What is your educational background?
JO: I earned my B.S. from Marquette University and my M.A. from DePaul University. I had great experiences at both places, but I am especially tied to Marquette where I had great academic advisors and teachers and formed close friendships.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
JO: I taught freshman, sophomore and junior English at Greenfield High School outside of Milwaukee.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
JO: I love coaching tennis with Mr. Draski, my former tennis coach. Getting a “behind the scenes” look at what was happening when I was a player is such a unique experience. We are lucky to work with such a great group of girls and families. Outside of Fenwick, I enjoy cooking and baking, trying new restaurants, and visiting new places. I also enjoy volunteering at Misericordia.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
JO: At Fenwick, I played tennis for four years, was a part of NHS and a Friar Mentor. Contrary to what my husband [Admissions Director and fellow Fenwick alumnus Joe Ori] may tell people, I was not his Friar Mentor. Outside of Fenwick, I was very involved with volunteering at the Hanson Center, where I served as secretary and then president of the Junior Board and helped children with special needs.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
JO: I am the moderator of the yearbook and the assistant girls’ tennis coach. Both groups are fun, creative and hard-working.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
JO: Fenwick students are ambitious, fun(ny) and highly intelligent. They are grounded in their faith in God. They want to do well and impress themselves, their teachers, their parents and their friends. They are competitive (in a good way). They strive for excellence. They go out of their way to make someone’s day and be kind.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
JO: I always admired my teachers at Fenwick for pushing us and wanting to see us succeed. When I started at Marquette, I participated in service learning where I had the opportunity to help and teach kids in the Milwaukee area. I found the work very enjoyable and fulfilling and decided almost immediately to switch my “undecided” major to education. I have never looked back.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
JO: I absolutely love what I teach and see the importance in it. One of the topics that I am best at teaching is grammar because I understand it well and like it probably more than I should. I also love to discuss literature, but what I love even more is gaining a new perspective on a novel that I have read dozens of times.
What do you like most about teaching as a career?
JO: The best part of being a teacher is the students. I hope that I motivate them as much as they motivate me to be a better teacher and role model. I also love that every day is different and the students constantly keep me on my toes.
What is your philosophy of education?
JO: With every new unit, I try to keep in mind my overall goal as a teacher, which is that I want students to learn skills in my class that will help them in the future. These skills include writing skills, speaking skills, study skills, working with others, helping others, listening and respecting multiple perspectives, being organized and being prepared. In five years, my students may not remember a certain poem that we read, but hopefully they are using skills that they learned in my class and at Fenwick.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
JO: What makes me proudest is when students come back to talk about their successes in college and beyond. I also very much enjoy teaching freshmen because I am able to see them mature and grow and succeed so much in their years at Fenwick. Their successes in and out of the classroom motivate me always to strive for excellence.
How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom?
Although I like to run my classroom using a lot of direct instruction, there is an important balance. Students in my classroom often learn best when they are working together. Students gain confidence working in small groups when they share their ideas with a partner. When I walk around and hear their conversations, I am able to help guide their discussion or affirm their great ideas, which inspires confidence in sharing their answers with the class. It is also helpful that students hear a variety of opinions and realize that we grow from sharing opinions and discussing differences.