Faculty Focus

Faculty Focus: February 2021

An alumnus from the Class of 2001, Mr. Perry teaches English and is the head coach for Fenwick's boys' water polo team.
What is your educational background?
KP: I am a Catholic school kid.  I attended St. Simon The Apostle (Chicago), Ascension (Oak Park) and St. Bernardine (Forest Park) before graduating from Fenwick in 2001. After Fenwick, I attended Miami University (Oxford, OH), where I studied both English and Spanish. After Miami, I attended Utica College of Syracuse University (Utica, NY), where I earned a master’s of science in education.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
KP: Almost all of my jobs have revolved around a pool. I have been running the Fenwick Summer Swim Lessons Program since 2005. We have around 20 Fenwick students working as instructors, and we teach between 600 to 900 swimmers throughout the summer. For many families, the Fenwick Summer Swim Lessons program is their first introduction to Fenwick High School. Many of these swimmers eventually attend Fenwick, and a few even participate on the swimming, diving and water polo teams!
I have coached swimming and water polo for all ages and abilities in Illinois, Ohio and New York. While in Utica, I coached the Division III women’s water polo team and men’s and women’s swimming teams. With my sister, Elizabeth Timmons [Friar Class of ’04], I run the Windy City Water Polo team. This program offers water polo opportunities for athletes as young as six years old all the way up to masters (18 ) programs for men and women. In the last five years, 59 players from the age group teams ultimately wound up at Fenwick, and many other players headed off to a variety of high schools all around the Chicagoland area. On the masters teams, we have many Fenwick graduates and even some parents of Fenwick graduates participating! The Windy City team keeps me plenty busy year round and has allowed me to bring teams to Puerto Rico, Colorado, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and all over the Midwest.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
KP: It’s a bit hard to say that this was an enjoyable read, but this week, I just completed Leon Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. What a mammoth text! The Fenwick Library has a Reading Challenge for 2021 that I am participating in with all of my English classes, so I will be reading something next that fits one of the Reading Challenge options.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
KP: I love reading, writing, being in or near any water, and spending time with my family. While the last 10 months have been unconventional, if I am being honest, the amount of time that I have been able to spend with my wife, Courtney, and our two kids, Ryan and Nora, has been an amazing blessing.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
KP: I was a member of the National Honor Society. I was also a member of the swim team and the water polo team for all four years of high school. We won the Illinois Swimming Association’s Water Polo State Championship during my sophomore, junior and senior years. My senior year was the last year before the Illinois High School Association began to offer water polo as a sanctioned sport. The new pool was being constructed while I was here, so I had the opportunity to train in both the old pool and the new one. What an upgrade!

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
KP: I run the Fenwick Summer Swim Lessons Program. I am the head coach for the boys’ water polo team. I am an assistant coach for the boys’ swim team.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
KP: A Fenwick student is willing to sacrifice. Whether in the classroom or the pool, Fenwick students put in serious work to achieve their goals even if this work is not the most enjoyable or fun. I am always amazed when my water polo schedule comes out and a few of the boys will come to me asking if there’s any way that we can add a few more practices to the already jam-packed schedule!

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
KP: I started substituting as a teaching assistant in the elementary school system while in college, but I really wanted to be a water polo coach. As I wrapped up my time at Miami, I took a few education classes as electives. While in Utica, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in education while coaching swimming and water polo. These graduate classes confirmed and bolstered my desire to become a teacher.
After a few years in upstate New York, I realized that while I enjoyed coaching at the collegiate level, I really wanted to move closer to my family and find a teaching job that might also allow me to continue coaching. One of my favorite English teachers at Fenwick, Dr. Bostock, was retiring, and I was lucky enough to get an interview. I am thankful for how everything worked out because I returned to Illinois in 2008, and my father [Fenwick Hall of Fame water polo coach Dave Perry] passed away in 2011. We were able to work together at Fenwick for three full school years, and I am ever grateful for the time that I was able to spend with him.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
KP: I always want to learn more, and I hope that I am able to pass on to my students both some of the knowledge that I have but also the desire and willingness to seek out more knowledge. Additionally, I like to have fun. Now, not everyone’s idea of fun is dissecting a late 1800s Norwegian realist drama, but to each their own!

What are your favorite classes to teach?
KP: The variety of materials that we are able to share with the students in all of the English classes makes this question pretty difficult to answer, but this year, I’m teaching all the sophomore English II Honors classes, so they get the nod. In the past, I have also enjoyed working with seniors and British Literature.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
KP: A few of my students are now published authors or poets. As a lover of literature, this makes me so proud. I also enjoy hearing back from alumni. Most just drop a quick update email, but some write lengthy letters. A few have even asked me to proofread their papers or send some lecture notes their way in preparation for material that we covered in our English class that they are now covering in their college English class!

What challenges face students today?
KP: While I run the risk of sounding like a “back in my day” old man and realize that the world is changing whether I like the changes or not, I think that communication and a real sense of connectivity with each other are becoming increasingly difficult for many students today. This has only been magnified by the current health crisis. That being said, this is one of the reasons why I love teaching English. Over the course of the year, we spend so much time investigating, examining, and discussing communication and personal connectivity in both the materials that we are reading and our own lives as well. We can even do this without the use of an iPad.
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