While most teachers look forward to getting away from school for their summer breaks, OLSH math teacher Brian Molka dons his work gloves and joins the school’s maintenance team as a seasonal employee doing painting, cleaning, and repairs. While Brian was initially unsure of the need for his time this summer with the school having been closed in March due to the coronavirus, the crew actually experienced one of their busiest summers. “When Vincentian Academy and Quigley High School closed at the end of their school years, we found ourselves with an unexpected, but fortunate, increase in work,” Brian explained. “Thanks to the generosity of these schools, OLSH received donations of everything from desks, chairs, and cabinets, to coffee makers, art supplies, and books. On several occasions we rented 26-foot U-Haul trucks to make trips back and forth between the schools.” The donated items filled the entire cafeteria. Then the crew moved the new pieces into place and shifted around or disposed of older items in the building. Additionally, on top of their usual summer projects, the team was also kept busy doing “deep cleaning” in preparation for the start of the new school year and return of the students.
This is Brian’s 24th year in his primary role at OLSH as a teacher in the Mathematics Department. Brian teaches Geometry, Honors Geometry, and Algebra II, primarily to sophomore and junior students. In the classroom of the past, Brian liked to motivate his students by rewarding them with classroom sports and trivia games following completion of their exams. “The kids actually asked for tests,” Brian laughed. “Our students always bring a competitive spirit to their studies and to their school activities”.
Brian noted that this school year has been an “interesting” time to teach. “I am continually using my iPad to teach so that the students at home are not missing a beat,” Brian explained. “They are seeing the same thing as our in-person students”. While the synchronous teaching model has been a challenge for many educators, Brian likes to focus on the positive changes it has brought. “In the past when a student was absent, they would miss an entire lesson and would have to get caught up when they returned,” Brian said. “Now, they can learn from home and not fall behind.”
Brian received his B.S. in Education from Slippery Rock University. In addition to his teaching assignments, Brian also serves on the Ministry Team, as the Assistant Internal Coordinator for Middle States, and Moderator of the Student Government. In his role as Student Government Moderator, Brian assists in the planning and execution of events for the school such as dances, fundraising activities, and more. As Middle States Assistant Internal Co-Coordinator, working alongside world language teacher Amy Turnbull, the pair maintains data and statistics, and ensures that goals are set and attained. Brian noted that Middle States Accreditation is an on-going process and that in 2018, OLSH received reaccreditation for 7 years.
Going forward, Brian hopes to continue with his “tried and true” teaching approach, adapting it as needed with the changing times and technology. “The key to teaching is being able to stay patient and having mutual respect,” Brian remarked. “I may be their teacher, but I am constantly learning from my students”.