Math Teacher Mr. Ray Kotty begins his 28th year teaching Fenwick students.
What is your educational background?
RK: I attended grammar school at St. Barbara’s in Brookfield and then Fenwick, followed by:
- University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) – B.S. (psychology) & M.S. (teaching of mathematics)
- Illinois Institute of Technology – Post-graduate work (math and science education)
- Northeastern Illinois University – Teaching License Endorsement (Computer Science)
- Illinois State University – Teaching License Endorsement (Computer Science)
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
RK: After graduating with my B.S. degree in psychology, I was accepted into the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great as a novice. After a period of discernment, I left and returned to the University to obtain my Illinois teaching license and an M.S. degree in mathematics education.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
RK: I go though phases of genre in my recreational reading. Currently, I am reading books that require slow and careful reading with a lot of opportunity for independent contemplation. Right now, there are two books that I’m involved in. The first is Computability and Logic by George Boolos et alia. It has many well thought out problems that need to be worked out by the reader. It’s quite satisfying to be engaged with a book in this way. The second is Infinity and the Mind by Rudy Rucker. Maybe a quote from the introduction can explain this one: “The first time I met [proof theorist] Takeuti, I asked him what set theory was all about. ‘We are trying to get an exact description of thoughts of infinite mind,’ he said. And then he laughed, as if filled with happiness by this impossible task.”
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
RK: Last year, I had my 25th anniversary of practicing the martial art of Aikido.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
RK: I don’t have my yearbook with me at the moment. I guess the highlights list would be four years on the math team, editor-in-chief of the yearbook and computer club (yea, TRS-80!).
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
RK: I am co-moderator of the Student Council.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
RK: It’s a big deal that this question was written with singular nouns. I’m going to assume that wasn’t a typo and you are looking for a single characteristic. I’m going to go back to my own experience to answer this. Somewhere in my life, I don’t know if it was as a Fenwick student or a Dominican novice, someone told me that the goal of a Dominican education was to discover Christ in all things. That’s a pretty deep and philosophical undertaking. Here is my practical interpretation. Fenwick seeks to produce a person who can discern the truth in all things independent of outside agendas (other gods) and emotionally held opinions (human weaknesses).
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
RK: “For in spite of his lonely past, Jonathan Seagull was born to be an instructor, and his own way of demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen to a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.” – Richard Bach
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
RK: Not that I could keep up with my younger self, but I have had the experience that great and wonderful things can be yours, can be shown to you, if you have persistence and discipline. Whatever you can ‘learn’ without effort is no learning at all. I might be fooling myself, but I like to imagine myself as a teacher/drill-sergeant. I care for my students and I want to intellectually prepare them to fight the forces that would prefer to keep them in mental slavery. Your mind can never be taken from you as long as you keep it in shape! I want to teach my students to fight against intellectual laziness.
What are your favorite classes to teach?
RK: Hands down, my two favorite classes are honors geometry and AP computer science. They are two sides of the same coin. Honors geometry, properly taught, introduces the young, newly minted formal-operational mind to the foundations of solid, rational thought. Computer science is the next extension of that. Computers were born from Boolean algebra. Computer science, properly taught, is then the continuation of the skills of proof writing to the more fruitful challenges of algorithmic procedure.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
RK: Again with that singular restriction? My one greatest success? Okay, my successes are my students, in some ways my children. What parent would announce their favorite? Not me.
What challenges face students today?
RK: Prideful ignorance.