It was the start of sophomore year at Boylan in 2012. The ladies were wearing plaid skirts, and the gentlemen were wearing suits and ties. The lockers were a light beige stretching down the hallways, and all I could remember was feeling lost and thinking, ‘How the heck am I going to get through this year? Freshman year was awful.’ Things changed once a new theology teacher occupied room 213.
There will be people that cross paths that end up making an impact no matter how big or small, in someone’s life. The new theology teacher at Boylan, Mike Wedwick, has become one of these very impactful and influential people.
Students in high school often struggle with anxiety, depression, personal or family issues. High school is a time for personal growth among students, which can be difficult for some. It proves to be a huge challenge for struggling students in their high school career to focus on academics and extracurriculars.Students may often find themselves turning to their peers or teachers for help.
A lot of students have turned to Mr. Wedwick as someone to talk to about their issues. He shares knowledge and insight about a problem, because he genuinely cares about his students. This is why he is frequently nominated in the vote for the Natural Helpers club at Boylan. As stated on Boylan’s website, “Natural Helpers recognizes those in the school community who are most regularly sought out by others for listening or advice. A survey is conducted to identify those students and staff members who the student body considers to be “natural helpers”. Those identified in the survey are invited to training sessions to refine communication skills.”
Mike Wedwick grew up in Rockford, IL and graduated from Boylan Catholic High School. He continued his education at Loyola University in Chicago, where he received his Bachelor’s in philosophy and minored in theology and psychology. After his time at Loyola, Mr. Wedwick started his first teaching job at Boylan in 2012, where he still teaches full-time theology. This will be Mr. Wedwick’s sixth academic year teaching at Boylan, and he also is the coach for cross country and boys’ basketball.
It is a unique experience getting to know your high school teachers. Forming a relationship with them helps students in their journey through high school, and usually makes it more enjoyable. Last Friday, I had the privilege of returning to Boylan. I sat down with Mr. Wedwick, and I finally got to ask what made him want to become a teacher.
Wedwick responded, “One thing that I always liked was the big picture questions, and maybe it was because I was bad at details. Philosophy and theology really lend themselves to big picture stuff. I always thought of teaching as like a, ‘hey let’s work on this problem together thing,’ instead of a ‘I have all the answers, you have all the questions, we’ll figure it out.’ We’re trying to figure out what’s right together.”
High school may be a challenging time for students. Some may be struggling
academically, physically, or emotionally in different aspects of their life. Finding a teacher that a student can feel comfortable enough to talk to about their problems, shows how helpful an instructor can be. Becca Russell was a previous Boylan student who felt that Mr. Wedwick was easy to talk to and confide in. Becca met Mr. Wedwick when she was a sophomore at Boylan taking his theology class, and often met with him before school in his homeroom.
“He was very honest, and he connected with his students on a deeper level than most teachers do. He kind of related more because he’s younger and he had younger siblings that went through high school after him. I think Mr. Wedwick was just really good at breaking that barrier between all of his students. He cared about the wellbeing of every single one of his students and even if you didn’t have him as a teacher, he’d always talk to you.”
As a former Boylan student himself, Mr. Wedwick commented on the familiarity of the school when he returned as a teacher. Wedwick talked about knowing the building, walking down the same hallways, and knowing where to park. He said it was a little daunting how there are some faculty and staff who used to be authority figures to him, and now he is working along-side them as colleagues.
Wedwick said, “Boylan has a lot of continuity, so having the teachers that I had as
peers and co-workers was intimidating… These are the people that used to give
you grades and demerits and now they’re next door and can hear your class when
they get rowdy.”
When a student feels excited and engaged in the classroom, it’s an indescribable feeling. It makes learning fun and easy. Connecting with a teacher on an academic and personal
level enriches the lives of students and that’s something that a lot of people, even co-workers can say about Mr. Wedwick.
Linda St. John, Department Head of Theology at Boylan, said, “Mr. Wedwick is the type of person who is extremely authentic. He definitely models what he teaches. He is very intelligent, and very funny. He is able to teach his students through humor, through caring… He is so easy to work with as far as, working together, if we’re talking about curriculum, getting input on what’s working and what’s not working. He is willing to take criticism and improve.”
When a student goes to Boylan they are challenged to be a saint, scholar, and a champion. Students are pushed to strive in all those areas, but their emphasis is on helping students along in their faith and teaching them how to become better people. Many teachers at Boylan Catholic take pride in their students, and are consistently there to help guide them along the way, whether it’s with school, work, religion, or personal issues. Every teacher at Boylan is willing to help any of their students, if they simply ask.
Angie Long, Boylan’s librarian stated, “It goes back to the Boylan family. The faculty and staff care very much about our students. We want them to do their very best, whether in life or in education. It’s in all aspects. We want them to succeed. We take an interest in them and I think we take a personal interest in them. Mr. Wedwick is definitely one of these people,”
One of Boylan’s mottos, ‘Once a Titan always a Titan,’ speaks about the love and respect between current faculty, staff, and students. There will always be that connection there. A teacher may not necessarily have a direct impact on his or her students, but they may remember what was said or taught years down the road. Mr. Wedwick humbly said, “It’s made me more empathetic… Having constant contact with students that are carrying a lot of weight, a lot of problems in their lives, things that some of it they chose, some of it they were born into it. You realize that the work we’re doing doesn’t have much impact it’s just kind of planting seeds.”
When I spoke with Mrs. St. John, she talked about how a mother of a previous student said that because of Mr. Wedwick, her son still goes to church every Sunday. The impact Mr. Wedwick had on this young man proves that students remember teachers and the things they have said. No one realizes how important the seeds that teachers plant will eventually blossom and reap fruit.
After graduating from high school, many students are extremely grateful for their experiences made, and the people they meet, and the friends they make. Mr. Wedwick helps so many other students by just being there to listen. He always has his door open for students whenever they need someone to talk to about religion, personal and family issues, and about life in general. I still appreciate all his help to this day. He offers genuine advice and insight on how to overcome these problems and ways to cope.
There is one thing I remember that Mr. Wedwick told me when I was a sophomore in high school, “Take a breath, think it through.” These words still resonate within me today and I can remember the immediate impact he had on me. Teachers will be there for their students if they just ask for help. In Mr. Wedwick’s case, he has had a direct impact on me and all of his students, no matter how big or how small.