My roots with the Vincentians run deep. St. Vincent de Paul has always been part of my life--his mission, teachings, and commitment to the underserved have been ingrained in me literally since birth. I grew up a few blocks from St. Vincent de Paul Church in Chicago and attended the grade school (may it rest in peace). As a student at the school (Class of ’76) I have vivid memories of our annual viewing of the Monsieur Vincent
movie. Each class would crowd into a windowless room in the school basement to watch the film, and then discuss with one of the B.V.M. nuns what we had learned. Each year our understanding would grow more sophisticated, but the consistent message was that this was a man who cared deeply for others. Despite incredible obstacles—including being surrounded by people with the plague for heaven’s sake—he persisted in helping those who had nowhere else to turn.
I worked as a receptionist in the St. Vincent de Paul Rectory throughout high school and as a waitress in the Vincentian dining room (possibly the worst job of my life by the way—but that’s a story for another day). I was a student worker for three Vincentian priests while I attended DePaul University as an undergraduate obtaining a degree in Elementary Education. After teaching junior high students in Chicago for 8 years while completing a Master’s Degree in Curriculum with a specialization in Literacy at the University of Illinois/Chicago, I began adjuncting in the College of Education at DePaul. In AY 1992-93, I was offered a Term Faculty position. I continued working on a PhD in Education at UIC while maintaining the full-time term position at DePaul. Upon completion of the PhD in 1997, I moved into a tenure-track line and earned tenure and promotion to Associate Professor in 2003. (Fun Fact #1: With the exception of the 8 years I worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago, I’ve been on the Vincentian payroll since I was 13).
I currently serve as the Chair of Teacher Education in the College of Education. I teach courses in literacy and children’s literature for students who want to become Elementary Education teachers. I enjoy spending time in schools working with teachers and students on creative projects. My areas of research interest include reading comprehension, technology in education, and using media of the past to draw middle/high schoolers into meaningful literacy experiences. (Fun Fact #2: I’m an expert on Dr. Seuss.)
I live in Chicago with my husband (also a DePaul graduate—from our Nursing School), 18 year old daughter, and dog. (Fun Fact #3: I met my husband on the front steps of St. Vincent de Paul Church. We were married in the church 18 months later.)
When I walked past DePaul everyday on my way to the Fullerton el platform to take the train up to St. Scholastica High School (may it rest in peace), I never dreamed I would one day work at DePaul as a faculty member. I knew I would attend DePaul for college because it was the only school to which I applied. With DePaul in your own neighborhood, why go anywhere else? I figured I’d graduate with a degree in Elementary Education and then have a happy career teaching grade school. And I did sincerely enjoy teaching junior high school students during those 8 years. Through a few circumstances too long and boring to explain here, I ended up teaching as an adjunct and then was offered a full-time job. It was difficult to leave my own classroom but the opportunity to work alongside some of the people who had prepared me to become a teacher, and to be part of preparing new generations of teachers could not be missed.
We have a strong commitment to what we call our “Conceptual Framework”—which refers to the type of graduate who completes our program. We strive to instill in our teacher candidates the values of Vincent de Paul—particularly in our emphasis on justice, equity, and the dignity of the individual. We want every graduate of our program to not only believe every child deserves a quality education, but to actively work to provide that quality education —no matter what roadblocks he or she may face along the way. It is a privilege to be part of a place whose mission so closely aligns with my own personal philosophy. I work with an entire community of people who walk this walk.
As I tell my students, there is always more to learn. Though St. Vincent has been part of my life forever, I know there are still many things I don’t know. Participating in the VMI cohort would deepen not only my understanding, but our collective understanding of the Vincentian mission and allow all cohort participants to contribute in an even more significant way to the work of the three institutions. It is an honor to be part of this work. I am really looking forward to meeting people from the other Vincentian institutions and learning about each other and our shared visions.
(Fun Fact #4 I had a Vincentian Endowment Grant many years ago to make a documentary on two artists who created very different types of icons of St. Vincent —Brother Mark Elder, C.M., and Meltem Aktas. Relevant footage is the first 6 minutes)