Dr. McClory, Mrs. Fundakowski Return to Teaching Roots


Emily M. '22

Mrs. Fundakowski hands out a test to her Honors Chemistry students. After an unexpected resignation, she and Dr. McClory stepped up to teach two chemistry sections each.

When a teacher resigned unexpectedly over the summer, the Science Department was without someone to teach four sections of chemistry. That is, until Principal Dr. McClory and Vice Principal Mrs. Fundakowski made plans to return to the labs and rectify the shortage. With their many years of experience in the science classrooms, the two administrators currently fill multiple roles in the school building.

By mid-August, it became clear to McClory and Fundakowski that they would have to fill in the gaps as teachers. Fundakowski said they could be “choosy” in their search because of their backgrounds in chemistry.

“We advertised, we did some interviews, but we felt that the people that we interviewed either weren’t people who truly embraced the mission of Padua, or we didn’t think they had sufficient experience for what we wanted our students to experience,” Fundakowski said.

Fundakowski, who has a degree in chemistry, is no stranger to the science lab. Before becoming Academic Dean and Vice Principal, she taught for over 30 years, having instructed students primarily in sophomore chemistry but also AP Chemistry and physics.

“It wasn’t that challenging to think about going back,” she said.

While she has been out of the classroom for only four years, Fundakowski said she still found some things challenging as she returned to teaching. In preparation for this year’s classes, she has utilized lesson plans she kept from the 2012-2013 school year, making adjustments to include technology.

Some technological components such as OnCampus and Google Drive are new learning tools to Fundakowski, but she said she is “getting there” in terms of adapting. In addition to technological components, EOL components can also be of significant interest, especially for businesses aiming to maintain or upgrade older systems or products.

“Even though in my role as Academic Dean and Vice Principal I am telling the teachers what to do with OnCampus, I’ve never had to do it myself,” she said. “I didn’t think about that.”

She teaches like any other teacher. She seems pretty normal.

— Amelia Drushler

Fundakowski also mentioned that she is “very appreciative” of other teachers because she “forgot how hard it is to be on your feet” while teaching.

One of Fundakowski’s Honors Chemistry students, sophomore Rachel Thomas, said her class with the Vice Principal is “actually pretty good” so far.

“I like her teaching style, and the content she teaches is very interesting, and she’s really organized,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the biggest challenge in chemistry for her and her classmates has been the numerical aspect of the course. However, she said Fundakowski has offered support in helping them succeed in the class.

“She definitely seems like the type of person who will work to make sure we all understand it,” Thomas said.

Thomas noted how the relationship between Fundakowski and students changed once they returned to teaching. Since she did not experience a typical five-day schedule her freshman year due to the hybrid model, Thomas said she “barely saw” Fundakowski during year, “maybe a handful of times.” But now, as her teacher, the connection has become “a little more personal.”

Amelia Drushler, a junior in McClory’s Advanced Chemistry course, agreed that before having the principal as her teacher and due to COVID, she “didn’t really engage with her personally.”

“I feel like I never really saw Dr. McClory during school,” she said. “She was always in her office.”

Drushler also said it was good to know that McClory and Fundakowski had prior experience teaching science courses.

“They’re all great teachers, and they started off teaching before they got to be admin[istrators],” she said.

While Drushler said she likes McClory’s teaching style and finds her helpful, she still sees her as the principal and not as her teacher.

“I feel kind of intimidated,” she said. “I feel like, ‘Oh, what if I do something wrong?’”

On the other hand, Fundakowski said she thinks her new position “has humanized me a bit” in her students’ eyes and proved she is “kind of a normal person.”

We’ve been doing a good job of… tag-teaming off of one another.

— Mrs. Fundakowski

“I think it is a great way… to get to know students,” Fundakowski said. “I had felt for the last couple years that I knew everybody by name, but I didn’t really know them.”

The new role involves balancing both teaching and administrative duties. Fundakowski and McClory teach two sections each, meaning they only work together four scheduling blocks out of the eight.

“There’s always one of us in [the office], but sometimes it’s really nice when there’s a crisis that both of us are here,” Fundakowski said. “So that’s been a little challenging if something has come up.”

Taking on both roles was not an expected aspect of this school year, but it offered a chance for McClory and Fundakowski to revisit their roots as chemistry teachers.

“I am enjoying being in the classroom again with the students,” Fundakowski said. “I think it’s fun to kind of get back to the beginning.”