Students say farewell to faculty favorites

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  • Mrs. Cairo, the famous cat-hating and bio-loving teacher, is retiring this year.

    Olivia Marcinkus

  • Mrs. King is retiring after her thirty five years in the school.

  • Mrs. Reedy started her algebraic adventures in 1980.

    Olivia Marcinkus

  • Mrs. D'Urso, after twenty one years of teaching in the school, is now retiring.

    Olivia Marcinkus

  • Mrs. McNamara has been in the athletic department for twenty five years .

    Olivia Marcinkus

  • Mr. Majkowski began coaching in 1977 and is retiring this year.

    Olivia Marcinkus

  • Mrs. Ruffatto, the International Program Director, has been in the school for twenty six years.

    Grace Chang

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As students begin to enter their last stretch of the school year, faculty and the student body alike will prepare to say their final farewells to a group of teachers who have truly left their mark on the community: one biology joke, one mathematical equation, two faithful discussions, one game, and one country at a time.

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Mrs. “Cats are Losers” Cairo

The biology-loving, cat-hating Mrs. Eileen Cairo began teaching at Saint Viator twenty four years ago. When she’s not involved in her mad scientist experiments or cracking biology jokes, Mrs. Cairo is busy being the Science Department Chair and guiding the studious skills of the academic team. She has roots in Chicago and grew up living above a funeral home in the city. Mrs. Cairo began teaching AP Biology at school upon considering to be a substitute teacher. Her son was asked to try out for the swim team and the rest, as they say, is scientific history! Mrs. Cairo not only left her mark on the evolutionary tree of biology teachers, but she also created worthwhile memories over her time here.

“When all the teachers performed a Sister Act song at one of the assemblies and my children at assemblies whenever the teachers performed,” said Mrs. Cairo were her favorite memories.

“Field trips often involving weather advisories, broken down buses, and unique bus drivers,” said Mrs. Paula Nicolau about favorite memories with Mrs. Cairo, but “every day is an adventure because she has a huge personality that we could never replace.”

Students’ favorite memories with her include the chad lab, when senior John Niesman said, “Leaf chads got stuck to the ceiling,” the mating lab with “mood music,” and the coming attractions in her videos.

Other memorable times include “when she was trying to convince her classes she was in the protein translation re-enactment video,” said senior Caroline Lavender.

“Mrs. Cairo motivating me to do well on the second semester final by being so unbelievably supportive and friendly,” said senior Mario Armocida.

As Mrs. Cairo begins to approach the sunny, science-filled days of retirement, she looks forward to her adventuring do-si-dos of square-dancing and teeing off times in golf lessons.

***

Mrs. “Kind-hearted” King

The faith-filled, ethical guide Mrs. Rita King started her spiritual journey in 1979 and has been spreading God’s word for thirty five years.

“I found a home with the Saint Viator community right away, and the people I work with are my friends, not just my coworkers; the Viatorian priests and brothers have embraced me and allowed me to participate in their work which I am truly grateful for,” said King. Mrs. King originally grew up in Philadelphia but moved to Chicago and began her journey as a religion teacher. Although some just know her as the kind-hearted ethics teacher, Mrs. King has been seen in many different roles including a classroom educator, the first campus minister who was not a Viatorian, the director of student council, a volunteer in the retreat program and a continued presence in service programming.

Upon her arrival, Mrs. King became part of the dynamic duo of faith besties with Mrs. Barbara D’Urso.

“Mrs. King is a friend and a support,” said Mrs. D’Urso. “How do you begin to talk about one of the absolute best coworkers and people in your life? She is strong, encouraging, and representative of God’s presence. Together, we are so excited about the new department members and ready to pass the torch to the incoming educators to be the flame of the spirit for the next generation.”

“Mrs. King and Mrs. D’Urso just share a love of informing students about the Catholic faith, regardless of the student’s religious background,” said senior Grace Castellese.

Students’ favorite activities with her include discussions and reflections, especially how she is “open to others’ opinions and allows and respects you to discuss not only what you think but tries to understand what you’re saying,” said senior Kiana Resch.

