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Keeping Up With Kenney

Whilst walking past Room 102, you may hear her making jokes with fellow Falcons or reading aloud a book for her students to hear. Yes, I am talking about Ms. Loretta Kenney, who has been a teacher here at Christian Brothers for 21 years. After having the wonderful Ms. Kenney instruct my American Literature class […]

Whilst walking past Room 102, you may hear her making jokes with fellow Falcons or reading aloud a book for her students to hear. Yes, I am talking about Ms. Loretta Kenney, who has been a teacher here at Christian Brothers for 21 years. After having the wonderful Ms. Kenney instruct my American Literature class this year, my student-teacher relationship with her grew, and I got to know her not only as a fabulous teacher, but also as a wonderful soul. So incredibly wonderful that I wanted to know more about her life beyond CB and share it all with you.

Born in Chicago during the baby-boomer era, Mrs. Kenney attended a Catholic elementary school where she was instructed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph who inspired her at such a young, impressionable age.

“My sister and I talk about the sisters of Saint Joseph and how they had a real, lasting affect. Those nuns were particularly intellectual, and they had a high academic discipline about them, and that impression that they left with me was really strong, and I think that it helped to get me through a lot of things,” Ms. Kenney recalls. “They were amazing.”

You are probably expecting me to say how the Sisters of Saint Joseph inspired Ms. Kenney to be a teacher. Despite me believing she was going to tell me a about how the nuns inspired her to be where she is today, Ms. Kenney shared with me that her being a teacher was an accident.

After attending her Catholic elementary and going to a large public school in Chicago, Ms. Kenney decided to continue her academic journey at the University of Illinois. She also mentioned how she turned down a full ride scholarship to Wellesley University, calling her choice at the time “stupid”. However, if it weren’t for that “stupid” decision she wouldn’t have this story to tell:

“When I went off to college I didn’t have any money. I turned down a full scholarship which was very stupid, and I planned on going to the University of Illinois and my sister was an RN — she was the director of a nursing home in Urbana, so I was just going to live with her. I had saved up enough money in high school,for one full year at the university. I had one year. And I thought ‘this is going to get me through a lot of years’ because I don’t have to pay room and board. And about six months before college was going to start, my sister took a job back in Chicago, so she was moving.”

Ms. Kenney explained to me that she felt that, at this point, she was going to have to not go to university and stay back in community college. However, if it weren’t for her college counselor in high school telling her to “just go” to the University of Illinois, Ms. Kenney would have not ended up in the military.

You heard me, Ms. Kenney was in the military.

“I went down to the university with my one years worth of money, and when I was coming out of one of the freshman orientation talks that they gave — I’ll never forget it — there were the armed forces — the Navy, the Air Force, the Army — they were all there dressed in their uniforms and they had their posters and their information and I thought ‘huh… maybe ill just find out…’ and that was it. And the Air Force paid [for her college tuition], and I was very fortunate.”

Ms. Kenney, a former navigator on refueling tankers, discovered that her time in the military broke down a wall of societal norms that she was brought up believing as a young female. Being in the Air Force made Ms. Kenney believe that she could, which is something she has taught me in the classroom as well.

“The best thing was that I learned was that I could do things that I didn’t think I could do. It was really good and I think that in our society — and I think that its very true to today just as it was in the 1970s — girls grow up with an idea that somehow boys do a certain set of things and girls don’t do a certain set of things and I don’t just mean engineering and science I mean little things,” Ms. Kenney says. “We’re sort of told ‘you don’t pick up that thing’ ‘you don’t do this’ — you know? — so I learned I didn’t have to do a whole bunch of those things, and I could do a whole bunch of others things if I wanted to.”

The wise and wondrous Ms. Kenney learned how to be inspired in the military. However, little did she know that years later she would be inspiring students and faculty to have the confidence to believe that they can do what they set their hearts to.

Former classroom-mate to Ms. Kenney, Mr. OJ Solander, shares that Ms. Kenney is very fortunate to have Ms. Kenney stand by his side throughout his time here at Christian Brothers.

“She taught me to believe that I could [teach]. Just by affirming the things that I was doing right, her observations focused on what I was doing. She just taught me to believe that I can do this.”

The inspiration Ms. Kenney radiates not only spreads to faculty on campus, such as Mr. Solander, but it also resonates with current students that are under her wing.

Isabella Thordsen (’22), explains that “Ms. Kenney is not just teaching to teach — she actually likes to engage. She has made class time for me more exciting and has made my view of school more optimistic.”

Personally, I can agree with both Mr. Solander and Isabella. Ms. Kenney has never once failed to inspire me to do the most. She opens up doors that help improve my educational capabilities. I can never thank her enough for the inspiration she has bestowed upon me when it comes to my writing.

After teaching at Loretto High School, and joining the Falcon’s Nest in 2000, Ms. Kenney has been involved at CB in a number of ways besides teaching in a classroom. The current English teacher was formerly involved in the CB Theatre department and even taught and interacted with some of the current teachers on campus with us today such as Mr. Dave Anderson ’07, Mr. Casey Reeve ’04, and Mr. Thomas Guro ’03 (just to name a few).

Towards the end of my conversation with Ms. Kenney, I mentioned how glad I am, in the oddest way, that her military career ended so she was able to be a teacher that has left an impression on me and my writing. To which she replied:

“[Teaching] wasn’t a thing that I planned to do,” she says. “But it is a thing I’m glad I didn’t plan.”

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