Faculty Focus

Faculty Focus: June 2022

Math Teacher Jerry Kribs also is head coach of the Fenwick boys’ golf team and liaison to the school’s Evans Scholarship Program for caddies.
What is your educational background?
JK: I earned my bachelor's from Northwestern University (thanks to the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship) and my master's from DePaul University.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

JK: It is hard to believe that it’s been 10 years for me on Washington Boulevard! Before Fenwick, I taught at Carmel Catholic High School and, before Carmel, I taught at St. Francis de Sales High School. Prior to teaching, I was a golf caddie at Beverly Country Club, which is in a tie with my current job as my favorite one ever.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
JK: With two children, Maisie (5) and Eli (7), all of my leisurely reading happens at their bedtime. Maisie loves goofy stories and Eli loves non-fiction.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

JK: I love attending concerts from Fitzgerald's to Red Rocks with my wife Kelly, doing all things baseball with Eli (Go Sox!), and enjoying all of life's rainbows and unicorns with Maisie. I am an avid golfer and hope to get my lower back healthy enough to enjoy another few decades on the course. I sing and play acoustic guitar and believe that songwriting is one of the most powerful tools for building empathy in our world. I enjoy word puzzles, and my daily regimen consists of the New York Times Crossword, Spelling Bee and now Wordle. I am an unapologetic trivia nerd and have always enjoyed amassing useful (it is always useful!) knowledge.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
JK: As a high school student at St. Laurence, I was a member of the golf team, Scholastic Bowl team, and was a proud “mathlete” under the direction of the late great Pat Fowler. 
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

JK: I am the head coach of Varsity Boys' Golf, the head coach of Scholastic Bowl, and the Evans Scholars Liaison here at Fenwick. The Friar golfers never fail to impress me as they hone their physical and mental game on the links. The Friar scho-bowlers are a wonderful community of unabashed lovers of learning with a dash of competitive spirit. As for the Evans Scholars, if I do not already know the applicants from class, getting to know their stories as they apply and earn that life-changing scholarship renews me every year. They are stories of kids from working-class parents who, similar to my own, sacrifice so much to give their children opportunity. They are stories of immensely talented young people who work hard at every turn to make the most of that opportunity. Then, with the help of the Evans Scholars Foundation, those working-class success stories continue into college and beyond.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
JK: No matter what their talents and passions, Fenwick Friars aspire to be great. Every new school year, I get to know around 120 students. And each year I never fail to receive a collection of great minds, hearts and spirits in my classroom. It is truly a blessing.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?

JK: Like most educators, I was inspired by the great teachers in my life, the greatest of whom was Tom Gorman. Tom was my English teacher, golf coach and caddie master. In his career in the classroom and at the caddie shack, he impacted thousands of young people, and I thought that if I could have one-tenth of the impact that he had, what a rewarding life it would be. As I grew into adulthood, I was lucky to keep Tom as a mentor and friend until his passing in 2019. He remains my North Star as I continue to evolve into the best teacher I can be for my students.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
JK: I absolutely love learning and I try to let that passion shine through in my teaching. I celebrate out-of-the-box thinking and enjoy every journey where a student is brave enough to explain an alternate approach. I try to infuse humor into every lesson to get the kids laughing as they work. Parenthood has helped me build patience and perspective and, on this front, I'm a work in progress. Knowing what it's like to send my own treasures off to school each day has helped me realize that I am receiving someone else's treasure in my classroom. 
What are your favorite classes to teach?
JK: In my teaching career, I have taught U.S. History, World History, Sociology, Psychology, Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. Put me in a classroom full of students, and it is my favorite class to teach.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
JK: Any great success is an accumulation of the little successes that occur each day -- a student having the courage to explore (and re-explore) a problem without knowing the destination; a student applying a previous concept in a new and unique way; or a student challenging an approach to see if the logic is sound. On a broader scale, any time that a student tells me that my class had an impact on them, no matter how small, it is a success.
What challenges face students today?
JK: Social media is a challenge for kids, and I am glad that I grew up without it. I believe that all young people should have the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them and become the best versions of themselves without a digital paper trail.
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