She recognizes the value of each student, and senior Wenjie Song described when she gave Mrs. King a Christmas gift, and Mrs. King returned the seasonal spirit by sending her a personal thank-you note. As Mrs. King prepares for her mission at school to come to a close, she looks forward to moving to Florida— where she may be spotted soaking up the sun and spending time with her family.

***

Mrs. “Radicals” Reedy

Musical-loving and mathematical-enthusiast Mrs. Julie Reedy started her algebraic adventures from 1980-1985 and then returned to her calculating endeavors again from 1986-2019. Mrs. Reedy’s numerical past has country roots, as she grew up on farm as the eldest child in her family. She moved to the big city and found her home teaching. Her involvement extends far beyond being a mathematical mastermind in the classroom, including being the first coach for the JV swim team as well as one of first female coaches on staff, running the student fundraiser group for three years when it first started, embracing her creativity through costuming for the musical, hosting two international students from Bogotá, Colombia, holding detention, investing her time in being the department head for thirteen years, selling tickets at football games and scoring for volleyball games.

“Working with the musicals, going to prom when it was still an all boys’ school, and the year I dressed up as a clown for the dunk tank in a fundraiser,” said Mrs. Reedy about her favorite memories.

Her famous quote “I would rather you ask questions than not ask questions and get lost and confused” has made her an approachable and friendly face for help outside the classroom, and built the confidence of aspiring mathematicians.

“I think it’s amazing how hardworking she is and how willing she is to helps us with tests and quizzes,” said Senior Colin Douglas. “I love her fashion sense and her teaching style. She’s easy to talk to and doesn’t make you feel dumb for asking questions. It’s also really nice to see her outside of the classroom with musical,” said senior Emily Goebel.

Students’ favorite memories with her include, most notably, learning the end behavior dance. Her thespian creativity and confidence-boosting abilities are admired both in the classroom and on the stage, including moments like freshman Melissa Melone’s “costuming times,” and senior Amalia Sordo Palacios’ “wardrobe sewing.” As Mrs. Reedy prepares to close her algorithm adventures and walks down logarithm lane, she looks forward to spending time with her six grandchildren, participating in groups where she can make a difference, while continuing her creativity through sewing for the Rest in Your Arms Angel Gowns, where donated wedding gowns are turned into burial shrouds for infants. She might also be seen embracing her inner trigonometric traveler by visiting the coasts of Nova Scotia, calculating percentages in California, and assessing proofs on her Alaskan cruise.

***

Mrs. “Disciple” D’Urso

Theology-trainer and retreat-rallier Mrs. D’Urso began her calling as as an educator in 1977 at Our Lady of Spalding Institute in Peoria and found herself called to the Saint Viator community in 1998, where she has been a representative of the many “signs of God” that she talks about daily for nearly twenty years. Mrs. D’Urso was not always found in the religion classroom though; she worked in a hospital for ten years as well as spent ten years at home raising her children. However, she found her way back to Saint Viator as her spiritual home.

“God’s way of saying this is where you belong,” said Mrs. D’Urso. Her favorite memories include “Kairos, chapel visits and prayer services and learning from her students.” When Mrs. D’Urso is not spreading the theological teachings of the Church, she can be found ministering through her role as department chair and participating in the Kairos and Quest retreat programs. She also used to moderate the Students Against Cancer organization and participate with the faculty advisory.

Students’ favorite memories include “her beautiful decorations and creativity that show how much she loves her class,” said senior Kiana Resch and “her praying for me when I had so many crazy random things happen to me all in one year and always helping me out whenever I needed it,” said sophomore Joey Latrofa.

Mrs. D’Urso’s kind-hearted and genuine care for her students are among the many qualities that students have cited universally as admirable.

“She is just the sweetest person,” said junior Faith Kuper.

“Being able to talk to her on Kairos in a more in-depth conversation as someone who she already knew from class was truly memorable,” said senior Colleen McMahon.

