Caring for the Individual

Profile of Ignatian Educators
Caring for the Individual

One of the most well-known tenets of Jesuit education is cura personalis, a Latin term synonymous with care for and development of the whole person. All of the teachers at the Prep display this in their interactions with students on a daily basis. While many are wonderful examples of Ignatian educators, here we highlight three special teachers who live cura personalis in their classrooms each day.

Caroline Becker P’27 
Religious Studies

For Caroline Becker, the classroom dynamic should be a space of mutual respect and camaraderie. “I believe that for authentic learning to happen, risk taking is essential,” she says. “My goal is to build a healthy relationship filled with trust so our students will be willing to take those risks when needed.”

Becker came to education in her 40s as a second career and she thinks that may have played a part in her classroom style. “Maybe being a little older has allowed me to have a more intuitive nature about human relations,” she says. “I think that our work is more than merely a vehicle to exchange information. Learning should be a full-body experience that impacts how you see the world and the decisions you make.”

One way that Becker uses to build those relationships is a monthly check-in form that serves several purposes and covers a wide range of matters impacting young men: reflections on class and feedback on units of study; their out of the classroom experiences; situations at home; how they celebrate holidays or breaks; sleep schedules; exercise and eating habits; and optional space for anything they want to add. She also asks her students to provide any prayer intentions they may have. 

“It has been a wonderful way to get the pulse of the classroom,” she says, “but also to learn about them as people. I have learned about ill parents, friends, their joys and heartaches. It has truly been a great opportunity.”

Meditation, journaling, or regular psalm readings are a regular part of her classroom routine. “I believe that we need to model quiet and calm,” she says. “Their brains need downtime to focus and realize that it is okay to be with your thoughts. Then we can move into class in a healthy way.”

In addition, Becker is intentional about being present at Prep events. “So much of our students’ life and passion happens outside of my classroom,” she says. “I want them to know that I care about that too, that I am there at a place that is important to them.”

Next year, she will add a senior elective to her teaching schedule: a new course on Religion in Philadelphia. It is another opportunity to help students see the impact of religion on their lives. “Cura Urbi (care for the city) is really important to me,” says Becker and anyone who visits her class will see this firsthand as it is adorned with Philly maps and objects. “I am excited for the opportunity for this class to engage the students in exploring the mind and heart of our city.” 

Joe Hendrzak 

Mr. H’s funky classroom on the third floor just off of the main stairwell is a perfect place for a student to feel at home. Music is often playing, twinkling lights line the classroom, and Hendrzak is always ready with a friendly smile and greeting. But once seated, intense learning begins and the students are along for the ride.

“If we put students in challenging situations but give them support, that leads to growth,” says Hendrzak. “I want my courses to be really challenging but also give them the tools necessary to succeed. That is what we, as educators, need to develop for our students to be successful.”

Hendrzak has also noticed that many students are still feeling the effects of the pandemic from four years ago.

“We want it to be gone but we haven’t taken the time to heal,” he says. “It’s hard to diagnose but I believe that we are still fractured from what happened in 2020. I think we need to be open to the idea that we are not all whole, that some students arrive with that invisible backpack of how it impacted them.”

As a capstone for his Environmental Science Class, Hendrzak has students design a small service project based on the United Nations Sustainability Goals, which includes clean water, education for all, and zero hunger. 

“In Environmental Science, we talk about global issues but also need to focus locally to make an impact,” says Hendrzak. “This project is an opportunity for students to design a social justice project, outside of the Prep’s Ignatian Service component. Find an organization that calls to you, go out there and do something on your own, go out into the world and make a difference. In helping others heal, we heal ourselves.”

After the service, students create a reflection and infographic on how the projects influenced the community and them. “When you read the reflections, you can see the results,” Hendrzak says. 

Some students helped to plant at a local farm to help residents on “food islands” where access to quality food and vegetables are limited and expensive. Other students have worked with local organizations to clean waterways and parks. 

“There are so many places where we can help,” says Hendrzak, “but it can be hard to get it up and going. This project helps them make connections that perhaps will lead them to further involvement.”

Teresa Hoffman 
Computer Science

If you ask students to give an example of a teacher who exemplifies cura personalis, many would say Mrs. Hoffman. The Chair of the Computer Science Department has an easy rapport with the students and they feel supported in her class.

“On a personal level, it is very important to me that there is mutual respect between me and my students,” she says. “I genuinely like them and respect them.”

Like Becker, Hoffman believes this respect helps students feel comfortable to take on difficult subjects. “In my classroom, we work as a team, a group of people learning together,” she says. “When something difficult comes up, we work through it. They are willing to take the risk and work on it, knowing that we can trust each other.”

While that attitude of care comes through in the classroom, she also makes sure that students see her attend their athletic and co-curricular events. “I think it is important for us to show up as Ignatian educators,” she says. “I go to their games, I go to their shows, I take groups of students to Robotics competitions, to coding competitions.”

That rapport has helped shape the curriculum for the department. When students expressed an interest in getting more involved in Robotics, they approached Hoffman who developed a new course in the subject. That has helped students who might not be able to compete in the school’s Robotics Team on a regular basis get the skills that come from the activity: computer programming, engineering, design, and more. 

“They were comfortable discussing what they wanted with me and I was comfortable listening and seeing how we as a department can support their academic needs,” Hoffman says. 


By caring for our students inside the classroom and out, Becker, Hendrzak, and Hoffman follow in a long tradition of outstanding Prep educators. We look forward to profiling more of our outstanding faculty in the months to come.  
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