What is your educational background?
EP: I attended St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest before attending Fenwick and graduating in 2007. I went on to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where I first earned a bachelor of arts in health and societies with a concentration in infectious disease, then a master of social work degree. I am currently working on a master of public health degree with a concentration in social epidemiology at DePaul University.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
EP: After graduating with my master’s in social work, I was working as a hospice care social worker supporting patients and families through the death, dying and bereavement process. I later moved to St. Louis, where I worked as an in-home child and family therapist and case worker for children with severe psychiatric illnesses. During my first few years as a teacher at Fenwick, I worked as a dog trainer as my ‘side hustle.’
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
EP: I just finished reading 5 Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. This book is non-fiction, detailing of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and ranks as one of the best books I've ever read.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
EP: Outside of the classroom, my interests involve all things dogs, nature and adventure. I volunteer at One Tail at a Time dog rescue, travel to different hiking spots around the country, and hope to become solo certified in sky diving this summer.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
EP: As a student at Fenwick from 2003-2007, I was quite active in sports and not a whole lot else. I was a four-year runner for both the track and field and cross-country programs, a 4 year basketball player, and I played goalie my junior year for the soccer team. I was also a mention of National Honors Society.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
EP: At Fenwick, I am co-director of the SHIELD freshmen mentoring program with Ms. Visteen (though she deserves all of the credit). I was formerly involved in the cross country, track and basketball programs as an assistant coach, but I have stepped away from those responsibilities while I pursue graduate school at night.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
EP: When people find out that I am a high school teacher, they immediately comment on how teaching high schoolers must be so difficult. I am quick to correct them. Fenwick students are the type to greet you in the hallway, say 'thank you' when they leave the classroom, and are genuinely good humans that offer daily reminders that there is hope for our future.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
EP: I actually didn't decide to become a teacher. My path to Fenwick was a unique one. I was burnt out from my therapist work in Missouri and had decided to move back to Chicago. I bought a condo and was planning to look for a new social work position after I got settled. Mr. Groom had been a teacher of mine when I was a student at Fenwick. My dad (who also works at Fenwick) happened to mention to Mr. Groom that I was moving back to Chicago. Around the same time, a Fenwick Health teacher had resigned in the middle of the school year, and the second semester was about to begin. Mr. Groom called me and asked me to interview. I was later hired on a "temporary basis" for just the remainder of the school year... that was five years ago.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
EP: I think I inherited a small bit of my father's incredible story-telling ability. I utilize story telling frequently in my teaching as it helps demonstrate real world application of the content, generally peaks student interest, and makes the material more memorable. This often encourages students to share their own stories which not only builds application skills but more importantly builds connection in the classroom.
What challenges face students today?
EP: Distractions are one of the biggest challenges facing students. The accessibility of information and the extreme interconnectedness due to text messaging and social media provides an onslaught of distractions for students in a variety of different ways.