Monday, July 4, 2022

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Jesuit Teachers Honored at Faculty Awards Dinner

Jesuit Teachers Honored at Faculty Awards Dinner

Jesuit schools ask a lot of their teachers. As Ignatian educators, instructors are expected to go above and beyond perfunctory teaching duties, concerning themselves with the holistic formation of their students. A tireless commitment to students’ personal growth marks Jesuit teachers, driving them to sacrifice unprecedented time and effort for the greater good.

This characterization is certainly true of Jesuit Dallas’ faculty. Teachers at Jesuit devote a mind-boggling amount of time to their work, and the results are palpable. When asked during a press conference to delineate just what makes a Jesuit education unique, Principal Tom Garrison quickly pointed to teacher involvement. “We have dozens, maybe hundreds, of [student] clubs and organizations on campus,” Garrison said. “Every one of those is backed by a dedicated faculty member. Teacher influence extends far beyond the classroom.”

For the full text of Mr. Garrison’s press conference, see this link: https://jesuitroundup.org/?p=5016

On April 13, Jesuit honored teachers and administrators who showed exemplary dedication to the magis at the Faculty Awards Banquet. The annual event features around a dozen awards that are given to particularly dedicated teachers. Besides doling out annual awards (like the Mulhern Award and Henrion Family Award), the banquet honors other teachers for individual honors.

Jesuit president Mike Earsing and principal Tom Garrison made up the selection committee for the faculty awards. The Roundup was able to obtain the award notes of Earsing and Garrison. Below are individual descriptions of faculty winners.

Linda Walkowiak

At the banquet, Linda Walkowiak of the counseling department was honored for her career of dedication to Jesuit. Mrs. Walkowiak has worked at Jesuit for 16 years and will retire in May. Over her Jesuit career, Walkowiak has been a jack-of-all-trades, working well beyond her counselor designation.

“She has spent many a day speaking with mothers about their sons who have learning differences and explaining what dyslexia, dsygraphia and ADD or ADHD means in the life of a teenager,” noted Garrison and Earsing in their notes.

One instance of Mrs. Walkowiak’s service, tutoring Nnaedoziem Aririele ’09, was highlighted in a 2010 issue of the Jesuit Today. “Without Mrs. Walkowiak’s advocacy,” Aririele said, “I would have never become a National Merit Scholar and would not have received my scholarship to be at Texas A&M.”

In an interview, Walkowiak praised the dedication of Jesuit teachers and the unique goals they set. “Jesuit educators are so dedicated to their profession,” she said. “[They’re] always available to the student for tutoring, helping with activities, or just being an ear for the student who is having a difficult day.”

Lenihan Family Award – Melissa Tole

The Lenihan Family Award is designated to honor a teacher who “effectively promotes language arts, literature, and fine arts.” This year’s winner is English teacher Melissa Tole, whom the administration praised for going above and beyond standard classroom learning.

Besides teaching English, Mrs. Tole carries the labor-intensive job of yearbook moderator. Tole and a student staff work year round to produce The Last Roundup. “Her time ‘off the clock’ here at school is considerable, as a great deal of time is required to get a yearbook to print each year,” said Garrison and Earsing. “Much of her work goes unsung.”

The consummate English teacher, Tole described the fulfillment she gets from editing drafts of assigned papers. “I love seeing students work toward a goal and seeing a sense of satisfaction on their faces when they have done good work,” Tole said in an interview. “It inspires me to see draft after draft as they strive for perfection, and it makes me want to work harder for them.”

Grimshaw Family Award – Ben Kirby

The Grimshaw Family Award honors a teacher who utilizes new, innovative teaching methods in the classroom. Mr. Ben Kirby of the science department was selected this year’s winner for his fresh approach to teaching, most notably his implementation of iPads in last summer’s Marine Biology elective.

For more on Jesuit’s new iPad policy, see the following article: https://jesuitroundup.org/?p=7296           

“He is always looking for new ways to engage the students and come up with fun hands-on activities,” said Earsing and Garrison. Mr. Kirby is a student favorite, with many pointing to his freshman biology class as a highlight of their Jesuit careers.

Kirby stated in an interview that the Jesuit environment is supportive of innovation. “In my opinion, Jesuit offers a perspective on teaching and learning that engages the entire student and faculty member,” he said. “It seeks to see the whole person grow and develop.  The way by which Jesuit facilitates opportunities for growth is unique and special.” Mr. Kirby is currently pursuing a graduate degree in curriculum studies.

Elaine Henrion Award – Fred Donahue

The Elaine Henrion Award is unique in that it honors both the recipient’s quality of service and his/her length of tenure. The award is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Alchediak, S.J., a former president of Jesuit Dallas. This year, Mr. Fred Donahue, a vice principal, administrator, and teacher, earned the award in recognition of his 26 years of service.

