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Faculty Focus: February 2023

Getting to know Theology Teacher and Dance Team Head Coach Kaitlin Hasenbeck-Meyer, now in her fifth school year at Fenwick!
What is your educational background?

KHM: I grew up in central Missouri and attended high school there, which is where I met my husband.  For college, I initially attended the University of Georgia, but then transferred to St. Louis University in my third year. I graduated Magna Cum Laude from SLU with a double major in English and Theology. I then attended graduate school with the Dominicans at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis studying Theology with an emphasis in Biblical Studies. Beyond that I have taken post graduate classes in both education and theology through Notre Dame, Union Theological Seminary, Cornell and Stanford.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

KHM: Throughout college and graduate school, I made a career in ballet and eventually transitioned to teaching dance. After graduation, when my husband and I moved to Chicago, I worked as the Director of Religious Education at St. Vincent Ferrer. Then when there was an opening in Fenwick's Theology Department I jumped at the opportunity!

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

KHM: I just finished reading To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara and I'm about to finish The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which was a fun read because I like murder mysteries. Now that the semester has started again I try to read more theology, so I'll be starting Nothing Gained is Eternal by Anne Carpenter next!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

KHM: I really enjoy spending time with my family and pets. I love to travel and my husband and I spend our breaks exploring new places. I like to hike and snorkel and do other outdoorsy things, but I also enjoy staying home and playing board games or putting together Legos.

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

KHM: As a high school student I spent a lot of my time dancing at my local ballet studio (we didn't have a dance team at school), but I was actively involved in debate, scholastic bowl, spirit club, and president of German Club. In college I was a member of Demosthenian Literary Society, Campus Ministry,  Alpha Sigma Nu, and various language reading and journal clubs.

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

KHM: I am the co-head coach of the Dance Team and I assist Ms. Nowicki with our Kairos program. I've previously helped out in Campus Ministry and German Club.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

KHM: Fenwick students are driven, creative, and full of potential -- it makes them incredibly fun to teach! They also have a unique loyalty and comradery about them.

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

KHM: My family always jokes that "teaching chose me." I grew up in a family that valued education and learning, so we constantly quizzed each other and read together. I would come home from school and insist on playing school. I always had teaching in the back of my mind because I had wonderful and influential teachers that I wanted to emulate (and some that I hoped to do better than). When I went to college, I initially decided to major in political science and international affairs, with law school in mind, but my classes just weren't that fulfilling. Eventually when I transferred, I decided to pursue the things that interested me -- English and Theology. Ultimately, I decided to pursue Theology in graduate school because it combines faith, philosophy, literature, history, and languages into one field! The humanities naturally lend themselves to teaching. I love being a teacher because I am also constantly learning. It's wonderful to see students grasp concepts, apply what they learn outside of the classroom, and reach their potential.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?

KHM: I'm a highly organized person, which makes figuring out how/what/when to cover material much easier. While my classes are highly structured, I also have a good sense of humor, enjoy connecting with my students, and I care about their wellbeing. I also genuinely enjoy the subject matter, which makes me excited to share it with my students and they often pick up on that energy.
What are your favorite classes to teach?

KHM: I love all of the classes I teach! I'm really fortunate to get to teach the classes that I specialize in academically and that I enjoy learning more about for myself. I currently teach Theology I: Scripture, Theology II: Mission of Jesus Christ, and AP Seminar: The Bible and Society/Culture. I've enjoyed adding the AP class to my schedule the past two years because it's a smaller class where I get to really work one on one with students to hone their discussion, writing, and critical thinking skills! Each class is special to me in its own way--I even liked teaching German for a few years! 
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?

KHM: I had a student email me after his first semester of college and tell me how easy his Intro to Theology class was because of his classes with me, so it was rewarding to see a student carrying over his learning beyond Fenwick. However, it think it's the little successes that matter most -- when things click for a student, when they connect the material on their own, when they meet with me to study and then get a good grade, etc. 

What challenges face students today?
KHM: I honestly think many of the challenges that students face today are the same challenges of my generation and generations prior. Figuring out who they want to be and how to become that is the consistent struggle of adolescence and adulthood. However, I think technology is both a blessing and a challenge that is affecting current students more than those of the past. I had a laptop and a cellphone in high school, but iPhones and social media didn't become a thing until I was in college. So, my high school years had more privacy, room to grow and make mistakes, and less distraction. Always having access to information, entertainment, and social media creates challenges with time management, boredom, privacy and mental health. Finding balance in all of that can be overwhelming and you have to worry more about what you put out into the world. These students are also still dealing with the pandemic and all of the changes and challenges it has brought. We will still be seeing its effects for years to come. 
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