Alumnae come back to teach

Former students bring a new perspective in the classroom and on the court

Substitute teacher Abby Miller watches a presentation made by her students.

Substitute teacher Abby Miller watches a presentation made by her students.

Kristina Cary

The coach was standing directly behind the sideline, gesturing upward towards the net and standing on the tips of her black flats as she spoke quick words of encouragement and instruction to her players, much in the way she said her coaches had done for her.

Varsity volleyball coach Laura O’Reilly (’07) along with English teacher Colette Gunn-Graffy (’01) and interim history teacher Abby Miller (’05) have joined the faculty to teach at their alma mater.

When I figured out I wanted to coach there was really no other place for me but Convent,” said O’Reilly. “It’s such a tight-knit community, and you become really close with everyone.”

O’Reilly played volleyball in high school and club volleyball while attending Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

“I’m able to relate with the girls since I know what they’re going through,” said O’Reilly. Before returning to Convent, Gunn-Graffy graduated from Yale University with a degree in English and theater and worked in London for seven years while pursuing a degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

“So much of who I am was formulated as a high school student,” said Gunn-Graffy. ”I am really excited to reciprocate this learning to a new generation of young women and the school.”

“It was like a little family,” said Gunn-Graffy, who was editor-in-chief of The Broadview her senior year. “That was a pivotal experience for me while I was here. You’re not just writing a paper for class — you’re actually a journalist.”

Gunn-Graffy said she was inspired by teachers who valued and understood the importance of their jobs and made teaching innovative.

“Teaching is ultimately a creative act, and I think my teachers showed me that through my time at Convent,” said Gunn-Graffy. “There’s no formula. To stimulate critical thinking, you need to allow your students a certain degree of freedom. It’s how you encourage and run with that that’s the interesting part.”
Miller, who was The Broadview sports editor and a graduate of George Washington University, has a similar perspective about long-term substitute teaching History I and Women’s Studies.

“What I think is amazing about the history program here is that they teach you to be a historian,” said Miller, who has a masters degree in social work specializing in non-profit administration from Columbia University and later taught in NYC public schools. “With our history class, we tell a story using artwork to understand the time period. This was something I learned here, and it prepared me to take more advanced classes and look at things more critically.”

Miller says her high school women’s studies class changed the way she viewed history and led to her eventually majoring in the subject.
“I never really liked history before Women’s Studies since it was from a very dry perspective,” Miller said. “This class helped spark my interest in history.”

“The unique thing about being an alumna is that you’ve sat in these rooms, you know what its like to be on the other side,” Miller said. “I bring that into my teaching — not only to relate to students but to help them with the Convent experience.”

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