Donahue was lauded profusely by Mr. Garrison during the awards presentation. At different points, Garrison praised Donahue as an “unending source of energy,” a “consummate man for others,” an “engaging educator,” and a “selfless, generous man.” Noting his 26 years of service, Garrison bluntly stated that “[Mr. Donahue] is Jesuit.”

Cecil Green Award – Dr. Todd Gruninger

The Cecil Green award is designated to honor teachers who promote math and science at Jesuit. This year’s recipient, Dr. Todd Gruninger, is a wise and powerful presence in the science department and the classroom. The teacher affectionately known to students as “Doc” combines his astounding source knowledge with unending patience to be a strong educator.

Mr. Garrison pointed to Gruninger’s senior electives as a good indicator of his dedication to science and reason. “His senior course elective leads many of his students to question and affirm their religious beliefs in complement to, and not in opposition of, science.”

Gruninger, who holds a Ph.D. in genetics, has a love for the lab that is typical of chemists. “As far as what aspect of my work that I enjoy the most,” Gruninger said in an interview, “I would have to say that it is hands down being in the classroom and the lab with the students. I really enjoy our classroom discussions and having a little fun while learning science.”

Father Postell Good Problem to Have Award – David Berend

The Father Philip Postell Good Problem to Have (GPTH) Award, named after the long-serving Jesuit president, honors a teacher or administrator who serves the community well beyond his/her job description. This year’s winner, David Berend, is the prototypical candidate for this award.

Berend, as Corporate Finance Officer for the school, signs off on the myriad budget decisions facing Jesuit. But, as Mr. Earsing notes, Berend’s dedication hardly ends with his CFO job. Most notably, Mr. Berend oversaw construction on Jesuit’s recent campus developments including the Terry Center, the ’86 wing extension, the information commons, Jesuit Stadium and athletic tower, the counseling compound and student commons, and the science wing. “David often describes himself as just a bean counter,” said Earsing, “but I suggest that is a gross understatement and injustice to the talent David brings to the school and its mission every day.”

When asked about the most rewarding part of his many jobs, Berend pointed to the time he’s spent with his six sons who have attended Jesuit. “But in addition to [being around my sons],” Berend said, “being around their friends and other young men I have worked with in various capacities has also been rewarding to me as an individual.”

Patrick Koch, S.J. Award – John Nugent, S.J.

The newest award to Jesuit’s faculty banquet is the Father Koch Award, which honors a teacher who best models the Ignatian educator. A unique feature separates the Koch Award from the others: Jesuit students nominate teachers for the award. In March, students were given the opportunity to submit nominations. After sifting through over 30 pages of submissions, the administration decided that the clear winner was chemistry teacher John Nugent, S.J.

Mr. Nugent, in only his third year at Jesuit, has become a student favorite for his dedication and, for some, his musical taste. According to his pupils, Nugent goes to great lengths to make chemistry fun, definitely a tall order. “He deserves recognition not only because of his fun class, but also because of the vast amount of energy he dedicates for all his students,” said one student. “Mr. Nugent wants to not only increase our knowledge, but also increase our character,” said another.

Unfortunately, Mr. Nugent will be leaving Jesuit Dallas this year to be reassigned by the Jesuit provincials in New Orleans. Jesuit will have a tough time replacing a man who so fully embodies the Ignatian educator label. “We often use the catch phrase, “finding God in all things,” and this attitude gives special meaning to our respective academic disciplines,” Nugent said of Jesuit teachers. “Ignatian educators inspire in their students a desire for the “magis”–an excellence in everything they do, and most importantly in who they are.”

Robert Tynan, S.J. Award – Chris Hill

The Tynan Award honors the faculty member who shares “closeness with the students through extracurriculars.” This year’s winner is basketball coach Chris Hill who is being considered a big blessing by his players and their families, as well as the extra generosity of spirit that goes beyond the common place.

President Michael Earsing commented upon Coach Hill’s personality and lifestyle saying, “Chris is committed to living and teaching the [Jesuit Profile of the Graduate]. Also, the students, whether they be his players or not, feel comfortable around him, due to his magnetic personality. He truly is a great example for the students- a role model.”

According to one of his top players, Seth Sebastian ’14, “Coach Hill is awesome. He cares about you not only as a student, but as a human-being, who helps both on and off the court.” Likewise, Hill commented about his position as head basketball coach as well as the people he works with, students and faculty members alike. In an interview, he said, “The most rewarding part of my job is that I am happy working here.  I have colleagues who I genuinely enjoy working with and being around, along with getting to work with great kids. We, as Jesuit educators, are trying to help the students become complete people and really prepare them for the next step in life.”

