Tag Archives: Teachers

“Monolingual is the minority” – Learning a foreign language is key to global success

At Mount St. Joseph, we spend a lot of our time studying subjects such as mathematics, science, history, or English because we’ve been told that it is “important” within our choice of major for college and career. Yet we seldom seem to hear about the importance of a foreign language. After all, I hadn’t given it much through since I no longer pursued my French language study. Even in our school system Math, Science, English, and History are all classes you have to take for 3 or 4 years, no excuse, yet in foreign language, it is only 2 years. So with that knowledge, I set myself out on the journey of finding the fundamental importance of knowing a language that isn’t your own. 

I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

I decided that I would interview Jonathon Gibbons, a teacher who teaches Spanish, Italian, and the first two levels of French, to better understand why we should study a foreign language with a more self-important look. Most of us students would ask ourselves when exploring a new language would be “Why does it matter for me to study this?” or “Am I wasting my time studying this?” The question as to what we could benefit from studying a new language can be a complex answer for some, but to Mr. Gibbons, it was one of simplicity. “When in the cases of, especially in the ones that we learn, in either Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Chinese. These languages all have rich history and culture phenomenon that are worth knowing.” Gibbons added, “And also to say from my personal experience, in general, if I had not spoken another language I would have not met someone, might not have seen something.”

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When studying anything in high school, we often ask ourselves what the most essential thing to study is? The answer to that question is not as easy as learning Spanish, Italian, or French. Instead, it is one of the people’s motivations for what they want to do with their language knowledge. “If you, for example, are looking to get into, you know, art or history, you probably want to learn Italian or French,” said Gibbons. 

You have now seen why we should study a foreign language, but what do we get from learning a different language? In a sense, it is a case of what you should get from learning a new language. As stated before, a person who finds it necessary should want to study it for maybe a goal of history or art. A way of having this appreciation is for having the ability to go to see a film and understand the language they are speaking, even if you aren’t as good at that language. Or it can even unexpectedly help you. Mr. Gibbons explained how suddenly, it can help you, “I would say more practically, deal with survival situations when need be. Not only to help yourself but also another person.” 

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If you are a junior or soon to be junior, you likely think about continuing down the path of studying a foreign language. Dr. Elizabeth Pease believes in the importance of going beyond the basics. “A real simple one is working beyond the beginner basics in one subject area and taking it to an intermediate advance level, is just a very good exercise and experience in the foreign language.” For us to continue the study would be like taking a higher math subject from what we are required to do, you could do the same for a foreign language. 

So yes, there is some use to studying a foreign language beyond the two years required. However, some students may already know a foreign language before going to MSJ. Now, this is probably just a far-off example, yet it is a natural thought because of the many people that go to this school. The simple answer is that it would be beneficial to be bilingual and be trilingual, which can benefit you in life in the long run, or it can help you study the language you already know to improve for a variety of reasons. “They would still really need to study the written form of the language, the grammar, and greater precision of the language. So they still may need to keep studying that very same language,” Dr. Pease said.  

More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

The final question I asked was, why should we study a foreign language in university? This was a question I had thought about for a while because what would we exactly do with the language during university. “I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.” Dr. Pease continued, “More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.”     

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So at the end of the interviewing process, it ended up opening my mind up to learning a foreign language again. Learning about why we study a foreign language was actually more interesting than I imagined it would be. Hearing from people directly involved with the learning and teaching of a foreign language made me appreciate it even more. And I hope it has done the same for you.

Chris DeGroote is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Why be a teacher?

Photo by Pexels.com

While teaching is a mostly overlooked profession by students and even some parents, it often doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Especially with the pandemic, teachers not only have the responsibility of keeping their students in check, but they also now have the responsibility of figuring out how to use technology effectively in their teaching.

I went out on a mission to finally get the answers to questions every student has been asking. With the help of two teachers at Mount Saint Joseph High School, Mrs. Allison White and Mr. David Dutrow, I now believe I have answered some of these questions and can finally give this career the respect it deserves.

First of all, it’s important to know what qualities a teacher needs to have in order to be successful. According to both my interviewees, they both came to the conclusion that a good teacher needs to be flexible and be able to adapt quickly. “We’re always changing the way that we do things,” Mrs. White said. Mr. Dutrow also brought up that he was able to connect with the students in a way that makes them excited to go to his class, like I was the prior two years when I was one of his students.

Mount St. Joseph Science Teacher Mrs. Allison White (Photo Credit: Jon Bleiweis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Being able to interact and engage with the students was not only a good way to be a successful teacher, but that’s also many teachers’ favorite part about teaching. Having a face-to-face interaction with the people you teach, especially during this difficult time, is important when it comes to the students wanting to learn. “Having that human interaction really makes what we do here so special”, said Mr. Dutrow.

