“I pictured myself coming back, but I didn’t know it would be this soon,” Murtha says.
Growing up, Aubrey was always a strong student but wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue. It was during Freshman Service Day at DSHA, though, that she started to find her calling in life.
“I was placed at St. Rose’s and St. Leo’s to spend a day working with students there,” she says. “I was in a kindergarten classroom and realized I like working with students. Up until that point, I didn’t really have any exposure to that.”
She went on to contact an employee at St. Rose’s and offered to volunteer there on a weekly basis. During her four years at DSHA, she worked with middle schoolers at St. Rose’s alongside some of her classmates.
“It was that experience that led me to pursuing other types of teaching,” Murtha says.
When asked if any of her teachers also inspired her to get into the education field, she credited a handful of English teachers before also praising Stacey Strandberg, her AP Biology teacher.
“It was one of those classes that I initially in the first quarter wasn’t passing, and I’m a student who couldn’t accept [that]. I spoke with her at length, spent a lot of extra time in her room and finally started to develop an understanding of how I needed to prepare myself. I ended up getting an A in that class and doing really well on the AP test. I loved that class so much, and it shaped me into a better student.”
After graduating from DSHA, Aubrey attended Marquette University, declaring her major in both English and Secondary Education with a minor in Gender Studies. She also tutored in the university’s Writing Center, continuing to help students in a way she had grown to enjoy throughout high school. During that time, she kept in contact with Principal Dan Quesnell, the prospect of teaching at DSHA never far from her mind.
“At the end of her freshman year at Marquette University, Aubrey sent me an email letting me know her enthusiasm for English secondary education had only grown,” Quesnell says. “Over the next year or so, she sent me additional emails, and this led to her teaching in our Summer Cool program for two summers.”
Aubrey spent her first full year of teaching at Carmen High School before applying for a position in DSHA’s English department.
“When we posted our English openings last Spring, I reached out to Aubrey so that she was aware of the open positions,” Quesnell says. “We are very fortunate to have another proud DSHA alumna as a member of our faculty.”
“The faith piece was a huge draw to want to be back at a faith-based school because I went to Catholic school my whole life,” she says. “I missed that component throughout some of my field placements, and I’m excited to be back in that community and have the opportunity to go to Mass with my students, participate in Campus Ministry events and even look at literature through the scope of Catholicism.”
After teaching at DSHA for a few weeks, Aubrey says the transition has been pretty smooth and is very happy to be back.
“There’s so much [to be excited about]. To be back in the community that I really felt at home in for so long and to be contributing. When I was a student here, I thought my classes were really transformational, and I’m very much an academic. I’m really looking forward to bringing that to my students in a new way and engaging them in that regard.”
An example of how she’s putting a new spin on literature? By conducting a Bachelor-themed character analysis of male bachelors in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! With a focus on Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham, students documented the desirable and undesirable traits of each male character using textual evidence. They then determined which gentleman should receive their final rose based on who they believe is the most eligible bachelor.
Students are already enjoying Aubrey’s enthusiasm for English and are looking forward to her courses this year.
“Ms. Murtha’s positive attitude and amazing personality have helped me so much,” Alex Sandoval, DSHA ’20, says. “I love her class so far because she makes it so easy and enjoyable to learn. I can’t wait to learn a lot more from her this semester.”
“I am excited to learn how to write stronger papers this year with Ms. Murtha,” Sophia Rifelj-Hammernik, DSHA ’22, says. “I’m also excited to advance my speaking skills as a public speaker and future leader.”
Aubrey has also been really impressed by her students, especially by their ability to lead in the classroom.
“This is a unique learning environment,” she says. “The girls do the vast majority of the work and the discussion, which is awesome. I can provide the tools and listen to them own the lesson. It’s pretty cool.”
Welcome back home to DSHA, Aubrey!