On September 29th, three of IHA’s newest staff members, Ms. Kelly Dunham, Ms. Kathryn LaForgia, and Mrs. Theresa Dolan were interviewed to discuss how they are adjusting. Ms. Kelly Dunham is an IHA alumna from the Class of 2003, and Mrs. Theresa Dolan from the Class of 1995.
Why did you choose to teach at an all-girls school? Why did you choose IHA specifically?
Ms. Dunham: I was blessed enough to have attended Immaculate Heart Academy from 1999-2003. As I look back at my four years spent at IHA, I know how valuable an all-girl atmosphere can be in instilling a sense of self-worth and self-confidence in young women. The young ladies of IHA have an opportunity to develop their identities and interests without the social pressures that often exist in co-ed environments. Women are currently under-represented in the sciences; I feel strongly that the culture of the IHA community can empower future generations of young women to develop the confidence, drive and enthusiasm necessary to succeed in any career, especially science related fields.
Ms. LaForgia: Most of my teaching career has been in all-girls Catholic high schools. I feel very at home in this environment. I was excited to learn of the opening at IHA, as I have always wished to work in my home community. I am originally from Ho-Ho-Kus, and have family in the area.
Mrs. Dolan: As a female engineer who worked in the industry for about 15 years, I observed a lack of females in engineering. I want to share my love of engineering and computer science with the girls at IHA and hopefully inspire some of them to pursue these fields. I chose IHA because it is my alma mater. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at IHA and I couldn’t think of a better place to teach.
How has your transition been? Have you taught anywhere else before this? Public school?
Ms. Dunham: Returning to IHA has been like coming home again. After graduating from college in 2007, I moved to Florida and worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as an animal keeper. During my time there I was heavily involved in educating park visitors about the animals in our care, current conservation efforts, and the science behind why conservation is so important. According to Baba Dioum, “In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” It has been an absolute joy to share my knowledge with my students in order to develop a deeper appreciation for biology.
Ms. LaForgia: My first position in administration was as a Vice Principal at an elementary Catholic school in Hoboken.
Mrs. Dolan: Transitioning my engineering and computer science knowledge to the classroom has been challenging but I am getting more comfortable every day. I previously taught at a local college.
Did you have any teachers in the past that inspired you to be a teacher?
Ms. Dunham: All of my teachers at IHA were such amazing role models for me. But the two that stand out the most are Mr. Millard and Mr. Mac. I took Calculus Honors with Mr. Millard my senior year at IHA. He taught me so much not only about math but about how to be myself. He would always jokingly say “Now hold onto your seats…” when he would show us new material; and I would genuinely be holding on to my seat with excitement. I regularly tell stories about my amazing calculus teacher who played “Take it to the Limit” and a song with 13 consecutive U’s at the end. I hope to inspire the same amount of excitement in my students. I was lucky enough to take AP Biology with Mr. Mac my senior year. The joy he exuded as he showed us new topics was palpable. We organized a Mole Day party with the AP Chemistry class and created our own song for Biology. Mr. Mac is the reason why I fell in love with science and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in biology. Having such passionate and kind teachers, who brought their own personalities into the content, has inspired me greatly as I begin my own (second) journey here at IHA.
Ms. LaForgia: As an educator, it is important to me to seek and create joyfulness within the process of teaching and learning. My 10th grade French Literature teacher inspired me in this way. I was reading the works of French Existentialist philosophers in their original French text—a challenging double-whammy of both concepts and language. Because of my teacher’s supportive and joyful approach toward teaching, he was able to guide me toward understanding something that had felt so inaccessible, and to realize that while there is no value in dreading learning, there is infinite value in joy.
Mrs. Dolan: Several teachers have inspired me throughout my education. Two that standout the most are Ms. Fritche who taught Chemistry at IHA and Dr. Kleiber who taught Calculus at Villanova.
A huge thank you to all the teachers who took the time to answer these questions; your answers and cooperation are very much appreciated.
By Arden Grossman’20, Staff Writer