What is your educational background?
JD: B.A. in Spanish and economics from DePauw University, Greencastle, IN.
What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
JD: After college, I spent six years in Spain teaching English at various schools across the country. Most of my teaching was done in high schools, but I also had the opportunity to work in primary schools as well as state-run, adult language institutes. Upon returning home, I spent two years at Glenbard West High School [Glen Ellyn, IL] as a teacher's aide in the ELL (English Language Learners) Department and was fortunate enough to work with students and families who had just immigrated to the United States from all parts of the world.
This response would not be complete without mentioning the many, long summers that I endured delivering pizza in the western suburbs.
What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
JD: (Glances at the dusty bookshelf across the living room …) I have a bad habit of starting but not finishing books. Currently, I am halfway through a reread of The Alchemist by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho -- a simple and timeless story that I think everyone should read at least once. I am also still turning the pages of The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Based on the current state of my portfolio, I should probably finish this one sooner rather than later.
What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
JD: Travel is essential. I also try to stay active and enjoy anything outdoors or sports-related. I like to go hiking and backpacking. I also coach youth baseball and am a proud member of my men's soccer team, the Diñhos.
To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
JD: I played baseball for four years in high school [at Lyons Township HS, La Grange and Western Springs, IL] and in college. I played football for two years in high school and, after catching my only career touchdown pass, I followed it up by kicking the ball about seven yards and missing the extra point short.
Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?
JD: I have coached various sports since arriving at Fenwick six years ago [one year as a maternity substitute teacher and another year was part-time]. After helping with lower level boys' basketball and soccer as well as JV softball, I have settled in as the Head JV Baseball Coach.
What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
JD: There are many positive traits to choose from, but what strikes me most is the kindness of Fenwick students. As diligent students themselves, they are quick to recognize the hard work that their teachers put into their classes. They often share words of appreciation on their way out of class. A simple 'thank you' can go a long way, and the dozens of 'thank you's' offered by students daily provide the fuel to keep me going.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
JD: I realized that I wanted to become a teacher during my third year in Spain while working at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas in Cáceres, Extremadura. I had many positive experiences that year, both personally and professionally, and it was in Cáceres that I began to realize the profound impact that living abroad can have on an individual. It became clear that I needed to dedicate my life to sharing this experience with kids and encouraging them to have an open mind to other cultures.
What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
JD: Teaching requires a great deal of patience and willingness to recognize your missteps. I know that I lacked these qualities as a teenager, and I try to be conscious of this in my daily interactions with students.
What are your favorite classes to teach?
JD: I really enjoy working with the seniors in Spanish IV. Their minds are focused on the road ahead and they are open to deeper, real-world discussions.
What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
JD: Any time I hear from a student or their family after the four years of high school have ended is a wonderful experience. If someone takes the time down the road to reach out to you, whether to express gratitude or simply to share a personal anecdote, there must have been some positive connection made at some moment, and these connections are the greatest success in teaching.
What challenges face students today?
JD: Students have many challenges, the biggest of which is learning how to deal and cope with these hurdles that they are inevitably going to face in high school and out in the real world. For a number of our students, the first time that they experience difficulty or failure in the classroom is here at Fenwick. Failure is part of life, and it is vital that they realize these moments offer opportunity for growth.