As I’ve learned over the years of being in high school, every teacher has their own unique style of teaching. I actually chose to interview Mrs. White and Mr. Dutrow because I liked their teaching styles when I had them as a teacher. Mrs. White said that she started with mostly lecturing. Now she focuses more on getting the students involved in what she’s teaching by doing group work and hands-on assessments rather than just PowerPoint presentations, saying “I want students to learn other things other than environmental science.”

When I was in her class, there was one project we did that really exemplified this, when we were studying different species of trees. Mrs. White gave us the chance to go around campus and pick out leaves of the trees we were gonna study and put them in a book. The next day, we went behind our baseball field to look at leaves of trees and try to identify them. This was a great example of a non-lecture style and getting the students involved in what she wants them to learn.

“Teaching is a demanding profession”

Mr. David Dutrow

Mr. Dutrow was also very lecture based in the beginning, but now thanks to technological advances, he is able to use that to his advantage by engaging with the students in something they are familiar with. One way he was able to adapt to the ever-changing technology, while still keeping the students active in his class, was he found this website where students go in groups of three and pick characters. Each character had an ability related to things in class such as helping one of your teammates out with a question or a free answer on a quiz to the person who used the ability as well as their teammates. It added competition to the classroom and we all really enjoyed it.

Mount St. Joseph English Teacher Mr. David Dutrow.

With students focusing on the work they have to do, they don’t think of all the work every teacher goes through to make their hybrid or virtual school experience as fun and worthwhile as possible. I would think that most teachers tend to spend a little less, if not just as much time, outside the classroom as they do in it. They spend so much time preparing for classes, grading papers and just keeping everything under control. Mr. Dutrow specifically told me that he spends around 40 hours a week in the classroom and around 30 hours a week outside the classroom. When you think about it, there isn’t a lot of time in between for free time or to take care of themselves.

If this still sounds like something you would be interested in pursuing, do you need to have a degree in education as well as your field of teaching? Mrs. White said that most teachers major in the field they want to teach then possibly minor in education. Mr. Dutrow said that while an education degree is required, you should be able to teach students if you are passionate about what you’re teaching. For anybody who may want to be a teacher in the future, keep those things in mind when you go through high school and college. 

With everything teachers go through, from spending extra hours at home preparing lessons to going out of their way to making students succeed in their classroom, teachers deserve a serious pat on the back for their work and effort. The next time you step into any classroom (whether on campus or virtually), just take a moment to appreciate your teacher. And when you have one of those really worthwhile, and eye-opening classes, make sure to thank your teacher – I know they will appreciate hearing that their hard work made a difference.

Andrew Gonder is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Teacher Tales: Mr. Jody Harris

Ever wondered what kind of funny stories the St. Joe teachers have stored up? So did we! So we set out to document some of the greatest stories from the school’s most popular teachers. Check out the second installment of Teacher Tales, featuring Mr. Jody Harris.

Nick DeLauro is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class, and a member of The Quill.

Cole Hite is a member of The Quill.

Ms. Jenna Gallagher: “MSJ has offered me many opportunities to improve as a teacher”

MSJ Yearbook Photo of Ms. Jenna Gallagher

Going into my senior year, I realized what I might want to do for a living when I get older. I’m seriously considering a career as a math teacher for younger students. Coming from a Baltimore City public middle school, the private school environment is a huge change. My experience in middle school was filled with memories but the education I was getting was filled with nothing. The teachers at Saint Joe make sure you understand the material and are willing to meet with you if you don’t understand it.

Ms. Jenna Gallagher is one of the mathematics teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been teaching at the school for four years, and has definitely had an impact on my learning of math. Over the course of my four years at MSJ, I have had Ms. Gallagher as teacher once for Algebra II.

To find out more about the experience of being a math teacher, and the path to becoming a teacher in general, I talked to Saint Joe math teacher, Ms. Jenna Gallagher. Also, I wanted to understand why and how she became a teacher. It can be hard sometimes choosing the right career path, but if you know a few things you might want to do, you can narrow it down after you have finally decided. “When I went into college I knew that I wanted to major in either math or education.  I ended up majoring in math because the school that I chose had a good math program. After I graduated from college, I decided that I wanted to put math and education together and I became a math teacher.”

Senior, Connor Rudel, getting tutoring during his free period from mathematics teacher, Ms. Gallagher.

