The Catalyst

Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna retires after 40 year teaching career

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Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna teaches his U.S. History class during the last days of the school year.

Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna teaches his U.S. History class during the last days of the school year.

ROBERT ROJAS / THE CATALYST

ROBERT ROJAS / THE CATALYST

Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna teaches his U.S. History class during the last days of the school year.

by the Editorial Staff

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Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna’s role at NDB began in 1978, teaching five different classes and coaching swimming, softball, and basketball.

He taught until the early 90s, when he added even more jobs to his already extensive list, including, but not limited to Dean of Students and Activities Director.

After he became a full-time dean, McKenna realized his true passion was teaching, a discovery which he explained in an interview with The Catalyst.

He said, “My fourth year, they took me out of the classroom and made me Dean full time, at which point, I realized it wasn’t fun – It’s like having kids and not being able to play with them. So, I went back in the classroom after four years of dean.”

Since then, McKenna has been teaching junior and senior social science classes and has been a Senior Class Coordinator for roughly 25 years.

Throughout his time at NDB, McKenna has seen many constants as well as changes within the community.

“The culture is pretty much the same,” he says. “The sisterhood is the same, academics are [a bit] different.”

He talked about those he has worked with over the years, saying, “I have my brothers and sisters here, and I have people with whom I work. As in all families, we love one another.”

One such faculty member and friend is Barbara Tauskey, someone on whom McKenna immediately made a lasting impression.

Tauskey remembered her first day working at NDB.  She says, “On January 7, 2008, I walked through the front door. There was nobody there, and I was supposed to have keys to get into my office… And so, I’m standing around, he was the first person that I met. He came down, and he introduced himself, and he took me on a tour of the school and he opened up the office for me and he told me, ‘Here’s where this is, and here’s where the faculty lunchroom is, and we’ve got water, and we provide coffee.’ He was just – He was my first impression of Notre Dame, which was utterly amazing.”

She also spoke about his reputation as a teacher among students.  She says, “It’s so interesting because the students avoid him because of dress code, and he’s a hard teacher. He teaches you like you’re in college. But, the first person that students who come back want to see? Mr. McKenna. Because he really prepares them for their college careers. He gets them ready to understand what a lecture is all about, what the expectations are, what good writing consists of, so he leaves a lasting impression on you. By all means.” 

She added, “I will miss him terribly… He’s always funny. When he leaves in the afternoon, he always comes in and asks me how my day is, and he always wants to leave me in laughter. He always comes in and always wants to leave the room better, happier, than it was when he left.”

When asked what she would miss most about him, Tauskey had an answer prepared. “Cry?… You can quote me on this: I’m taking his parking place. Next year, I get his parking space.”

Not a single person McKenna has come into contact with has been left without an impact. Choosing to be a teacher is one of the most impactful professions a person can enter, so it is no wonder he  fits the role so well.

Through his numerous jobs at this school, his  legacy will not be unnoticed. Though one of his defining character traits is his strictness – from taking away phones to giving detentions for being out of uniform – anyone who has taken his class knows what an amazing educator he is.

From the classic rock music flowing through the hallway outside of his classroom every morning to the opportunity to wear hoodies with our uniforms — he implemented this policy as Dean — he has had a substantial impact on the way our school runs.

Multiple faculty members as well as students and alumni were happy to share their experiences in his class and explain his impact on their lives.

When asked about the legacy he wishes to leave, McKenna smiled, saying, “[In my students, I hope to have instilled] self confidence, [a] sense of pride in oneself, and the ability to recognize when you do need to improve. Self confidence means you are conscious of your flaws as well as your strengths.”

With contributions by Isobel Senhaji, Shreya Chatterjee, and Gaby Tiu.

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Social Sciences teacher Michael McKenna retires after 40 year teaching career