Faculty members share their passions with students
"When I started working at Providence, I got a lot of flashbacks to when I was in high school. Back then, with everything that was going on with my home situation, I felt like I needed something to do to get me away from it all, and that's when I discovered gaming."
Marilyn Cutshall-Palomino sits in her office, cheerfully decorated with twinkle lights, wedding pictures, and an assortment of collectibles. Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino is Providence Cristo Rey High School's new Registrar, joining the school midway through second semester.
Although much of her day consists of helping families with re-enrollment, financial aid, and Choice Scholarship applications, in her short time at PCR, Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino has already found a way to connect with students by sharing her own passions of gaming and anime.
"It's really cool because usually the students that have come to my office are like, 'Oh my gosh, she has this item! Are these actually all yours?'" she says. "I had a student tell me that they've never met a teacher or administrator that actually likes anime."
Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino is excited that her passion for gaming has been able to translate into a way to connect with students as she adjusts to her new role.
"I felt like I wanted to give an outlet to students here," she says. "I think it's really cool as a student when you relate to a teacher or staff member who has a common interest. Gaming always has such a bad rep that I think a lot of students talk about it only amongst themselves. But that's the nice thing about it - it's such a nice social hub where you can talk to other people."
One of the first action items on Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino's list to garner interest is to host a school Smash Bros. Tournament, which is coming up on May 7th. She figured the tournament would allow for both healthy competition and a lot of fun. After the Smash tournament, Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino hopes to host a game preservation day to showcase and educate students on her large collection of limited edition and collectible games and the history and development behind them. She wants students to see the value beyond just 'playing video games'.
Next year, Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino hopes to start an official club that would center around both gaming and anime. The club would not only gather to play and discuss games, but would also be in charge of hosting events for the whole school so that everyone would have the chance to participate.
When asked about the reception of her plans and initiatives so far, Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino said she's gotten a lot of positive feedback.
"It sounded like something the school has been wanting, but they haven't found the right person. I hope I'm the right person!"
Meanwhile, PCR's Dean of Students, Michael Woodcock, has been starting his own group to get students involved outside of the classroom: Archery Club.
"It provides an opportunity for our kids to try something that's a sport that they probably haven't been exposed to," he says.
Mr. Woodcock, who has been doing archery since he was in middle school, spent the summer writing a grant for the necessary equipment to get the club off the ground. As someone who is hugely passionate about the great outdoors, he had been wanting to get the kids more involved in outdoor activities, and ever since his Mountain Biking Club stopped a few years ago, he has been exploring new options. Archery was next on his list.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Woodcock made the announcement that the club was up and running, and ever since, new kids keep showing up as interest has spread.
"The students have enjoyed it," Mr. Woodcock says. "We use compound bows - they're faster and harder, so they had to get used to the structure. The first day they were missing the target completely and now I'm getting kids that are hitting the bullseye, once they learn form and breathing and stuff like that."
Mr. Woodcock hopes that soon the club will get to expand from the school gym to actual tournaments and competitions.
"There's a city tournament where the cash prize is $5,000," he explains. "And seniors get scholarships - all they have to do is make it out of the first round, and they'll actually get college scholarships for archery."
He's also using his connections to open other avenues of competition. "I have a cousin who is a teacher in British Columbia," Mr. Woodcock says, grinning. "He teaches an archery team, and he just challenged us to a virtual tournament - his students versus ours - so we might do a Canada v. U.S. tournament."
Mr. Woodcock has always been passionate about giving students the opportunity to discover new interests and have new experiences.
"I like when the kids get excited about something they've never done before, or never had the opportunity to do," he says. "When they get out there and they're like 'I'm gonna suck at this,' and then the kid that says he's going to suck ends up winning the class championship the next week - that's awesome."
Just like Mrs. Cutshall-Palomino, Mr. Woodcock says that one of the biggest reasons that he feels called to share his passion and interests with students is so that they can see their teachers and administrators as human beings.
"We have lives outside of this building, we have hobbies and interests...I think it's important for the students to see that - oh, he's a person just like me."
Providence Cristo Rey High School offers a wide variety of clubs, all facilitated by faculty and staff, including Engineering Design, Art Club, Yearbook, Youth Group, NHS, Math League, and Archery Club. In addition, six of its nine sports are coached by teachers or staff. The large number of faculty and staff members who offer their extra time and energy to engage students outside of the classroom is a testament to the strength of the school's mission and its members' dedication to the school's patron saint's motto: 'Love the children first, and then teach them.'