Mrs. D’Urso and her best friend Mrs. King decided they would retire together.

“I am fortunate that she’s my friend,” said Mrs. King. “We’ve celebrated a lot of important things and life milestones together. And, even though I’m moving, I know our friendship will continue.”

As Mrs. D’Urso remembers her Christian calling as being lead to the community, she looks forward to taking care of her granddaughter and continuing to discover her family genealogy and history through pictures and connecting with loved ones.

***

Mrs. “Managing” McNamara

The sports-loving, athletic-appreciative Mrs. Susie McNamara has been the assistant in the athletic department for twenty five years and has worked with a total of five athletic directors. Mrs. McNamara grew up as what she describes an “army brat,” mostly going to school in the Washington, D.C. area and later attending Southeastern Louisiana University where she met her husband. She has been married for forty three years and has always felt a close connection to the Saint Viator community, especially with the passing of her daughter in 2015.

“It was wonderful to be involved with my children and all their activities while I worked here,” said Mrs. McNamara. Her other favorite memories include attending “many exciting athletic events and making such great friends along the way.” When Mrs. McNamara was not running a sporting event, watching one or managing all the athletic endeavors of the school, she helped with the musical when her son was at school. She was also involved with many Parents Club activities and events, worked on the Athletic Hall of Fame and has attended as many sporting events as she possibly could. Mrs. McNamara’s bold personality, charismatic nature and approachability are some of the things students will miss most about her, including her “ultimate people personality and perpetual energy to the athletic department, combined with her genuine care about students. Her experience has also made her a constant level of knowledge for people and operations and she will be hard to replace,” said Coach Dave Archibald.

“While sometimes loud,” as Athletic Director Mr. Jason Kuffel ‘99 said, her “heart of gold truly wants the best for every student athlete,” and as McNamara prepares to close out her final season, many in the athletic community recall the impact she’s had.

Students’ favorite memories of Mrs. McNamara include reminders to turn in their forms.

“Telling me all four years that I need to get my physical in, in order for me to play,” said senior Callie Schmitt.

Her talented knack for securing transportation is also a favorite memory.

“There was no bus that Mrs. McNamara couldn’t call, and we never had to worry about whether the bus would arrive,” said junior Bryce McDonnell.

As Mrs. McNamara’s time dwindles down on her scoreboard, she “plans to travel more to visit friends all over the country, spend more time in Louisiana where I’m from originally, help plan my son’s wedding in 2020, cook more, and organize my basement!”

***

Mrs. “Round Trip” Ruffatto

The internationally-immersed Mrs. Ruffatto began her career at school in 1994 and has been a part of the community for twenty five years. When she was not enriching her cultural experiences as International Program Director, she used to be a moderator for SAAD club and a member of the registrar for twenty years. She describes her time as the International Program Director as “fun, exciting, and rewarding as she gets to know these kids.” She has her roots in Wheeling and grew up with a Catholic education before she attended Wheeling High School. Mrs. Ruffatto became acquainted with the school after working for Nielsen TV Company and having a friend who previously worked with her transfer to Saint Viator. Her favorite memories include the graduation of her three children and her son’s award of the Christopher Cup in 1999.

Mrs. Ruffattos’ welcoming and cordial nature has resonated deeply with many of the international students and their families forming favorite memories by junior He Bai and senior Lu Xu.

“Mrs. Ruffatto was the first teacher to greet me on orientation day when I was on the edge of breaking into tears. She gave me confidence in making a new home at Saint Viator with her reassuring personality. She has organized events and answered miscellaneous questions, and I am truly grateful for all of her help,” Bai said.

“She takes care of us always. We all really appreciate all that she has done for us over the four years,” said Xu.

And so, as Mrs. Ruffatto plans to cap her international involvement, she looks forward to continuing her own expeditions by traveling—especially to Portugal on a river cruise—visiting her daughter in Dallas and going to “any warm spots in the winter!” She also hopes to continue participating in volunteer organizations.

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