Now in his twelfth year of teaching Friars, Mr. Alex Holmberg is a Fenwick alumnus (Class of '05), Social Studies Department Chair and the school’s Activities Director.
What is your educational background?
AH: I grew up in Oak Park and attended St. Giles School. I then went to Fenwick High School and Illinois Wesleyan University, where I earned my bachelor's degree in business administration and economics. I completed my master’s degree and teaching certification at National Louis University in Chicago, and I recently finished my Administrative Licensure at Concordia University in River Forest.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
AH: Before teaching full time at Fenwick, I was completing my master’s degree at National Louis University, substitute teaching around the Chicagoland area, coaching at Fenwick (football and wrestling), and driving school buses for Fenwick.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
AH: Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Nudge: The Final Edition, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
AH: I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, especially my two children, Ryan (3) and Nora (1). I am a big sports fan (Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks), and I enjoy staying active in my free time.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
AH: At Fenwick, I was a captain of the football team and a wrestler. I also participated in the NHS. At Illinois Wesleyan, I was also the captain of the football team.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
AH: At Fenwick, I am our Clubs and Activities Director as well as the Social Studies Department Chair.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
AH: A Fenwick student is able to balance grit and determination with a profound empathy for others. Fenwick students are known to accomplish a lot during their time here, but the lifelong relationships that are formed in the halls of this place really start with the empathy students are able to show towards each other.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
AH: I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I originally envisioned that as a path later in life. After graduating during the 2008-09 financial crisis, I had a decision to make about whether to try to wait out a struggling labor market without great employment prospects, or to take action and pursue the opportunity to work with students. I chose the latter, and I have not regretted my decision in the slightest. I always knew I wanted to work in a highly engaged setting with like-minded and mission-driven individuals, and working at Fenwick has given me an opportunity to do just that.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
AH: I believe resilience in the face of the past two years has helped me to refocus my energies within the classroom on relationship building and the importance of creating a strong community to support student development.
What are your favorite classes to teach?
AH: Each class that I have had the pleasure to teach has had its own rewards, challenges and distinct personalities. I have enjoyed teaching different classes for different reasons. Freshmen classes are a great experience where I am able to introduce students to Fenwick as well as to each other. I then am able to see those students grow over the following three years, which is so much fun. Teaching upper-class students allows a higher level of intellectual engagement and connection to real-world topics, which is also incredibly rewarding in its own right.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
AH: The greatest success in teaching is finding ways to connect with students and to help foster student engagement in the classroom.
What challenges face students today?
AH: Students this year face a set of challenges that is unique to this moment. Students have not been together full time in classes for over a year, and all are working on finding the best way to manage full workloads both inside of the classroom and in their extracurricular activities. As we progress through this school year, students are dealing with challenges academically, socially, emotionally and physically that they have not had to face in previous years. I think all at Fenwick are very aware that we need to respond to students on all of those fronts as we continue to help them grow as students and as people during their time here.