Eighth Grade Homeroom Teacher
New to the St. Hilary School faculty in 2013, Mrs. Durkin has an eighth grade homeroom and teaches seventh and eighth grade science. Having previously taught at another local Catholic elementary school, she says she loves the interaction, laughter and personal relationships she and her students build together during the year. "By the time 8th grade graduation comes around, I am amazed at the growth, both spritually and academically, of my students and how they are ready for high school," she says.
Mrs. Durkin packs fun into her lessons to engage her students. She explains, “The neat thing about science is the wonder and curiosity it creates and encourages in all of us. We will be learning and discovering together, using the strong foundation of our current science curriculum while adding some new experiences and challenges. In addition to the scientific method, our junior high will be learning about the engineering design process through bridge building. Another addition is in our energy in motion unit, where we will be designing and building a roller coaster. But first, we’ll be jump starting our year with some fun food science labs, beginning with the Everlasting Gobstopper. Who said science isn’t fun?!”
Distinguishing St. Hilary from other schools, at least as it relates to the subject matter she teaches, is its science lab, according to Mrs. Durkin. She describes it as “second to none” among elementary schools, and says she feels blessed to have a lab manager, as well as the equipment and resources, to learn by doing and discovering, as opposed to solely taking notes from a book or lecture. She also sees teaching science in a Catholic school as a unique opportunity to incorporate the Catholic faith and God into many classroom discussions. As the year winds down, Mrs. Durkin will cap it with enriching debates on science and morality issues, focusing on church teaching and the essential question, “Now that we can… should we?”
One professional experience that stands out for Mrs. Durkin surrounds her student teaching. Assigned to an inner-city public school, Mrs. Durkin sought the advice of a veteran teacher retired from the same district who told her to pray for her students every morning and sometimes between classes when necessary. Mrs. Durkin did this, and prayed that God would guide her in the classroom and help her to touch each student each day, and to do everything for the glory of God. The veteran teacher told her that if her students felt she loved them and cared about them, they would work their hardest. Mrs. Durkin found that this advice was incredibly wise, and she now proudly displays in her classroom a fingerprint tree made by her former students with this inscription adapted from a Maya Angelou quote: “We learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Mrs. Durkin lets this wisdom guide her in her work with her students each day.
A graduate of Purdue University and Notre Dame College, Mrs. Durkin holds teaching licensure for grades 4-9 in math and science. A busy mother in her time away from school, she describes her family as “a fun, adventurous, athletic bunch.” Mrs. Durkin and her family enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, water skiing, and enjoying the newly built fire pit in their wooded backyard. She proudly supports her high school and middle school aged children in soccer and football, as well.
Eighth Grade Homeroom Teacher
Joining the St. Hilary School faculty in 2013, Mr. Fodor says he loves working with the students here. “They are a fun, energetic group of young adults who are a joy to work with every day,” he explains. “For me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping students achieve mastery during a given lesson, especially if they are struggling.” Mr. Fodor teaches eighth grade reading and English and has an eighth grade homeroom. He says the most interesting subject for him to teach is creative writing, which serves as an excellent outlet for middle school students to share their feelings and express themselves. “I love seeing the plots and characters they create,” he says.
Mr. Fodor describes the focus of his classroom as being centered on student interaction, believing that the best learning happens through collaboration. Mr. Fodor infuses an element of fun into his lessons to help him better reach his students. He says, “It’s hard not to see the excitement on students’ faces during the advertising and Shakespeare units. Not only are these lessons more enjoyable for the students, but I also feel more confident knowing that students are having fun while reaching the objectives.”
The presence of community is what Mr. Fodor feels differentiates St. Hilary School from others, saying it is unlike any other he has seen during his teaching experience. “The family atmosphere creates a positive, nurturing environment for academic, social and religious aspirations,” he notes.
A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Akron with a bachelor's degree in integrated language arts, Mr. Fodor is certified to teach language arts to grades 7-12. Prior to joining the St. Hilary School faculty, he taught 11th grade English at a local public high school with a small group of students during college, and served in student teaching and long-term substitute teaching roles at St. Hilary. He plans to pursue a master's degree in guidance and counseling.
A native of Twinsburg, Mr. Fodor is the older of two brothers in his family. He is an avid Crossfitter who spends his free time at the “box” working out. A self-described die-hard Cleveland sports fan, Mr. Fodor enjoys traveling to stadiums across the country following the Cleveland Indians during the summer months.
Eighth Grade Homeroom Teacher
Seeing the understanding of and appreciation for new people and places is one of the things St. Hilary School eighth grade homeroom teacher Miss McGonigle most enjoys. As the teacher of sixth and eighth grade social studies, as well as eighth grade homeroom subjects, Miss McGonigle especially loves teaching about early civilizations, particularly those in Africa. She is also passionate about teaching literature. Her extensive real-world experience lend to Miss McGonigle’s ability to make teaching come alive for her students. “I have lived overseas for a number of years, which has allowed me to develop a variety of contacts who will video chat with the class as we discuss those cultures and lands,” she says.
As a St. Hilary alumna, Miss McGonigle notes that the culture of the school that has been developed through the cooperation of students, parents, teachers, staff, and administration is what sets the educational experience offered at St. Hilary apart from that offered elsewhere. Miss McGonigle drew upon the love of learning she developed at St. Hilary as she earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and education, and a Master’s Degree in School Administration.
A graduate of Xavier University and Providence College, Miss McGonigle has furthered her education outside the classroom through her travels. “I love to travel and have been to five of the seven continents,” she says. Most recently, she traveled to Kenya and Rwanda to go on safari and track mountain gorillas. She has also lived in China and the Philippines.
Eighth Grade Teaching Assistant
Starting the day with a smile and a prayer and letting God do the rest is how St. Hilary School eighth grade teaching assistant Mrs. Fickes approaches each day. “I try to lift the children up daily in my prayers. When I work with a child, I want them to know they are unique, treasured and loved,” she says.
Mrs. Fickes especially enjoys working with students who have special needs. She says she is continually amazed at the many gifts that God shares with us through His blessed children. “To learn as much as you teach every day is truly a gift,” she says.
A product of Catholic education through high school, Mrs. Fickes finds being able to pray at school a true blessing. She says it is wonderful to work in a place “where, at least a half dozen times a day, everyone stops what they are doing to offer time to the Lord and pray together.”
A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Mrs. Fickes holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and management. She shares her faith by teaching in the St. Hilary Parish School of Religion (PSR) program and has completed courses as a certified Catechist in the Catholic Church. Mrs. Fickes enjoys Bible study, playing volleyball, hiking, beading, and scrapbooking.