by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you move from Texas to Chicago and when did you begin teaching at Immaculate Conception/St Joseph’s School?
Alexis: I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and moved to Texas for college in 2010. I left Texas in 2015 after I had completed my undergraduate and graduate degree at Texas Christian University. My closest friend from college grew up in Chicago and a group of us would visit her often. After a few visits, I fell in love with Chicago and became determined to move there. I began my time at Immaculate conception as a Pre-School teacher in 2016 and then moved to first grade in the fall of 2016.
Gordon: What interested you in teaching at a Catholic school?
Alexis: Although I was raised Catholic, I never attended a Catholic School. However, while I was completing my degree in Texas, I was given the opportunity to teach Sunday School at a local Catholic Church. This was such an enjoyable experience, that I began to wonder if maybe I should work at a faith-based school.
Gordon: What are some of the challenges in teaching first-grade students?
Alexis: First grade is a big transition year for students. In Kindergarten, students are able to spend some of their days playing in centers and formal learning is a new thing for them. In first grade, there are no play centers, which means that it's a long day of learning for them. These longer days make it challenging for students to stay focused particularly in the afternoon. But throughout the year, we see them grow in their ability to focus on work for long periods of time. Other than that, teaching first grade is a complete joy! They are so incredibly curious and love coming to school every day.
Gordon: What are some of the most interesting g questions that your students have asked you?
Alexis: My mom always tells me that I should keep a list of all the things that my students have said to me. They really do have such a curious and innocent mind that the things they say always surprise me and keep me laughing. Without a doubt, the most interesting questions I get are during Religion lessons. While teaching Preschool at Immaculate Conception, we discussed the true meaning of Easter. We talked about it as delicately as possible, because of their age, but many of them struggled to understand why something like that had to happen. Many of the students in Pre-K would ask over and over again, “But why did Jesus have to die?” To explain the answer of this question to an adult may have been much easier, but to explain the situation to a four-year-old was always a struggle.
Gordon: What were some of your experiences in Texas with special needs students?
Alexis: The church I worked with in Texas discovered that they had a community of students with special needs who were not able to attend Sunday School classes with their age-level peers. So the church created a class that served 4 students with varying and multiple special needs. They ranged from ages 5-13 years old. I taught the class with a friend from college and each student brought one or two parents to sit with them during the class. We were given the same curriculum as typically developing students in Sunday School, which meant that we did a lot of our own activity building rather than going through the book. There was also a mass every first Saturday of the month that allowed families of those with special needs to attend and experience mass with an understanding community.
Gordon: You recently joined Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph’s SPRED ministry. What interested you in joining SPRED?
Alexis: I felt incredibly connected to the church when I was teaching for students with special needs in Texas. It brought me a level of joy that was different than teaching my typically developing students in the classroom. I wondered if there was a similar community in Chicago so I reached out to Father Larry, the presiding Priest of Immaculate Conception Saint Joseph School. He connected me with the SPRED program and I have been in awe of the incredible process ever since. I am so looking forward to continuing to learn about the program and becoming involved in the Parish in a new way.
Gordon: What is your favorite prayer?
Alexis: My favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer. My mom always said it to me growing up and I find that it can be applied to almost any situation in life!
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Gordon: Have you seen any films recently that you would recommence?
Alexis: I recently saw Wonder Woman and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I’m not a huge fan of superhero types of movies but I really loved to see the mix of time periods in one film. It hits all the action film nerves with awesome fight scenes, despicable bad guys (and girls), and a love connection. I’ve been recommending it to my friends and family!
Gordon: For our Chicago readers, do you have any restaurants that you might recommend?
Alexis: One of my favorite Chicago restaurants in the city is called Q... It’s barbecue-style food in the Gold Coast/ Old Town area. The restaurant is set up like a home with high ceilings and multiple different eating areas. The barbecue is incredible and the experience is just as good! They even give you warm towels at the end of your meal to make it even more fun.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview, your love and commitment to children, and to those with special needs.