By Jacob Munoz ‘17
In the upper C-wing of Brother Rice lies a room filled with many memories of literature and vocabulary. A Cheerios box with incorrect writing is attached to a bulletin board, and in the far back reside an impressive collection of trophies. Three boards with seemingly-indecipherable messages are presented at the front, which fill a student with excitement upon being the first to solve them. These three sentences are more than enough evidence to many students: they’re sitting in Room 217, also known to host Mrs. England’s class, a class that has for years been taught by a teacher with great passion for the English subject.
Mrs. England’s zealous attitude towards English, plainly visible to any of her students over the years, was developed well throughout her own education. England recounted her siblings being corrected by their mother on improper grammar. Outside the home, St. Gerald Grade School provided an English course that allowed her to become “enamored with the process of understanding how the grammar worked.” This complimented what she referred to as a “strong writing program” at Queen of Peace High School. Throughout college, composition courses and an unexpectedly enjoyable 300 level grammar class continued to refine her skills and gave her confidence in teaching the subject.
In the classroom, Mrs. England urges students to “explore who they are” involving interests and hobbies, and works towards “developing a sense of trust in the class.” Teaching English provides her a great reward in watching the development of her students. “I love to see the growth in students when they go from no confidence in writing,” she said “…[to when] they develop some confidence along the way, and they learn some tools that help them to be comfortable trying to put together some strong essays.” When some students arrive to her class rather advanced in their writing, she enjoys seeing them pick up new approaches. “It’s also fun to watch a student recognize that he can do well in English,” she added, “when he figures which pieces are hard for him and where he needs to apply himself more. That’s amazing.”
When not teaching English during the school year, Mrs. England can be found leading Edmund Rice Camp along with Mr. Augustyn. She did not begin the group, however. When Br. Martin was at the Rice, he was the head of the camp while Ms. England directed a separate writing camp. When the weather turned poor or the writing camp was over for the day, the campers would head into the writing room to play games on the computers. She began helping the camp in little ways and saw the campers enjoying themselves in the program. After coming back from Kairos 103 and finding out that Br. Martin wouldn’t be able to work the camp anymore, she decided to step in and take charge. Having written a large amount of recommendation letters for seniors who noted that the camp was meaningful to them for the leadership, camaraderie, and service they acquired, she wanted to make sure it continued on.
To students who also want to be a part of Edmund Rice Camp, Mrs. England stated that all are welcome to join. Those who join generally become an individual counselor for a camper once they are sophomores or older, while beginning counselors (usually freshmen) will help out through errands to support the camp. Such responsibilities might include preparing food, organizing gift bags, and blowing up balloons. While discussing what she enjoys the most about the camp, she noted that she loves “watching the campers when they finally get to the point where they trust and develop this attachment to the counselors, and they want to be with them [and] share the time together.” At times, she mentions, there may be struggles with shy campers, but added that usually by Wednesday or Thursday of the week, the friendships between volunteers and campers are strong. The overall experience of the camp, she says, is a great way for students to demonstrate their best qualities.
Mrs. England’s leadership doesn’t stop at English and Edmund Rice Camp. She, along with Ms. Van Assen, teaches the Brother Rice journalism class. England’s section of the class revolves around Brother Rice’s yearbook, where students learn its intricacies and work together to develop a finished product that is distributed during October the following school year. For those interested but unsure if they would do well in the class, Ms. England stressed the value of independence. Along with establishing goals, she says the student should be able to “recognize how many pieces of the puzzle he needs to gather to create a yearbook spread.”
Examine the trophies in Room 217 closely: the words “Scholastic Bowl” mark their descriptions. You may see a few extra ones than last year, for good reason. For the first time in Mrs. England’s coaching career, the varsity team went an outstanding 12-0 in conference play. This season was also the first moment her team beat powerhouse Fenwick. Not once, but twice. The team joined in as she jumped and cheered after the first Fenwick defeat, bringing their record to 1-0 in the season. The second time, the team video-called her in Room 217 while exploding with excitement, having just minutes earlier won the conference championship hosted at Rice. Winning by the close margin of one score, thanks to a saving point by team captain Aidan Raftery, the happiness on their faces was obvious for her to see. She shared their elation, alleviating a tough day for the coach. “…I was unable to be [at school] because that was the day my mother-in-law died” she said, “…[the team] called with a FaceTime, and the excitement in the room and the excitement in their voices was astounding. So as much as I was not [there], I could tell how excited they were…it helped bring joy to a day that was pretty sad for me. So that was awesome.”
Now that the article is over, it has told you everything you need to know about Mrs. England and her time here at Rice. Of course it hasn’t. These profiles are never truly complete, are they? There is always more to be said that paragraphs cannot cover. So why not talk to the Scholastic Bowl coach, the yearbook adviser, the Edmund Rice Camp director, the English teacher herself? It’s possible she can tell her story even better. She has a way with words, after all.