Rachel Kern’s decision to become a private school teacher at Saint Patrick High School was an “extremely personal decision.” It wasn’t the money or holidays that attracted her to the career. It wasn’t the prestige either.
What Kern saw in the opportunity to work at St. Pat’s was a chance to help the academically and behaviorally at-risk students to improve their high school learning experience.
She says that her role as the language arts teacher for all of St. Pat’s freshman resource students in addition to helping those same students beyond class during what could be a free period for her allows her to answer that calling.
“I went into teaching to work with at-risk kids,” said Kern. “I purposefully chose to do my student teaching at a rough alternative school in Detroit because I wanted to see what it was like to work with at-risk students. Here I get to work with students with special needs but with the added support structure of our administration and faculty.”
English and psychology teacher and head resource counselor, Joe Smailis, is vital to that structure. Smailis coordinates a team of teachers and tutors to work with students daily in the Resource Center.
He said most often those students might be in the freshman Phoenix Program, but that they help any student in the school who may be struggling for any myriad of reasons academically or behaviorally.
“The students need a lot more one-on-one attention,” said Smailis. “The more we can reduce the student to teacher ratio the better.”
No Child Left Behind
Smailis holds high praise for teachers like Kern who take extra time out of their day to help out. Because of their role and the support provided by Title IX of No Child Left Behind in teacher Mike Mitchell, the time spent in resource is a game changer for many students, especially those whose primary challenge in learning has been lack of textbooks for their classes.
“I enjoy how it isn’t a formal class setting,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell has spent his entire career in education including fourteen years as a teacher at Oak Park-River Forest High School and more than a dozen years in administration and leadership with the Chicago Board of Education, City Colleges of Chicago and Moraine Valley College.
He says St. Pat’s Resource Center atmosphere helps the teachers show the students how their time at St. Pat’s will impact them for the rest of their lives.
“I often say to them, ‘When you are 28 years old, what do you see yourself doing when you leave the house every day?’” said Mitchell. “’If you want to be an engineer, what do you think it takes to be an engineer?’”
“The academic help shows them a reason for why they are here and why they are doing what they’re doing.”
Surrounding the students with more positive influences like Kern and Mitchell is one of Smailis’ goals for the center this year. He also would like to see St. Pat’s Kids At-Risk Program grow to the extent where support for future St. Pat’s students will be guaranteed.
“They don’t have a lot of things that we take for granted—textbooks, outside reading, supplies,” said Smailis. “For some it’s even worse. Their parents can’t make tuition. We help out wherever we can.”
Benefit Concert on Sat., Aug. 27
One of the initiatives to accomplish the Resource Center’s goals is a benefit concert at the Stahl Family Theatre on Sat., Aug. 27 featuring former Triumph star, Rik Emmett. Coordinated by Alumni Board Member Ron Eberle ‘84, the event will provide a boost to the Kids At-Risk Program.
“Rik comes up against this situation in his other profession as a teacher and advisor at Toronto’s Humber College,” said Eberle, who also promoted two benefit concerts by Emmett at Crystal Lake’s Raue Center for the Arts. “He has worked with students who are musically talented, have the chops to compete, but are challenged because of limited financial means.”
When Eberle approached Emmett about helping St. Pat’s Resource Center, the decision to hold the concert was easy.
“The school has a great auditorium, and Rik is willing to do it,” said Eberle, who has been working towards a sell-out crowd by lining up interviews for Emmett on local radio stations.
Early this week, WGN-AM’s John St. Augustine hosted Emmett (Click here for podcast.). And today Loyal Loopers (97.9) can hear an interview with Emmett by WLUP-FM’s Byrd during his show from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Kern hopes the attention will bring a greater awareness to the Resource Center’s positive effect on the school’s livelihood in addition to financial support.
“There couldn’t be a better place for this funding,” said Kern. “We have more and more kids with these needs. If we ignore the fact that these academic and behavioral issues are there, then we are doing a grave injustice to the kids who need help the most.”
“As a Lasallian school, it’s an essential part of our mission to work with these students.”
Doors open for Saturday’s concert at 7 p.m. Joining Emmett on stage will be Dave Dunlop (The Strung Out Troubadours). Click here for more info or to purchase tickets. Tickets may be purchased online through Saturday evening or by calling the Box Office at (773) 286-8470.