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
“I love teaching because every day in the classroom is a new day filled with endless possibilities for learning,” says Mrs. Gaffney, who teaches eighth grade American history and seventh grade world history. Noting that her favorite subject to teach is American history, Mrs. Gaffney endeavors to make the subject matter come alive for her students by discussing how historical figures shaped history. She also connects the past to the present. “I enjoy having group discussions in my class about various social studies topics,“ she says. “It is always so interesting for me to hear the opinions of teenagers regarding current events.” Adding to her teaching of history are various projects to help keep the subject interesting.
Having taught for three years in local public and Catholic schools, primarily with middle school students, Mrs. Gaffney says what she loves most about teaching is witnessing students’ academic growth throughout the school year. “Being a part of that academic growth is amazing,” she says.
Familiar with St. Hilary School through her niece and nephew who are alumni, Mrs. Gaffney feels the school prepares students very well for high school and believes the school’s high expectations are what set it apart from other schools. “St. Hilary graduates possess compassion and thrive in all facets of their lives,” she observes. She is excited to be a part of preparing students for high school. “In my class, I strive to link academic content to students’ real lives,” she explains. “This link is important so students know that what they are learning goes well beyond middle school. What makes my class unique is that I incorporate different study skills and strategies into students’ homework assignments. Every student learns differently, and it is my goal to help them find an effective study strategy for them to be successful life-long learners.”
A graduate of Kent State University, Mrs. Gaffney holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, with a focus on adolescent to young adult 7th-12th grade Integrated Social Studies Education. She hopes to return to Kent State in the near future to complete her Master’s degree. Prior to teaching, Mrs. Gaffney worked in retail management with a focus on corporate in-store training.
Away from the classroom, Mrs. Gaffney enjoys hiking with her husband and their yellow lab, spending time with her cat, and working out. She especially enjoys cooking and creating new recipes, and says starring on a cooking show is among the items on her bucket list!