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Former teachers: Where are they now?

Former STA teachers spill on their whereabouts since leaving the Academy.

Former+Spanish+teacher+Marina+Lopez+sits+during+an+interview+held+Nov.+27+at+the+Panera+located+on+the+Country+Club+Plaza.+Lopez+left+STA+in+2016%2C+but+is+currently+teaching+Spanish+at+Northeast+High+School+in+northeastern+Kansas+City.+photo+by+Cassie+Hayes
Former Spanish teacher Marina Lopez sits during an interview held Nov. 27 at the Panera located on the Country Club Plaza. Lopez left STA in 2016, but is currently teaching Spanish at Northeast High School in northeastern Kansas City. photo by Cassie Hayes

Former Spanish teacher Marina Lopez sits during an interview held Nov. 27 at the Panera located on the Country Club Plaza. Lopez left STA in 2016, but is currently teaching Spanish at Northeast High School in northeastern Kansas City. photo by Cassie Hayes

Former Spanish teacher Marina Lopez sits during an interview held Nov. 27 at the Panera located on the Country Club Plaza. Lopez left STA in 2016, but is currently teaching Spanish at Northeast High School in northeastern Kansas City. photo by Cassie Hayes

by Anne Claire Tangen and Cassie Hayes

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story by Anne Claire Tangen

Pat Sirridge

The Dart: What subject did you teach at STA?

Sirridge: I taught a variety of social studies subjects: sociology, psychology, government, AP government, and AP psychology.

The Dart: What was your favorite subject to teach?

Sirridge: [My] favorite changed from time to time. Some years it was government, AP government, and some years it was psychology and sociology. They were all fun courses.

The Dart: How long did you teach at STA?

Sirridge: 13 years.

The Dart: When did you leave?

Sirridge: I left in 2015.

The Dart: Why did you leave?

Sirridge: I left because I was going to have some serious surgery on my shoulder for the second time and I knew the rehabilitation period would be significant and I was 66, which is full retirement age for social security.

The Dart: So, you’re subbing now?

Sirridge: I am- I love coming over here to see old friends. It’s surprising when you take role how many sisters you’ve had of people in the classes and it’s always fun to remember their sisters.

The Dart: What else are you doing now?

Sirridge: I think the challenge is finding enough to do right now and finding things that are meaningful to do. So I’m volunteering- the most fun I’m having is volunteering at the World War One Museum at Liberty Memorial. So I do that about twice a week and that’s fun- meeting new people, and I’m starting to volunteer at Union Station.

The Dart: What do you miss about STA?

Sirridge: I miss the energy and the youth and the wacky humor of the girls- whether it’s intentional or not. It’s getting the perspective of younger people. The other thing I miss is, when I had juniors and seniors, watching the transformation from being a high school student is beginning to think seriously about their future- where they’re going and what they’re going to do. It’s a growing period and a contemplative period for the students and it’s really rewarding to watch.

The Dart: What don’t you miss about STA?

Sirridge: *laughs* I don’t miss grading papers.

The Dart: How has leaving STA affected your daily routine?

Sirridge: It has made it much less structured, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. I sort of like structure, so after reading a couple of newspapers and drinking four cups of coffee at 8:30, What do I do? Some days it’s like that, but some days I’ll have a shift at the World War One Museum. You have to create your own structure.

The Dart: Would you ever consider coming back to STA?

Sirridge: If there were a particular course I felt qualified to teach or one that I taught before. It might be fun just to have a course to teach or two at the most. I might consider that.

Marina Lopez

The Dart: What subject did you teach at STA?

Lopez: I taught Spanish I and II.

The Dart: What was your favorite subject to teach?

Lopez: I think I liked Spanish I. I don’t know why, it just fit my style- it went at more my pace in terms of if I was able to do more activities, catch kids where they were, and work with them at that high level of energy.

The Dart: How long did you teach at STA?

Lopez: Three years.

The Dart: When did you leave?

Lopez: I left last year.

The Dart: Why did you leave?

Lopez: Well, part of why I left was that, initially, I was looking to move to Phoenix, Arizona to work with inner city kids. I got to Phoenix and a month into the job it ended up not being what I thought it would be in terms of working with those inner city kids, so I decided that I didn’t want to work with that kind of system that was in place for those kids. I found out through a really good buddy of mine that there was a position here in Kansas City to work with inner city youth and my mission to leave was really more or less that I felt like I’m better with inner city kids, even though they’re a lot of work. I think at St. Teresa’s they are blessed with having so many great teachers come and go, and that doesn’t happen in inner city schools so I thought it was a better fit for me.

The Dart: Where are you teaching now?

Lopez: Northeast High School.

The Dart: How is working with inner city kids going?

Lopez: It’s a lot of work. It’s very different from you girls in terms of how you are.  These kids need a lot more consistency and smiles. The first three weeks of school the kids were really shocked because I’d greet them with a “buenos dias” and a smile and they didn’t get that from their previous Spanish teacher. It’s a lot of work but it’s now paying off. At first, it was really frustrating but now it’s like these kids are responding to me now and I’m responding to them better and we don’t hate each other anymore.

