Co-written with Ayanna Diaz
Teenagers and college students encounter many different surprises, revelations, and opportunities as their lives begin to unfold. Many of these can lead to them being somewhere they did not expect. For most high school graduates, coming back to work at their high school is not highly anticipated. However, Andrean is a rich source of alumni teachers. Whether they expected to return or not, these alumni play a vital role in the Andrean community.
Mr. Joe O’Neill is an alumnus who returned to teach at Andrean in 2012. As a student, he was involved in the student ambassador program, National Honors Society, Spanish Club, the boys’ varsity soccer team and the boys’ varsity basketball team. O’Neill loved the experiences he had when he went here. He especially enjoyed goofing around with his friends and even getting yelled at by Mr. Szot, which is now just a funny memory.
O’Neill is now the junior class moderator, a member of the faculty council, the boys’ junior varsity basketball team coach, the varsity boys’ assistant soccer coach, and a co-director of Kairos. He has seen that the school spirit of Andrean has changed since he was a student here. “The students had more of the family tradition aspect [when I went here], and now it kind of started shifting to more of the teachers and all of the older people have that ideal and mentality… We are trying to get that back into the students as their primary focus,” said O’Neill.
Mr. Chris Skinner leads the Andrean varsity football team in a victory against Bishop Noll. Photo by Brendan Ryan
Mr. Chris Skinner is one of the alumnus teachers that everyone seems to like, even if they don’t have him in class. He started teaching at Andrean in 2010 right after graduating from Purdue University. While he was a student, Skinner was involved in football, baseball, basketball, student ambassadors, and Spanish Club.
Some of Skinner’s favorite memories as a student come from playing sports with his friends. “[They were] the unique experiences, like winning state in football, and winning state in baseball,” said Skinner. He now teaches biology, is the head football coach, and helps the baseball team whenever he can.
Another one of the most beloved teachers at Andrean is Mr. Jaycob Knazur, who started working at Andrean in 2013. He teaches in the social studies department and is the chairman of the faculty council, the quiz bowl moderator and a co-director of the kairos retreat with Mr. O’Neill. As a student, he was involved with many things as well; he was on student council, worked for the newspaper as the editorial editor, helped with campus ministry, was a student ambassador, and participated in academic super bowl on the social studies team.
Knazur really enjoyed his time as a student and loved growing as a better person and learning from his experiences at Andrean. “I liked being able to grow in understanding, to grow in education, and to grow in faith,” said Knazur.
Mr. Jaycob Knazur and Mr. Marty Blane share a friendly hand shake. The two alumni barely knew each other in high school, but they are now close friends as teachers. Photo by Elizabeth Cooley
While growing as a person is very important to him, the people at Andrean matter the most to Knazur. In fact, his most fond memories of Andrean stem from those he has met at school. “My friends [were my favorite memories]. The people made the biggest impact,” Knazur said.
Mr. Marty Blane is another teacher that plays a vital role in the Andrean community; besides teaching both math and history, he also co-moderates student council and guitar club. When Blane was a student at Andrean, he was also involved in three different sports and enjoyed forming positive relationships with his classmates and his teachers.
When Blane began teaching at Andrean, one of his most odd experiences was starting to work with some of his former teachers. However, the experience was not a negative one. “[I enjoyed] becoming incredibly close with faculty members that I had as teachers, that I admired as teachers, and that are now some of my best friends.” said Blane.
Even though this is his sixth year teaching at Andrean, Blane is still amazed by how his perspective has drastically changed since he was a student. He especially realized this when he was giving Mr. Szot, his former history teacher, a ride in Blane’s car. “Somehow I pictured myself being a student again as a freshman and being very scared of him because he would yell so much and was so intimidating… and then if I fast-forward about fifteen years… we’re just chatting away in my car, driving around,” said Blane. “It was so surreal.”
As a teacher looking back on his mistakes as a student, Blane also realizes that it is not enough to just work hard at classes that are enjoyable. “If you have a teacher that you think is really good and you love the class, you still have to work your hardest in classes where you don’t think your teacher is good,” said Blane.
Dr. Tony Bonta addresses the student body before an all-school mass. Photo by Abby Wadas
While many people at Andrean just think of Dr. Tony Bonta as the school’s acting administrator, he is also teaching a junior theology class this year. Even though he never expected to see himself teaching at Andrean, he thoroughly enjoys being in the classroom and “bantering” with his students every day.
When Dr. Bonta was a student, he knew several people who still work at Andrean today. Even though he is now their boss, he still catches himself referring to them formally instead of by their first names from time to time. Dr. Bonta said that, as a whole, working with these people that he knew when he was a student is “very humbling, but it’s also an honor.”
One of Dr. Bonta’s favorite parts of being the acting administrator of Andrean is seeing some of the requests of students become reality. He is also glad that even though students do many things differently now compared to when he was in high school, the sentiment of the people in the community is the same, especially among teachers. “The chemistry and the commitment of the faculty that I knew remains the same,” Dr. Bonta said.
Mrs. Helen Giorgio refers to the periodic table while teaching about the element mercury. Photo by Elizabeth Cooley
Another one of the most respected teachers at Andrean is Mrs. Helen Giorgio. She currently teaches chemistry, and she has been in charge of the science team of academic super bowl since the program began at Andrean. Winning the state competition for science super bowl in 2001 is one of her favorite memories from her years of teaching.
As a student, Giorgio experienced many of the same things that students still do. She especially loved going to football games and seeing the team crush its rivals of the time, such as Wallace High School. However, many things have also changed; when Giorgio was a student, boys and girls were not together in classes, and students had to wear blazers even in the intense heat of summer.
Giorgio has seen many different teachers and students come and go since she started teaching in 1975. She is always grateful to see her former students come back to Andrean to teach. “It’s kind of neat to see the tradition continue, that people that were here as students felt it was important enough to come back and to be teachers,” Giorgio said.
One of the many things that Giorgio has learned from her college years and from her interactions with students is that achieving a goal makes all of the struggles worth it. “Whatever you’re going to major in, there’s going to be times where it’s really hard no matter what you’re doing. You’re not going to breeze through college if you’re doing something that’s worthwhile,” Giorgio said.
The real question is, why have so many people come back to work at Andrean? The answer lies not in the building or the physical characteristics of the school; it lies in the connections made between people and in the dedication of Andrean’s teachers. Those who come back to teach at Andrean not only sustain friendships with those they knew as students, but they also form new connections with other members of the Andrean family. Teachers that have their roots in Andrean and care about the school from the beginning are the ones who will help carry on the traditions of Andrean and help others form relationships to keep our community thriving.