New AMHS Staff: Bright Lights in Challenging Times

by Nicole Alvarez ’23

It’s no secret that the Archbishop Murphy community was presented with a great deal of change this past year – from online learning and altered sports seasons to modified yearly traditions and digital finals. Yet, not all of the reforms of the 2020-2021 school year were quite so challenging. For one, AMHS was greeted with an amazing new group of faculty and staff members! We received talented science, theology, and social studies teachers, as well as wonderfully welcoming security and secretaries. Their very assistance and involvement at AMHS has played a critical role in allowing the Murphy community to #bounceback! 

New social studies teachers Mr. McLaughlin (US History) and Mr. Tadros (World History/Senior Social Science), science teacher Mrs. Pierce (Conceptual Physics/chemistry), and security specialist Mr. O’Neil have offered to share how their experience at Archbishop Murphy High School has been thus far. 

What school/job are you coming from, and what drew you to Archbishop Murphy High School?

Mr. McLaughlin – “I taught 8th grade U.S. History in Reno, Nevada in 2018-2019. Then, I took a year off to move to Washington and take care of my son.”

Mrs. Pierce – “I previously worked at Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, but when I got married and moved up to Lake Stevens last year, I jumped at the opportunity to apply here.  Although this year has been difficult for everyone due to COVID and distance learning, I’m so happy to have been welcomed into the community. What a wonderful group of people!”

Mr. Tadros – “I’m coming in from the Renton School District where I taught 6th grade, but prior to that, I taught in Utah for several years. What drew me to Murphy was the positive attitude and the community! Most schools say they focus on community but often struggle to build it, or sometimes don’t make a serious attempt to. However, at Murphy, even though it’s not a normal year, I was able to tell very quickly how tight-knit the community is between teachers, staff, students, and families.”

Mr. O’Neil – “I retired from the Seattle Police Department, having served for 33 years. One of my assignments with the police department was as a School Resource Officer, working at the 4 high schools in the north end of the city. I loved that assignment! I had originally applied for a position with the amazing facilities crew here at Archbishop Murphy. I was advised by President Schmutz that the facilities position was filled, but the School Security Specialist position was available. God works in mysterious ways! I love working with and around young adults and those that want to teach them.”

What has been your favorite aspect of joining the Murphy community?

Mr. McLaughlin – “I have enjoyed how engaged and respectful students are at AMHS!”

Mrs. Pierce –  “I haven’t been able to experience much of the normal stuff at Murphy yet, but so far the administration and my fellow teachers in the department have been so incredibly helpful in getting me comfortable here.”

Mr. Tadros –  “My favorite aspect has been the opportunity to teach in new ways. This is my first year teaching at a private school, so I’m still adjusting, but there have been interesting topics and lessons we’ve been able to do in class that wouldn’t neatly fit into the curriculum for some of the other schools I’ve been at.” 

Mr. O’Neil – “I have many favorite aspects of being here at Archbishop Murphy! I enjoy learning the students’ names and interacting with them. Whether it is playing music at lunch – Taylor Swift Tuesdays – or listening to the band rehearse in the stadium at the end of the day (GO BAND)! I appreciate the “can do” attitude of the staff and faculty who are devoted to some of the best young adults in the state. The energy level at Archbishop Murphy is amazing, especially during the pandemic.”

What challenge(s) were you able to overcome this unique school year, and how did you and your students bounce back from them? 

Mr. McLaughlin – “I still find it challenging that I have not met many students in person. I did not know how hard it would be to create teacher-student relationships over Zoom. I think we’ve overcome this challenge through general positivity and always showing up. But like everyone, I’m ready to teach in a post-pandemic world!”

Mrs. Pierce – “Being a new teacher in a new school was even tougher with all the distance learning. It was a huge learning curve for me, especially since I wasn’t teaching in any school last year during the start of COVID and hadn’t developed any familiarity before this year.  Thankfully, my students have helped me stumble through it with them, and we’re almost on the other side now. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I’m so happy that we’re able to be in-person everyday now, and I’ve been able to have more interaction with my students.  The students are always the best part of teaching!”

Mr. Tadros –  “Probably the biggest challenge is adjusting to the various forms of online learning we’ve had since the start of the school year. Online learning was a lot tougher than many teachers and students anticipated, especially when it came to work load and mental health. This is a new experience for everyone, and even though we’ve been at it for a while now, there are still aspects that challenge us. My students and I have dealt with these challenges through figuring out what works best for everyone. Things like check-ins, flexible due dates, and providing opportunities for students to discuss what is working and what is not has helped create a collaborative type of learning that has led to the success we’ve had. Honestly, just remembering the fact that we’re all learning how to live in this new world has been helpful in recentering whatever stresses arise.”

Mr. O’Neil – “Learning the layout of the campus –  I am a FRESHMAN! The students and faculty/staff have assisted in this challenge.”

If you had to describe the Murphy community in one word, what would it be and why? 

Mr. McLaughlin – “Purpose – I have found there is a sense of commitment and purpose to everyone’s success on campus.”

Mrs. Pierce – “From the very first moment I interviewed and began working with everyone here at the school, I have felt very welcomed. So I would use the word “welcoming” to describe this community. If I could use a second word, it would be “supportive”.”

Mr. Tadros –  “My one word to describe Murphy would be: Trust. Murphy has a strong community, and no community can be formed or sustained without trust between its members. At Murphy, I feel like teachers, counselors, staff, and students all have a good level of trust with each other to give our best in caring for one another. Sometimes we all slip and make mistakes, but the trust that I’ve experienced at Murphy shows that we’re here to help pick each other back up.”

Mr. O’Neil – “KIND – I am amazed daily at how kind this community is. The students, who have done a tremendous job of working through all of the added challenges of navigating not only adolescence but growing up during this difficult time. The Faculty/Staff/Coaches for working with the students to achieve NORMAL – whatever that looks like at this time.”

Finally, what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming 2021-2022 school year?

Mr. McLaughlin – “I’m looking forward to a hopefully more traditional school year, with fall sports in the fall, students on campus the first day of the school year, and so on. I know I’m not alone in this. We have sacrificed a lot of the magic of tradition in the last year.”

Mrs. Pierce –  “I’m excited to experience assemblies, sports games, plays, auctions, and more!”

Mr. Tadros – “I’m excited for a lot of things for next year! There’s a lot of different projects and activities that will be really fun in person. I think the pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves and what is really important as a school, so I’d like to continue the work we’ve been doing with mental health and self-care into the future.” 

Mr. O’Neil – “I am looking forward to welcoming a new class of freshmen, and to NOT being a freshman myself! I am also excited to continue to work with the students in letting them realize that they are attending an amazing school, and are a part of an amazing community! GO CATS!

Special thanks to Mr. McLaughlin, Mrs. Pierce, Mr. Tadros, and Mr. O’Neil for lending their time for digital interviews, along with all our new faculty and staff who dedicate their talent and efforts to the AMHS community every day.