The Dart: How different is your current school from STA?

Lopez: It’s really funny when you wake up in the morning and the first thing you hear from these kids are curse words. That’s what you hear because that’s what they’re used to. I’ve gotten into the habit of saying to them ‘Stop cussing, I’m a lady,’ so now they say ‘stop cussing around Mrs. Lopez, she’s a lady.’

The Dart: How is it different from being at an all girl’s institution?

Lopez: At St. Teresa’s it’s a competitive environment. I remember that my girls rarely would make mistakes in Spanish, whereas the kids I teach now- they don’t care. They can mispronounce a word completely and they don’t care- they start laughing at each other and we take it in good jokes, but it’s definitely different in that regard, that they’re really into the moment and they don’t see long term and the girls at STA remember everything- like ‘if I make a mistake now, it’s gonna reflect on me later’ and these kids care, but not as much.

The Dart: What do you miss about STA?

Lopez: We joke about the ‘sisterhood,’ but I really do miss the sense of community. And advisory.

The Dart: What don’t you miss about STA?

Lopez: There’s nothing I don’t miss- it was perfect.

The Dart: Would you ever consider coming back to STA?

Lopez: If ever given the option, I would. I’d love to get girls to come help out and teach the inner city kids.

photos by Cassie Hayes

Eric Thomas

The Dart: What subject did you teach at STA?

Thomas: I taught writing, newspaper, yearbook, digital photography, and journalism.

The Dart: How long did you teach at STA?

Thomas: I taught twelve academic years from 2002-2014.

The Dart: What was your favorite subject to teach?

Thomas: I think journalism was my favorite because that’s where I got to meet all of the students that became my students for years and years down the line. I had so many students that went from the first day of school at St. Teresa’s with me to the final days with me. And I always liked giving them the pep talk like ‘One of you is going to be the Editor-in-Chief of this by the time we’re done.’

The Dart: So, you’re at KU now?

Thomas: Yes. I do three things at KU: One is I’m a lecturer in the journalism department. I teach two classes each semester. One of them is a small class, it’s about 18 students and the other is about 100 students in the class. The second part of my job is I run the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, which is a membership organization of about 150 schools and all of those high schools have journalism or publications at their school. And I help to encourage contests and conventions and conferences so that their students can be excited about journalism. My third part is I run a summer camp through the university, which is called the Jayhawk Media Workshop for five days on campus. I have kids from Minneapolis, California and Illinois come to the workshop to learn more about journalism.

The Dart: What do you miss about STA?

Thomas: The amount of contact time- there was a day last semester where I walked up the hill to my office, I sat down at my desk, I worked for nine hours, walked out and not a single student walked across my threshold and I was like ‘Wow, I miss that so much.’ The thing that’s nice about it is I get a lot of work done in nine hours uninterrupted. It’s a challenge and a benefit.

The Dart: What don’t you miss about STA?

Thomas: I think the thing that I don’t miss is the demand that advising the publications and supervising all the different activities that I did here. I don’t miss the toll that it took on my family. It just wasn’t something we could keep up with. The flexibility of teaching at KU has been wonderful, in the fact that I can do my work.

The Dart: How has leaving STA affected your daily routine?

Thomas: On a given day here I knew exactly what I was doing every single day, but it’s much less structured [at KU].

The Dart: Would you ever consider coming back to STA?

Thomas: I mean, I loved it here. I don’t think any other job would’ve taken me away from St. Teresa’s. It’s a great place and this is my last set of seniors- the seniors who are graduating this year, and so after this it will be super sad to come back here and not have anybody to know and high five.

Ray Hain

The Dart: What subject did you teach at STA?

Hain: I taught Frosh World Geography and Junior/Senior Sociology, Psychology, and AP Psychology.

The Dart: How long did you teach at STA?

Hain: I was fortunate to teach at STA for 2 years!

The Dart: When did you leave?

Hain: I left STA at the end of last year (2016).

The Dart: Why did you leave?

Hain: I reluctantly left STA to follow a dream of living in the mountains of Colorado.

The Dart: What are you doing now?

Hain: I now live in the mountains of Colorado and teach at a public school in Denver. The school I teach in has an incredible mission of preparing underprivileged students who are first to be college bound in their families.

The Dart: What do you miss about STA?

Hain: I miss my awesome advisory, which was the best in the world. I miss the incredible faculty which inspired me to be better. I miss the mission of the school to make the world a better place by preparing young brilliant women to rule the world.

The Dart: What don’t you miss about STA?

Hain: There isn’t anything I miss, that is sincere. It was a wonderful community to be involved in and I am very thankful I was able to be a part of it.

The Dart: How has leaving STA affected your daily routine?

Hain: My routine hasn’t changed in teacher mode, I still work hard at my craft to hopefully benefit the students I teach. However, I must say that living at 8600 feet and looking at mountains every day has created a more peaceful me…my “Colorado chill.”

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Former teachers: Where are they now?