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Alumni combine service, teaching

It’s not unusual for our alumni to develop a lifelong commitment to service, helped in part by the service learning requirement for all Providence students. Most do so in their free time. Some make it their career. Three young alumni are starting their careers by teaching in special programs that help others.

Julie Payne ’14 will be teaching in a low-income neighborhood in the Washington, D.C., area in the Urban Teachers program while pursuing her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Education, and Sara Gryboski ’15 will be teaching middle school STEM in Dayton, Ohio, as part of the Teach for America program. Ashlyn Edwards ’15 will be taking her teaching skills abroad, spending a year teaching under contract with the French government working in schools throughout France.

Edwards graduated in May from Butler University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and French. She applied to the TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France), which is run by Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques. She had heard of the teaching fellowship and followed through after Butler’s director of prestigious scholarships recommended the program to her – and assisted with some of the application.

She had previously spent a semester abroad in 2016 and enjoyed the experience. She also has been a volunteer CASA advocate in Indianapolis for two years, which gave her experience working with children and advocating on their behalf in the court system. The teaching fellowship will give her work experience as well as an opportunity to travel in France and throughout Europe. As she looks forward to heading to France in mid-September, she’s keeping her options open.

“I’m not really sure what to expect yet, so I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy it as it comes,” Edwards said. “I plan to travel and meet up with friends in different countries during academic breaks and might stay for the summer after and do some traveling as well, but I don’t have any concrete plans yet.”

Gryboski earned her bachelor’s degree in linguistics with a minor in engineering sciences from The Ohio State University. For her, teaching middle school children through TFA is an opportunity to make a positive impact in children’s lives.

“I was really inspired by their mission, which is to work toward excellence and equity for all,” Gryboski said. “I’ve been blessed with a wonderful education, but a lot of children don’t have that opportunity. At TFA, we believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not, and I’m so excited to help make an impact and change the education system from within. I’m most looking forward to teaching my passions and helping students achieve their potential.”

She will teach for two years for TFA but doesn’t yet have a goal of teaching for a career, “but I hope I’ll continue to make a change.”

Payne graduated with a bachelor’s in secondary English education from Purdue University in May and was interested in the four-year Urban Teachers program after completing a teaching fellowship with Breakthrough Collaborative San Francisco at SF Day School last summer. That program “allows undergraduates to help prepare middle school students from under-resourced communities for college,” she said. During her last week, she attended a career fair featuring different teaching organizations and graduate school programs, where she learned about the Urban Teachers program.

After returning to Purdue for her final year, she did more research on the program and did a job shadow day in Washington, D.C., last October. She liked the program, applied, and was accepted, and then applied to Johns Hopkins and will earn her master’s in educational studies with concentrations in secondary literacy and special education over the next two years and continue teaching as part of the program for the following two years. Her first year she will receive a living stipend from Urban Teachers, and the following three years she will be paid a full-time teaching salary from the school where she works.

She will be teaching at IDEA Public Charter School in Northeast D.C., likely ninth or 10th grade, and is looking forward to helping youth.

“I became interested in this program because its values and core beliefs focus on creating excellent teachers for the urban education setting,” Payne said. “Working with students in the urban setting, especially students of color and low-income students, became a passion of mine during my time at Purdue and during my time at Breakthrough, so I’m excited that I’ve been given the opportunity to continue working in this setting.”

Even though she grew up in the medium-sized city of New Albany, she is excited for the opportunity to teach in a major metropolitan area, especially after working in San Francisco for a summer.

“Teaching in a major metropolitan area appeals to me because I will be given the chance to work with students from under-resourced communities,” Payne said. “I want to help all types of students understand that they are worthy of a high-quality education, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status, and that they are capable of achieving whatever goals and aspirations they set for themselves.”

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Dr. Jacobi loves to learn and to teach

It might seem odd that an English teacher is the chairperson of the Theology Department, but Dr. Kathryn Jacobi said it actually makes perfect sense. When she was named chairperson a few years ago, there was not a theology teacher able to take on the role since several of the teachers were new. Dr. Jacobi has been able to help the department by offering advice with critical reading and lesson plans, common teaching approaches in both disciplines.

Taking on new roles and adapting to changes in curriculum and other areas are things Dr. Jacobi has become adept at after more than 25 years teaching at Providence. In the past few years, she has switched from teaching ACP English 12 to AP Language and AP Literature and Composition. Several years ago, she was the IGNITE chairperson to assist with the school moving to the anticipated move to the Common Core Standards.

