This year, St. Mary’s High School welcomed three new teachers: Dr. Kirsten Eurenius (Chemistry), Ms. Meaghan Hillery (Art), and Mr. Ryan Kaminski (Music). With a semester now “under their belt,” let’s meet the new teachers and learn about what makes them special.
1. Tell us about yourself.
KE: My chemistry education started with a wonderful high school teacher, Mr. George, at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD, then continued with a chemistry major at Cornell University, a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from U.C.L.A., and a three year research position as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. As much as I appreciated my time at N.I.H., I quickly realized that my heart belongs with teaching, not research. When my post-doctoral position ended, my family was transferred to Laredo, Texas, where I was able to teach at the Laredo Community College and the Texas A&M campus there. My husband’s job necessitated lots of travel and some moving, and finally we landed in his hometown of Buffalo, where I became an adjunct in chemistry at Buffalo State College. I greatly enjoyed my nine years there, but as an adjunct I felt I was never truly a part of the Buffalo State community.
MH: I started painting when I was six years old and knew that I wanted to be an Art Teacher by the time I was 13. For high school I went to Mount Mercy Academy in Buffalo, and took as many art classes as possible. I then furthered my education at Daemen College. In the past I have worked at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Orchard Park, St. Joseph School in Gowanda, St. John the Baptist in Alden, and Nativity of Our Lord in Orchard Park. I have also worked at South Park High School in Buffalo. I am currently working on my Master’s Degree, and during my free time I am always drawing and painting to work on my techniques.
RK: Professionally, I’ve received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Education from SUNY Fredonia and Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, respectively. Prior to St. Mary’s I had worked as a long-term substitute music teacher in a few school districts including Clarence, Fredonia, South Glens Falls, and Cleveland Hill. Last year I worked as the Chorus Manager for the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. Personally, I grew up in Lancaster and attended Lancaster High School. I’ve always been involved in the performing arts, in many different ways: I write & record music (my latest EP Where It Starts is on iTunes & Spotify), I play guitar & sing in a cover band (Exit 59), I sing with a professional a cappella choir (Harmonia Chamber Singers), I perform in plays and musicals around Buffalo (my next show is Children of Eden at the Lancaster Opera House). During the summertime I direct children’s theater through the Lancaster Youth Bureau and I direct the Lancaster Depew Community Chorus.
2. Why St. Mary’s High School?
MH: A few years back I had originally interviewed with St. Mary’s and from there I went on to teach at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Growing up attending Catholic School I was able to fit right in with the faculty, staff, and students easily. From all of the experience I have gathered in the past few years, I was able to come back to St. Mary’s this year with many great new ideas and a refreshed excitement. I am in love with the sense of family and community throughout the school, and I am honored to be a part of it.
RK: It’s always been a dream of mine to teach at the high school level; I feel I have the most to offer to students in this age group. I’m also a fan of the small-school setting; to me it feels more like a family than some of the bigger schools at which I’ve taught. In addition, I appreciate that St. Mary’s offers Keyboard/Guitar, Rock ‘n’ Roll History, and other exciting music electives; most schools don’t offer options like that. So I love that I get to come in and teach these fun classes.
3. What do you think of St. Mary’s so far?
KE: I am delighted that I have found a position teaching at St. Mary’s! The faculty and staff are wonderful – inspiring, dedicated, and inclusive – and the students have been a joy to get to know.
MH: Now that I have been here for a semester I am focused on all of the great things that I am looking forward to accomplishing with the students. I am having a great time teaching the students, and sometimes the students will teach me something new here and there. I think the best experiences always involve having someone realize their true potential and really open up artistically.
RK: I was just telling Mrs. Kranz the other day that I don’t even feel like a new teacher anymore. I’m still learning every day, but now that I have a semester under my belt, my comfort level with being at St. Mary’s is much higher than it was on day one. I also feel more connected to the students now, and that’s what it’s really all about. I’ve had so many great experiences, it’s hard to name just one… I think putting on the Christmas Show with the Glee Club was definitely a highlight.
4. What about the second semester?
KE: This upcoming semester I’m working on taking my General Chemistry and Regent’s Chemistry students into a more mathematical understanding of chemistry while exploring DNA analysis and other analytical techniques with my Forensics class.
MH: In the second semester we are running 2D Studio in Art, 3D Studio in Art, Advanced Ceramics, and Digital Art. I am looking forward to having the students explore more art paths and really opening up their imagination. I am also looking forward to going to the major Spring events – such as the Lancer Auction, the Fashion Show, Fine Arts Night, and then finally going to Art Alive with the students.
RK: The second semester will feature the school musical Seussical and the Evening of Fine Arts – so both of those events are going to be huge projects for me. Ask the students in Seussical and they’ll tell you, I can hardly contain my excitement about that show. I LOVE IT!! Next semester, I’d also like to increase the size of the Glee Club and the Praise Band – so if anyone is interested, let me know!
5. Any other thoughts?
KE: St. Mary’s is a treasure, and I’m excited to have finally found a teaching home!
RK: I just want to thank the students, staff, faculty, and administration for being so welcoming to me as a new teacher. Every morning when I drive to work I think about how fortunate I am to get to do this every day. Thanks for your support.