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Mr. Petrich: ‘It’s fun to see our students succeed’

By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14

Photo by Cory Wyman - Mr. Petrich works on his laptop after school, March 11.

It’s fifth period and a young Jesuit-in-training holds open the door to Loyola Academy’s lounge.

The Jesuit sports a backpack and, along with the white collar typical of priests, a pair of black dress shoes that have a considerable amount of mud caked to the bottom from coaching young scholars.

As Mr. Perry Petrich sits cross-legged on a plush black sofa, his presence has an undeniable sense of excitement, curiosity and exploration.

Although many people, when prompted to ask questions, begin to speak immediately, Mr. Petrich pauses between the ends of questions and the beginnings of his responses.

Mr. Petrich is a Jesuit scholatic who is new to Brophy’s campus this year. He teaches four periods of freshmen English and works with Loyola Academy students.

One of the main goals of English I is to instill knowledge of the Grad at Grad traits in students.

“The enduring outcome of English I is knowledge of the Grad at Grad traits—an intimate knowledge; that’s what’s supposed to carry on beyond high school,” Mr. Petrich said. “Obviously it helps to set students up for success in Sophomore English, but the really important thing is knowing the Grad at Grad, so a lot of the focus of the course is envisioning the future—what does it look like to you when you’ve embodied these traits?”

Mr. Petrich’s students enjoy his unique approach to the subject.

“It’s an interesting class, to say the least,” said Spencer Kolesar ’17. “I think he’s a good guy—he has an approach that’s different.”

From Mr. Petrich’s class, Kolesar said that he has gained a better understanding of the Grad at Grad traits.

“I learned that there are actual defined principles that they want you to achieve,” Kolesar said.

So far the experience at Brophy has been positive and the transition to teaching has been easy, Mr. Petrich said.

“Teaching prep school, especially at Brophy, for me, is easy,” Mr. Petrich said. “You ask students to do something and they do it.”

However, despite this, there is a challenge in helping freshmen transition in to high school, he said.

“As students here know, freshman year is so important to finding a niche and feeling at home at Brophy,” Mr. Petrich said. “Getting to teach freshmen and help students find that niche and find comfort here is a tremendous gift to me; I love that part of the job.”

Students have found his help useful.

“He makes it easier to get up in front of your classmates,” said Sam J. Harris ’17. “He’ll always be there to help you so you don’t feel alone.”

Mr. Petrich’s positive demeanor also helps keep the classroom from getting stale.

“He’s not hyper, but he’s definitely not boring,” Harris said. “You never see him in a bad mood.”

Mr. Steve Smith ’96 occupies the room next to Mr. Petrich’s, and although he’s known him for only a brief amount of time, he said he considers him a good friend.

“We have a lot in common,” Mr. Smith said. “We’re both English teachers and he likes cool music.”

Mr. Smith said he sees big things in Mr. Petrich’s future.

“The more I think about him, the more I think he will be the head of all Jesuits someday,” he said. “He can seamlessly move between groups and find a way to connect with everyone in a room.”

In addition to helping students find their niche, Mr. Petrich said he hopes to teach students the value of diversity and seeing the world from many perspectives.

“What’s important, and what I want to offer to the students, is the experience of other people’s points of view—not necessarily that you need to change what you think and agree with other people—but to learn that other people have a different way of seeing the world, and that’s worth taking seriously,” Mr. Petrich said.

In addition to teaching English, Mr. Petrich also teaches sixth graders from Loyola Academy and coaches their football and basketball teams.

“Getting to work with Loyola Academy students … is just a blast,” Mr. Petrich said. “I jump in and teach sixth grade religion and I get to work a lot with the seventh and eighth graders, coaching their football team.”

So far, Mr. Petrich said he has greatly enjoyed teaching the Loyola Academy scholars.

“To work with the Loyola Academy students and (help them find what makes Brophy their home) is a real gift and it’s just a lot of fun,” Mr. Petrich said. “With the smaller student body at Loyola Academy, I get to know the students more intimately and know their families more closely.”

Loyola Academy students said they have enjoyed Mr. Petrich’s approach to religion.

“It’s fun and cool,” said Cristovan Jimenez, a sixth grader. “He teaches about feelings and how to behave.”

Loyola Academy sixth grader Creg Mims said he appreciates how straightforward the class is.

“He’s fun and a good teacher,” Mims said. “He always states his points.”

Students also find the class easy to approach.

“He makes religion fun but also easy to approach,” said Basil Ribakare, a sixth grader at Loyola Academy. “Instead of getting in to religion automatically, he takes us step-by-step.”

Although this is his first year of coaching for Loyola Academy, his teams have accomplished a string of successes.

“We took third place among small Catholic schools in Phoenix and our basketball team was runner-up,” Mr. Petrich said.

Players on the team said they appreciated the support they received from their coach.

“He was very supportive,” Ribakare said. “He always told us, ‘no matter what happens, you guys are winners because you trained hard.’”

The players also said that they owe a lot of their knowledge of basketball to Mr. Petrich.

“He was a pretty good coach,” said Matthew Brown, a sixth grader at Loyala Academy. “He basically taught us all how to play.”

As a coach, Mr. Petrich said he has taken inspiration from some of the other coaches on campus.

Mr. Scott Heideman is sort of an idol for coaching for me; I hope to one day live up to the volume he’s able to produce on a sideline,” Mr. Petrich said. “He gave me advice starting coaching: Don’t over-coach.”

Mr. Petrich’s main goal as a coach is to gauge the talents of his players and put them in appropriate positions.

“Coaching for me is all about finding the skills of the players on the team and putting them in positions to be successful,” Mr. Petrich said. “Helping students be successful and helping athletes excel more is just fun.”

For Mr. Petrich, student success is the ultimate goal for both the basketball court and the classroom.

“For me as a teacher—and I’m sure for the faculty and staff at Brophy—it’s fun to see our students succeed,” Mr. Petrich said. “I think that’s what animates all of us—setting our students up for success, whether it’s in college, jobs later on or seventh grade basketball.”

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