Joseph C. Mulhern, S.J. Award – Linda Soich

The Mulhern Award honors the “staff member recognized for dedication and availability,” which clearly falls right in line with Ms. Linda Soich, secretary for President Mike Earsing. Within the Jesuit Dallas community, Soich takes part in the JWA and the well-known, annual Jesuit Celebration Auction.  She is most notable for being, “cheery and welcoming, no matter how much work I am piling on,” said Earsing.

The hardworking Soich highlighted “working with such a wonderful group of people, the teachers, staff, Jesuits, and administrators” as the “most rewarding” part of her job. “I also enjoy my job because all those working at Jesuit are here for the same reason, to make this school a wonderful place in which all students can thrive. I would have to say my favorite part of my job is that it is never stagnant and boring. There are always new challenges, new people and students to meet, new tasks to attack.”

According to Mr. Earsing, “Linda is always willing to help others and do it in a friendly, supportive and always professional manner. She exemplifies the balance of ‘cura apostolic’ with ‘cura personalis.’ Linda has this balance down perfectly.” Ms. Soich has been and will always be the best person suitable for this fabulous position. Having only worked within the Jesuit Dallas community, Soich believes, “that our educators are here to help our students succeed in their efforts, to be here to help them grow and develop into men for others.  Simply said, I believe that our faculty and staff are here for the students. They are our focus.”

Audrey and James E. Jack Humanities Award – David Williams

The Jack Family’s Humanities Award honors the faculty member who “effectively promotes theology, social studies, counseling and social justice.” Williams exemplifies the aspect of terrific counseling and social justice, while also incorporating theology and social studies into his senior English class. In addition, Williams is the assistant coach of the Jesuit soccer team. “He balances the responsibilities of counseling, coaching, and teaching,” said president Michael Earsing, “and always has an open door to students.”

When asked about the most rewarding facet of his job, Williams replied that, “after a day of being a Jesuit counselor (or a coach, or a teacher) I feel good.  Part of me takes pleasure in the exhaustion of keeping up with the students, talking to parents, helping someone see a different perspective, etc.” Commenting about the Jesuit environment, Williams said: “I work at a place where I can live the very same mission that I try to impart on others, and the better I do that, the more effective I become.  I am a better husband and father and friend because of my job, and few of my friends would make that claim.  The other thing that I really enjoy (and again this is more about me) is how much I get to learn.  I am surrounded by a lot of very smart and very compassionate people- students and faculty alike.  On the days that I let myself be open to them, I find that I continue to be educated.”

From a JSEA document focused upon the characteristics of an Ignatian educator, Mr. Earsing read the following description at the Awards Ceremony, based upon the hard work put into the school by Mr. Williams. “An Ignatian Educator serves as a guide with and for students on their formational journeys in a Jesuit school. In collaboration with colleagues, the Ignatian educator engages in ongoing personal, professional and religious development in order to sustain a vibrant community committed to the mission of Jesuit education.”

The Hal F. Tehan Family Award – Charles Delong

The Hal F. Tehan Family Award for Excellence in Education Recipient is awarded to the faculty member “most representative of an Ignatian educator by nomination of the faculty.” As the most prestigious award given to a faculty member annually, Charles DeLong, without a doubt, embodies the Ignatian educator. “As a Jesuit Dallas member in excess of 30 years, it has taken me a few years to realize that you have to act like and be the role model for these boys. They are going to watch you, and do what you do. No matter what I am doing at school, I am modeling the sort of behavior for these boys.”

Coach Civello agreed. “I am going to go a step further in describing Charlie here as the Ignatian educator. In my mind, Charlie actually lives the life of the Ignatian educator. It is not a matter of just doing it for the kids, Charlie lives the life.”

DeLong notes, “Being around the kids all day and the faculty on a daily basis is the most rewarding part of my job. It is a learning experience, and moreover, it is fun. On any given day, I have a different aspect that is the part that I most enjoy. Some days it’s working with the team, some days it is working with the coaches or faculty, even students that don’t even play sports.”

Within the interview, DeLong was asked about what makes working at Jesuit different from any other school. He responded, “It is the mission of the school that brings out the best in the teachers. There are a lot of teachers at different schools that, given the opportunity to work at Jesuit, would embrace the philosophy in the school’s mission of creating ‘Men for Others’ and would be very good at it. That is something that we aspire to do in every aspect of our school, whether it be with someone playing a sport, acting in a school play, working hard at their academics or focusing on their spirituality. The mantra of ‘Men for Others’ is always there in some way, is always there as often as possible everyday and in all things that we do here at school.”