What inspired you to do this kind of work?
As far as I can remember I always wanted to be a teacher – I even taught my dolls when I was about 10 years old. Occasionally a younger friend would get “stuck” having to be my student as well. I always wanted to learn. I was inspired by many of my teachers, especially in high school, and those who impacted me the most were the ones who were passionate about both the subject matter and their students. They pushed me to think and learn.
What is your position here and how long have you worked at O’Dowd?
I have been a Religious Studies teacher at O’Dowd for more than 20 years (on my 5th principal here-wow!). I also served for more than 13 years as class moderator (for the freshmen, sophomore and junior classes), was the Italian Club moderator, and helped with a Christian Peer Ministry group. I am still the “unofficial” faculty moderator for Spirit Week-quite a challenging group to organize, but fun!
What is the best piece of advice you ever received (generally – it doesn’t have to be related to O’Dowd)?
I’ve received lots of great advice, but these five rank at the top: 1). Think for yourself and follow what YOU believe is right. 2). Find your passion in life and pursue it because in the end you want to be able to get up every morning and feel that you are doing what makes you feel alive and gives you purpose. 3). Always be open to learning and growing. 4). What matters in the end is your character, your integrity and HOW you have lived your life, not how many degrees you have, how much money you make, or how famous you become. Did you take time to care about others? Did you take time to be your best self? Did you learn from your challenges and did you treat others as you wanted to be treated? The Golden Rule applies in ANY situation. 5). Find something in your life that helps you laugh each day.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
There are many favorite things for me. Teaching is an amazing vocation. I love the students at O’Dowd and feel so blessed to be able to teach such awesome young people. I truly enjoy teaching and I never have a boring day-students keep me thinking, constantly push me to grow, and keep me young at heart. My hope is that I’ve had a positive impact, no matter how small, on each student. Sometimes students don’t see the relevance or importance of Religion courses, so we have to find a way to help them see that our courses are extremely relevant and WILL impact the way they make choices in all areas of life. Some of my favorite courses to teach are Christian Morality, Atheism and Faith, and Christian Sexuality. We have great discussions in all of these courses about ethical issues, issues of faith and doubt, and decision-making. I love the enthusiasm and energy that freshmen bring to the Christian Sexuality course. And for sure, I work with some truly amazing people and have made some very wonderful friends. O’Dowd is a great place to work!
What about your field or position do you think would surprise people the most?
Sometimes they are surprised that Italian is my first language (my parents were immigrants from Italy), that I taught Social Studies for a few years before getting my degree in Theology, and both of my daughters attended O’Dowd (Jennifer ’06 and Kristin ’09), so I have been able to understand “life at O’Dowd” from both a teacher and a parent perspective. You see how much work students have when your own children are going through it. Great insights come from this!
What is the most interesting or surprising thing about you?
That even though it requires a lot of energy and hard work, teaching is truly what energizes and satisfies me. I feel that I have a purpose in life when I get up every morning to teach my students. Even after all these years, I am still learning and changing what I do. Another thing that might surprise people is that I struggle with my faith sometimes. Students assume Religion teachers have all of the answers, and never doubt or question. For me it is the opposite, I see faith as a constant journey with challenges and questions along the way. I always tell my students “blind faith” is not an option if one is truly being self- aware and open to growth. The more you learn, the more you realize you have more to learn. I think this helps me to have empathy when my own students are questioning their faith. I often tell them that questioning is crucial to growth in faith or any area of life. If one stops questioning, one stops growing.
If you could rescue only one thing from your burning office, what would it be?
I don’t have my own office at O’Dowd, but if I did I would take pictures of my daughters and students first. I think those are most important. Everything else is secondary.
What is your favorite kind of music/what are your favorite bands?
I like many types of music. I grew up on Motown (Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes), which is still one of my favorite genres. I also like R&B, Pop, Rock from the 1960s to the present, like Simon & Garfunkel, Journey, John Lennon, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Rhianna, Madonna (Yes, she is crazy but has staying power! No jokes please-I get that from my colleagues enough!).
What is your favorite sports team or who is your favorite individual athlete?
I have several. I am a big 49er fan but have not been happy with how things have changed the last few years. I also am a big Cowboy fan these days. As far as college sports, I am a big USC fan because my older daughter attended USC and was a member of the band, so we went to many games. The won the Rose Bowl this year, too! I am really impressed with some of the current young professional quarterbacks -like Dak Prescott, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. They have overcome lots of adversity and are such leaders for their teams. I miss former 49ers like Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice. They were top favs for me. And of course DRAGON PRIDE is core to my life-watching our students play is truly amazing!