“I had a difficult time choosing a school during my senior year of high school.  I narrowed my options down to UMBC, Mount Saint Mary’s University, and the University of Delaware. Out of the three options, UMBC had the best mathematics program and was financially the best option.” In the transition from high school to college, choosing the right school to go to can be a tough decision, but if you choose right, it can lead you to your calling in life.  

Another factor teachers have to put into play is what kind of school to teach at. “When I decided on UMBC, I did not think that I was going to become a teacher. I had decided that I was going to major in math and I thought that I was going to use my math degree in some other manner. When I graduated, I realized I did not necessarily want a job in the mathematics field and then I decided that I would look into private schools.”  Whether that be at a public or private middle or high school or a public or private university is up to the teacher. Generally speaking, public school teachers get paid more than private school teachers, and college professors get paid more than the two. 

Mount Saint Joseph has a reputation for having a good teaching environment. Most of the teachers at St. Joe have been at the school for over five years. Gallagher is in her fourth year of teaching at MSJ, and the students recognize that she is doing a good job in growing into the life of the school. “MSJ has offered me many opportunities to improve as a teacher.  One of the main things that they have provided me with is the opportunity to go to graduate school and grow as a professional.  Since I have been at MSJ, I have obtained my Master of Arts in Teaching. This has helped me because of all the feedback that I was able to receive.” 

Teachers can also help shape the character of their students. Connor Rudel, a senior, said, “I would describe myself as a hard working persistent student because I always go to teachers for help when I need it and I continue to go until I understand. I persevere through all my hard work.”

Senior, Connor Rudel, working on a math quiz.

Rudel continued, “Ms. Gallagher is a great teacher and she explains everything in depth. And she doesn’t teach vaguely and she makes sure all of her explanations are clear. Her teaching environment is relaxing so you don’t ever feel like somebody is on your back. You don’t feel rushed while she is teaching you.” Ms. Gallagher interacts with her students and enables them to get involved during class. If the student doesn’t understand some of the material, she makes time for them to see her for before or after school tutoring.

At St. Joe, students often have the opportunity to have a teacher again for a different class. The teachers at MSJ usually teach more than one class and depending on the course selected by the student, they could have the same teacher again. Some students would like to have a teacher for another year but are sometimes unable to. “I would definitely choose to have her as a teacher again, because on Junior Retreat I got to know Ms. Gallagher a lot better than I did before and in class, you don’t really talk about personal things. I developed a better relationship with her over time. And she made math a lot easier for me.”

It is obvious that Ms. Gallagher is positively impacting the lives of her students on a daily basis. From class, to retreat experiences, to organizing the Sarah M. Roach tutoring that students participate in, Ms. Gallagher shows her dedication to the school and to her students in everything she does. But of course, if you are struggling with your math, she is always available to help you through that too.

DB8F4CD6-4B3E-42E4-8F57-870397834107Justin Cruz is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.






Mr. Bienek’s contributions go far beyond the classroom

One of Mr. Bryan Bienek’s most important contributions to the St. Joe community has been the Youth Vision Fast, which he leads, along with Mr. Mike O’Donnell. Seniors have the opportunity to take part in it for their Senior Project, although some students end up going on a longer Vision Fast even after graduating. (Photo Credit: Sourcing The Fire, https://www.sourcingthefire.org/)

Mr. Bryan Bienek has been an art teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School for fourteen years and Chair of the Art Department for ten years. Over this time, he’s had a significant effect on the department itself and the students that take his classes. In our interview, he said, “I added a class, the photo class… and eventually, we added another teacher, a third full-time teacher, which I don’t think (the art department) has had before.”

Mr. Bryan Bienek from https://www.msjnet.edu/page.cfm?p=893&viewdirid=14&&directoryStart=11

Something else Mr. Bienek has brought to the students of MSJ is the opportunity for a Vision Fast, which is an experience that allows students to discover things about themselves and about life itself, by thinking from a new perspective achieved by fasting. “I went out to Colorado and did a fast for myself, and I didn’t think it was gonna be that powerful of an experience for me, but it was, and I was able to learn how it was done, in a group like that, to come back and lead it for the seniors.

Getting more personal with the interview, I started asking him about his art, and his personality, as well as life outside of school. “My art is a reflection of what’s going on with me… I use it as a sort of meditation, and it has a prayerful aspect.” As far as personal life, outside of the school, I asked him if there were any more things he wanted the students of Mount Saint Joe to know about him. “A lot of kids just don’t know that I have two kids, I have a ten-year-old and a five-year-old, I’ve been married for eleven years.” However, the ending point he made, that he wanted students to know was that he likes “when kids say ‘Hi’. Not (necessarily) to me… but just like when I see people interact with each other on campus…I think that’s pretty cool.”

Joey Johnson, Senior

Joey Johnson is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.