By Cameron M. Bray ’16 & Joseph Valencia ’17
Already accomodating themselves to the Brophy lifestyle, 16 new teachers on campus come from a variety of places beyond the Phoenix metropolitan area.
One such person is Mrs. Kristin Venberg, who grew up in Buffalo, NY, but travelled extensively as an adolescent.
“I went to school in Switzerland when I was younger,” Mrs. Venberg said. “I have lived in Ireland, France, Italy and Greece, and have traveled extensively all over Europe.”
Teaching AP European History and Western Civilization, Mrs. Venberg said she enjoys teaching and sharing her travels and the history of those regions with others.
Mrs. Venberg has previous teaching and administrative experience.
“I am enjoying teaching,” Mrs. Venberg said. “I’ve been an administrator, most recently an assistant principal, but it’s nice to be back in a high school classroom.”
Mrs. Venberg also said she taught at Red Mountain High School.
So far, she said she is enjoying Brophy and has taken a liking to its community.
“Everybody here has been nothing but lovely, and I can really see how Brophy is a very sacred place,” Mrs. Venberg said. “It’s a true community.”
Students of Mrs. Venberg’s say they are already enjoying her class.
“She’s transitioning well, said Nathan Miller ’17. “She’s a good teacher, definitely … I feel that she covers the material quite well. I think her means of making her class participate is very nice, as no one is left uninvolved in each class period.”
Another new teacher is Mr. Philip Birgenheir, from Rapid City, SD.
Teaching Algebra 2 and Honors Algebra 2, Mr. Birgenheir also said he has had previous experience teaching.
“This is my fifth year of teaching,” Mr. Birgenheir said. “I taught for two years in ‘Teach for America’,and I taught at a middle school in Glendale.”
Outside the United States, he said he taught English at a high school in Vienna for the last two years, recalling fondly the Austrian capital.
“It’s a really awesome city,” Mr. Birgenheir said. “If you ever want to know anything about it, just ask me. I love that place.”
Readjusting himself to a new, American environment, he said he was nervous at first during his first few days at Brophy.
“I was nervous the first couple days,” Mr. Birgenheir said. “I felt new in this environment, but I’m pretty comfortable with the position I’m in now, and I think that is going to carry out throught the rest of the year.”
Overall, Mr. Birgenheir said teaching so far has been busy but rewarding.
“I am really busy,” Mr. Birgenheir said. “It’s good busy, though. By the end of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot and done a lot.”
In the Religious Studies department, another new teacher is Mr. Thomas Mar, who came to Brophy after serving 10 years as the theology department chair at Notre Dame Preparatory.
Knowledgeable in both science and religion, Mr. Mar said he attended Stanford University for undergrad in Physics, continuing his studies under the Dominicans.
“My undergrad degree I got from Stanford; I got it in physics.” Mr. Mar said. “When I was done with physics, I went to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology just north of Berkely, CA”. There I got my philosophy degree.”
Teaching the History of the Catholic Church and Senior Synthesis, he said he admires Brophy’s campus life and its students.
“It’s a busy campus with a lot of opportunities,” Mr. Mar said. “The boys are very thoughtful, very intelligent. They work very hard—very respectful.”
Students of Mr. Mar said he is a passionate teacher, one who is interested in the subject material.
“He’s very interested in the subject that he’s teaching—very passionate,” said Josh Browning ’17. “He’ll read the Bible and then he’ll take each phrase and break it down for us.”
Mr. Mar said he hopes to start a chess club and a philosophy club.
Brophy Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Mr. Seamus Walsh helped oversee the hiring process of the new teaching faculty for this school year.
Mr. Walsh said he knew several of the new teachers prior to their entrance into Brophy.
“Mr. Mar, who’s been teaching up at Notre Dame Prep for the last 10 years, has taught summer school here the last two summers so I know him,” Mr. Walsh said.
Mr. Walsh said the school strives to hire teachers who fit well with the culture of Brophy, more specifically the students. “You’re getting teachers who want to interact with students outside the classroom.”
Mr. Walsh said that diversity and well roundedness is an important aspect in the new teaching faculty.
“We want everybody to have an intellectual capacity to challenge students …,” Mr. Walsh said. “But we also want them to represent a variety of talents and interests and skill sets, and I think the new faculty speak to that.”
Mr. Walsh said that Brophy doesn’t evaluate teachers on single features, such as education backgrounds.
“There is no singular metric, so it’s not as if we say, ‘Who has the highest GPA at the best university. Who has the most degrees…,'” Mr. Walsh said.
o Chabli Balcom – Word Languages, Latin
o Philip Birgenheir – Math
o Oscar Borboa ’05 – College Counseling
o Tom Mar – Religious Studies
o Gil Martinez – College Counseling
o Rev. Bill Muller, SJ – Adult Faith Formation
o Austin Pidgeon ’08 – English
o Joe Tamer – Science, Loyola Academy
o Ramon Tussell, PhD – Science
o Kalli Vaughan – College Counseling
o Kristin Venberg – Social Studies
o Leo Werner – Fine Arts, Band
o Gabe Campbell ’10 – Alumni Service Corps
o Cooper Davis ’10 – Alumni Service Corps
o Karl Heiland ’10 – Alumni Service Corps
o Brok Kloeber ’10 – Alumni Service Corps
o Jonathan Londono ’10 – Alumni Service Corps