(COVINGTON, La) Over the summer, the St. Paul’s English Department experienced significant changes, with three veteran English teachers leaving or changing roles, and four new teachers being hired.
The departing teachers include Brad Guillory, who left St. Paul’s to take a job doing media work for Clearwater Custom Pools; Myrle Wiggins, who retired; and Bro. Rich Kovatch, who semi-retired from teaching multiple English III classes to teaching one Classical Literature Honors class.
“While I sincerely appreciate what our departing teachers did consistently for our school and students,” English Department Chair Joe Dickens said. “I’m excited to work with our newest faculty members who are a talented mix of pedagogues.”
The gaps created by these departures have been filled by four new English teachers: Robert Heap, Kelly Hightower, Kathy Morlas and Joshua Pereira.
“Each instructor brings a unique skill set, but they all share the same passion for education,” Dickens said. “The enthusiasm and professionalism that our new instructors have exhibited auger well for the job that they will do with our students.”
The Creative Writing and AP Composition and Language classes left behind by long-time teacher Brad Guillory are being taught by St. Paul’s alumni Robert Heap. Heap, a 2012 graduate of St. Paul’s, moved back to Louisiana to pursue teaching after being involved in an assistant teacher graduate program at Suffolk University in Boston, where he graduated in 2016.
“I really got into teaching while I was there,” Heap said. “And then I wanted to move back home and be in Louisiana again…and I wanted to teach because I figured out that it was fun and it was what I liked to do.”
Heap’s goals include working with St. Paul’s computer science students to put “The Maelstrom,” the annual printed anthology of art and creative writing from St. Paul’s, online.
“(The Maelstrom) been our literary magazine for a dozen years now, and we come up with some really cool, quality content. Great art. Great writing,” Heap said. “Another goal is to grow as a teacher, to roll with the punches.”
Another alumnus hired over the summer is Joshua Pereira, who has taken Bro. Rich’s English III classes. In addition, he is the moderator of the Guerilla Wolves Media Club and teaches Media Production, both positions formerly held by Brad Guillory. Pereira, a 2009 St. Paul’s graduate and brother of St. Paul’s football Offensive Coordinator Burt Pereira, says he has always wanted to teach. With respect to St. Paul’s, Pereira says he always thought “it would be awesome to be part of that community as one of the teachers.”
“Even when I was in school here, I knew in the back of my mind that teaching at St. Paul’s would be a really cool thing,” Pereira said. “When I made the decision that I wanted to be a teacher, I couldn’t think of a better place to teach than St. Paul’s.”
Pereira’s English classes focus heavily on the ACT, and he hopes to improve his students scores on the English portion as the year progresses.
“If I can see an increase in score from the score that a guy gets from the first time he takes the test to the second time he takes the test,” Pereira said, “I would really feel good about that because that’s something that can help that guy out for a long time.”
Additionally, Pereira also has many plans for the Guerilla Wolves Media Club, which, coincidentally, he started with Brad Guillory as a St. Paul’s senior in 2009.
“There’s a ton I wanna do (with Guerilla Wolves),” Pereira said. “I’d like to continue progressing the program as much as I can.”
The multiple English 8 classes left open by the retired Myrle Wiggins over the summer are now being taught by wrestling coach and former English II teacher Matt Pinero, who, in turn, vacated multiple English II and English II Honors classes. Kelly Hightower was hired over the summer to teach those English II classes. Hightower, who has been teaching for 13 years, taught at Mary Queen of Peace for the last nine and a half years. Additionally, she has three sons that attend St. Paul’s: Ross, a junior; Sean, a sophomore; and Andrew, an eighth grader.
Hightower is not new to St. Paul’s, as Brother Alfred taught her physics during her senior year at St. Scholastica Academy. When she attended SSA, the school would bus students to St. Paul’s for a select few classes. Also, she was involved with SPS through extracurriculars.
“I was secretary of Key Club senior year. Because the Key Club was joined between SSA and St. Paul’s,” Hightower said. “And I was in Mrs. Charbonnet’s first play.”
Like Periera and many other SPS English teachers, Hightower hopes to improve the English ACT scores of her students, as well as improve their ability to write.
“I’m focusing on writing so that my students can organize their thoughts into clear and concise responses,” Hightower said. “I am also focusing on grammar so that my sophomores can get optimum scores on the ACT.”
Rounding out the crop of new English teachers is Kathy Morlas, who will be teaching a single English I class. Morlas, who is the wife of senior English Teacher Vic Morlas, taught English at Mandeville High School for 25 years and in Jefferson Parish for three years. She says she has had a “positive impression” of teaching at St. Paul’s so far.
“The teachers and faculty at St. Paul’s are welcoming and helpful,” Morlas said. “I hope to encourage and guide my students this year, not only teaching English skills but also through sharing and grouping to feel a sense of community and respect for one another.”
While the four new English teachers all have different goals and plans for the year, they are unified by their sincere desire to see their students grow and improve.