She now teaches Honors English 9, English 12, and the two AP courses. As the English curriculum has moved to offering AP (which offers college credit when students pass a national year-end assessment) instead of ACP (which offers dual credit through Indiana University Bloomington) courses, Dr. Jacobi said the courses continue to challenge students to develop higher level learning, with the AP Literature & Language providing another AP offering for juniors to meet the Honors Diploma Standards, and AP Language will prepare seniors for writing in college.

“I like the challenge level I can bring to the kids” in AP courses,” Dr. Jacobi said. “”Our kids have so much potential. It’s always very gratifying to see them respond to higher level work.”

The AP courses involve more class discussion, and Dr. Jacobi said she continues to be intrigued by students’ responses to the literature.

“It’s interesting to hear them respond,” she said. “I like challenging them.”

Dr. Jacobi has seen many other changes in education since she first began teaching English in 1991. In recent years, the biggest change has been the introduction of the iPads. She said one drawback of the devices and ready access to information online is students’ using online information as a crutch rather than finding the answer themselves.

“They tend to think they can find the answers online,” she said. “The challenge is getting them to think for themselves.”

Another challenge is keeping students attentive. In the past, students would daydream or read a book instead of paying attention. Now, they are tempted to play games, use social media, or message each other on their devices, so classroom discipline has changed, and like many teachers, she has students put their phones in the back of the room. She also has learned to differentiate between students’ reading the literature on their iPad and being off task.

Dr. Jacobi continues to enjoy teaching at Providence. Since coming to Providence, she said, she has been committed to Catholic education because of the community, the higher standards to which students are held, and their shared Catholic faith. The size of the school allows her to know her fellow teachers, and over the years, watch their children grow up – and even teach some of them.

She has also taught a Medical Humanities class for a few semesters at IU Southeast and enjoyed the course’s focus on “illness narratives.” She said she enjoyed the class and might teach it again in the future. For now, she is enjoying gardening, walking in downtown Jeffersonville near her home, and traveling. She and her husband, Jerry ’73, are planning a trip to Kenya this summer. It will be their first time to Africa, and they are looking forward to it, she said.

Her favorite place to visit, however, is her birthplace, Cornwall, England, where they have visited several times.

“I just love St. Ives,” Dr. Jacobi said. “it’s just beautiful there. The Cornish coast is our favorite.”

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Senior gets taste of future teaching career

Senior Jesse Zoeller has thought about being a teacher since he was a sixth grader at what is now St. John Paul II School. He loved learning, but he was a shy student and struggled to communicate well with others. But through theatre, he has overcome his shyness and after doing a job shadow for a day, he feels more certain that teaching is the career path for him, he said.

Jesse shadowed Mrs. Jill Brock, a former Providence parent and a first grade teacher at St. John Paul II. He said he learned from observing her the qualities needed in a “great elementary teacher,” including enthusiasm and the ability to connect with the students. He was then given the opportunity to connect with the students by reading several books to them, including one of his favorites, The Giving Tree.

When they responded with enthusiastic questions, he said he experienced a sense of validation that he was capable of being a good teacher. When he was their age, he wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking questions or reading aloud to others. But being involved in Providence theatre and working at the Louisville Zoo for the World’s Largest Halloween Party has helped him grow more confident in overcoming his past shyness over meeting new people.

“Students who had never met me before were asking me questions, and I saw that their communication skills were better than mine were when I was that age,” Jesse said.

Portraying different characters on stage also helped him break out of his shyness, he said. When he talked to Mrs. Brock about teaching, he realized that teachers sometimes use those same skills, by projecting enthusiasm even if they may be having a bad day.

His ability to project enthusiasm is what brought about his job shadow day in the first place. His portrayal of Felonius Gru from the feature cartoon film Despicable Me for a Popcorn Players skit caught the attention of Mrs. Brock. Jesse said she told him how much the students loved his character portrayal and that they would love to see him again. So he set up a day to observe her teaching and visit the students.

Looking back on the day and how the students responded to his storytelling, Jesse said he now feels very confident that he can be a good teacher someday.

“It proved I am capable of doing these things,” Jesse said. “That tells me I’m going down the right path.”

Jesse plans to pursue a degree in elementary education at Indiana University Southeast and is getting an early start by taking some of his general education requirements in the summer sessions.

Mrs. Mauk’s love of math helps students learn

Math teacher Stephanie (Mayfield) Mauk ’99 loves her job, and it shows. She loves her subject, and she enjoys helping her students learn problem solving skills to help them find the right answer. She is in her eighth year at Providence, and her 16th year overall. She also is in her sixth year as Math Department chairperson. She teaches AP Calculus, Honors Precalculus & Trigonometry, Precalculus & Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics.

