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The influential women of our lives
April 7, 2022
March was Women’s History Month, recognizing the innovative, trailblazing and inspiring women. What started as a local holiday in Santa Rosa, Calif. transformed into a global, month-long celebration, first passed by Congress in 1987. In honor of this, we asked people in the community to speak about the most influential women in their lives.
Freshman Poppi Wright, a dancer at The Charmette Academy of Dance, finds herself greatly influenced by two important women in her life: her mother and her dance teacher, Angie Klevorn.
At three years old, Wright began dancing competitively for ten years with Klevorn. Her favorite piece choreographed by Klevorn was a jazz solo she competed titled “History Repeating” during the 2020-2021 season.
“We have five competitions a year and then either recital or nationals. Before we go on stage [to perform], we always have a pep talk with [our teacher,] and I enjoy them,” Wright said.
While Klevorn choreographs Wright’s solo routines, dancing runs in Wright’s blood. Her mom, a former dancer herself, can empathize with Wright and understands the pressure Wright puts on herself to be the best she can be.
“I can always count on her if I need someone to talk to. [I love] talking with her on my bed. I go to her for so much, she’s a good person, and she helps out with charity,” Wright said. “Every other year, she shaves her and other people’s heads for kids with cancer, she’s good at communicating with others, and I think some of my personality is hers.”
Wright turns to both of these women when she’s had a rough day or is going through challenges in her life.
“Anytime something bad happens, like a passing in our family, they always bear with me and understand what I’m going through. With my mom, we go through the same thing. She knows how it feels, and my dance teacher just knows how to talk to me,” Wright said.
Both Klevorn and her mom give Wright advice that applies to all aspects of her life.
“My mom says if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. And my dance teacher says just live life to the fullest,” Wright said. “I think I use [the advice], but I still have to work on it.”
Art teacher Katy Mangrich is inspired by her first graphic design teacher, Maryville University professor and Dean of Arts and Science, Cherie Fister. She hopes to embody Fister’s attitude in the classroom.
“That connection and relationship I had with her inspired me and moved me down the path I’m on now,” Mangrich said. “When you grow up, and you see somebody, and you want to be like them, that’s how I saw her. I loved her confidence and role as a teacher and her friendliness, compassion and how much she cared for me as an individual and my success.”
After graduating, Mangrich went on to be a digital designer for 10 years before transitioning into teaching. Before making the switch, she met with Fister to talk through the process. During their conversation, Mangrich and Fister spoke about the importance of student engagement.
“That was one of my biggest memories [with her]. The idea that she could give me advice [for] moving into the field that she had been in when I had met her initially,” Mangrich said. “[We talked a lot about] relationships with students, how to reach and engage with students and how that’s the most meaningful part of teaching, rather than what you’re teaching. Kids engage and learn much more when they feel a connection with you versus when you’re just giving them information.”
Mangrich witnessed the importance of this connection on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, during her class with Fister.
“The first class of the day was hers. So when we all showed up to school, she was the teacher in that classroom with us at the very beginning,” Mangrich said. “[It was] her compassion and willingness to comfort us but at the same time relate to us on our level. That’s the strongest memory I have of her.”
Mangrich shows her appreciation for Fister by extolling her to her friends, students and colleagues, even mentioning her former professor during her job interview for her current position.
“In the interview, she was the first person that immediately came into my head. I constantly give her credit regardless of whether she knows [or not]. Just the other day, I had a former student [who is in the design program at Maryville] come to visit me, and I’m always like, ‘if you see Cherie on campus, you have to make sure you tell her that you were my student,’” Mangrich said.
Although they no longer see each other, they are both successful in their fields and praise each other for their accomplishments.
“She went from being a teacher, all the way up, now she’s the dean,” Mangrich said. “It makes me proud because I know she’s proud of me when she sees students that come out of my classes; it’s a trickle-down. She’s proud of me; I’m proud of them. So it’s fun to have that legacy.”
Freshman Jack Brau has hopes to become an army doctor one day. He turns to his mom, a medical professional for Veteran Affairs, for advice on how to get through high school and to plan for his future. Having his mom in the field he aspires to join has been beneficial to Brau.
“I know more about medicine and how things work,” Brau said. “She teaches me how to study and how to work hard.”
Brau gets help from his mom in subjects he struggles with at school and simplifying problems Brau would otherwise overthink.
“I used to be bad at writing, but now I am doing better than a lot of people. I don’t like writing, but it’s something she’s helped me get better at. She’s always helping me keep my head straight over things that I might overthink. She makes it simple,” Brau said.
Brau not only looks up to his mom academically, but he also enjoys spending quality time on outings with her.
“I like when we visit WashU, the zoo and downtown. Usually, every summer, we’ll have something going down there,” Brau said.
Through his mom’s words, Brau has learned to stop placing pressure on himself and to learn from his mistakes to do better next time.
“[My mom taught me that] life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Pace yourself, and don’t burn yourself out,” Brau said.
Math teacher Patrick Mooney professionally and personally looks up to his middle school math teacher, Susan Guengerich. She’s influenced the way he teaches, treats others and is his inspiration for the role he aspires to have in his students’ lives.
“How [Guengerich] presented mathematics influenced my teaching. There was an energy there, and she always really loved to be present in mathematics and help us understand it in ways that we weren’t always expecting to learn. Her teaching style was such that she wanted to reach kids. And yes, she taught middle school, but she always wanted to meet them where they were academically, and I think that that’s translated to my teaching,” Mooney said.
Mooney uses aspects of Guengerich’s teaching in his classroom, from lesson plans to holiday traditions.
“Ms. G had a very distinct teaching style, and I’ve borrowed a number of her teaching techniques and some of her mnemonics and things that she’s done. I think the energy that I try to enter my classroom with is something I picked up from her,” Mooney said. “A tradition that I started here, showing the video “Donald In Mathmagic Land” every holiday season, started with Miss G.”
When Guengerich found out that Mooney was opting to take regular instead of advanced math his seventh-grade year, she encouraged him to move up the following year.
“I was taking math from a different person at that point, and she was teaching the advanced class; she knew that I was misplaced and made sure that I was in a place where I would be challenged and I’d be learning,” Mooney said. “[She showed me how to] be the person you want the kids to see in your classroom and always be yourself. It seems like the simplest things, the Golden Rule, do unto others as you want to be treated like just be a good person, and people would be good.”
Guengerich passed away from congestive heart failure during Mooney’s first year of teaching, 19 years ago. He makes sure to honor her in his teaching through traditions such as “Donald In Mathmagic Land” and reflect on her impact on his life.
“I’m grateful that she was a part of my life and that I got to learn from her. One of the last things she sent me was lesson plans on problem-solving. I got that information from her a month before she died. So she knew I was becoming a teacher, and she wanted me to be successful. The way I honor her and celebrate her traditions is by doing them in my own teaching. Now I need to actually follow through and make sure that I’m doing what she would have wanted me to do,” Mooney said.