of our students have lofty college and professional goals. Even more importantly, our students give of themselves through service for others in their parishes and in their communities. Our students are truly impressive. They step up and demonstrate their leadership.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
AA: As was stated earlier, I graduated from De La Salle. The Christian Brothers (the Lasallians) were founded by St. John Baptist De La Salle specifically to teach. They took their mission very seriously. I had great teachers who made the students work to the maximum of our abilities. There were many lay teachers who were at school from early morning to late at night. They sacrificed their time to work with us. This is what one sees today at Fenwick on a daily basis—even on weekends.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
AA: I think that this might be a question best answered by the students. I personally feel that a teacher needs to know the subject matter, to be prepared, to be organized, to communicate clearly, and to care about the students so that they can ultimately gain success.
What do you like most about teaching as a career?
AA: Every day is different. One truly never knows how everything will play out. The other thing that is great about teaching is that one can work with the future leaders of our communities, our country and our church.
What is the greatest success that you have had in teaching?
AA: I am truly moved (sometimes to tears) when I hear from my former students and they tell me what they have accomplished. For instance, last night, I had dinner with Dave Dvorak (Class of 1982), who is a great emergency room doctor in Minneapolis, and who is working to improve health care in the United States by speaking to citizens about moving to a single-payer system. He is using his intelligence and speaking skills to communicate something that he truly values in order to improve the health of our society. Today, I received an email from Jacqueline Keidel, a much more recent grad, who sent me her first voice-over of a commercial. A few weeks ago when I turned on the PBS News Hour, another more recent graduate, Brandon Smith, Class of ’05, was a contributor to one of the segments. The accomplishments of our graduates are truly impressive, and I am emotionally moved by what they are accomplishing and how they are impacting others.
Another success that I and other Fenwick teachers can cherish is how many of our former students have come back to join us as colleagues on the faculty. This is a testament to Fenwick that our former students truly value the education that they had received here, and they are now sharing their experience and intelligence with our current students.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
AA: I am truly concerned about all of the pressures faced by students today. I feel that they have been programmed to believe that every minute of the day has to be filled with another course or activity. Our young people also need moments to rest, think, relax, pray, meditate and unwind.
How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?
AA: I truly believe that the students need to learn to get the information. They need to get the facts and then make up their own minds about the best solution, the best action to take and the best person to support. They are our nation’s future. They need to start using their God-given talents and abilities so that they can improve our nation when their time comes to lead our country.
Is there anything else that you would like to say?
AA: I would like to close by thanking all of my students, past and present. Thank you for all of your work and effort. I am proud of how you have and are using your talents to help your families and our society. Please keep up the great work!