As much as she enjoys teaching math, she wasn’t always certain math would be her subject. Although she enjoyed her math classes at Providence, she also likes history. Once she decided she wanted to become a teacher, she knew she had to choose between the two. Her history classes at Ball State University, however, focused on “memorizing a lot of dates,” she said. She enjoyed her math classes so much more, that she chose math education for her major. She has been happy with her choice ever since.

“I like math because there’s a right and a wrong answer, but there are lots of ways to get there,” she said. “So we do a lot of problem solving, and it’s good seeing kids working to get the answer.”

Mrs. Mauk also makes sure her students have a variety of ways to apply the lessons she teaches. After she spends time giving direct instruction, the students spend the remainder of the block in a variety of activities, from board work to working in pairs at their desks.

“I want them to do most of the learning themselves and working to get the answer to add to my direct instruction,” she said.

Mrs. Mauk said it may look like students are doing most of the work, but she spends a lot of time preparing each lesson, especially since the department no longer uses textbooks now that students have iPads. She uses state standards and College Board standards to develop the curriculum for each subject and provides instruction and activities for students to master those standards.

She said she feels gratified seeing her students work hard to learn the concepts and necessary problem-solving skills. Her students not only take advantage of work time during class time, but many of them come to her room before school, and not only on BLUE Days. She also is pleased that the percentage of students passing the cumulative AP Exam has generally increased year over year. In 2017, 25 of the 29 AP Calculus students passed the exam, for example.

Mrs. Mauk applies the same approach of empowering students as faculty sponsor of the House of Courage. When she first became a House leader, she led the meetings but soon realized the students would be more attentive listening to other students, and the student leaders would be better leaders by taking charge of various tasks. Now, she sees the student leaders learning responsibility and working hard to achieve a goal, such as winning the Third Quarter Points Challenge.

Mrs. Mauk also has a creative side and gets to enjoy that as a faculty sponsor of the Pinterest Club along with Mrs. Mary Alice (Lenfert) Knott ’77 and Mrs. Corinne (Alles) Beyl ‘99. The teachers and students agree on a craft found on Pinterest and then get together so they can each work on the activity.

The House Leadership Program, extracurriculars like the Pinterest Club, and the close-knit community are some of the things that make teaching at Providence different than her previous teaching jobs. Mrs. Mauk taught at a much larger school in the Indianapolis Public Schools system prior to returning to the New Albany area and taking the job here.

“It was such a big difference teaching here,” she said. “I just love knowing everybody. I love going to the students’ games, and they get excited to see me and other teachers there. It’s a job where even if I come in in a bad mood, it doesn’t last long. The kids want to be here, and they are interested in learning. That makes it fun.”

Mrs. Mauk has a master’s degree in secondary education from IUPUI. She and her husband, Tony, live in Floyds Knobs with their son Lucas, 11, and spend much of their free time attending his sporting events. They are members of Holy Family. She also has two adult stepsons, Gavin and Garrett.

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Mrs. Delaney teaches choreography for winter musical

Students in Musical Theatre Production class are seeing Mrs. Amy Delaney in a new role. They usually see her at the front desk in the Fr. Mike Counseling Center as administrative assistant to the counseling staff. But after school, she works part time at the Louisville Ballet School teaching ballet and choreographing the school’s Spring Showcase. For the last few weeks, she has been working with the Musical Theatre students to choreograph their winter musical, Godspell.

Theresa Bautista ’91 usually choreographs the dance scenes for PHS musicals, but she was unavailable during the school day, so theatre teacher Mrs. Ellen Holifield asked Mrs. Delaney to help out. Mrs. Delaney said she has had a lot of fun working with the students. She has taught them Broadway-type dance moves for four songs in the musical, including a soft-shoe tap number.

Mrs. Amy Delaney, left, teaches the choreography to the cast of Godspell.

“It’s been really nice for me to be a part of it and to do something different than what I normally do,” Mrs. Delaney said. “I love my job, and I enjoy what I’m doing here at PHS, but ballet is my passion, so it’s nice to feed a little bit of that here too.”

She also is pleased with how well the students are learning the choreography, especially those who have never taken dance lessons before.

“They are just a great group of kids,” she said. “They want to learn. They’re determined. They remember everything I teach, which makes it easy.”

Senior Jesse Zoeller, who plays the role of Nick, said having Mrs. Delaney teach the choreography has been fun. “It gives each and every one of us a chance to connect with each other through learning new dance moves,” he said.

Mrs. Holifield said having Mrs. Delaney do the choreography for this show offers a lot of flexibility because she can adapt to special schedules.

“It’s super convenient,” Mrs. Holifield said. “And it’s just really fun seeing her in this capacity. It’s neat to collaborate with her in a completely different way. It’s so fun.”

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