Making DePaul Prep Work: Department Chairs

Making+DePaul+Prep+Work%3A+Department+Chairs

Riley Klich, Editor, Features and Profiles

An advertised strength of DePaul Prep is the wide variety of courses offered to students throughout their four years. From Business Law to Sustainable Urban Food Systems & The Culinary Arts, DePaul Prep is likely to offer a course catering to the interests of any student. These classes are sorted into different departments, including English, Math, Science, Social Studies, World Languages, Theology, STEAM & Arts, as well as Kinetic Wellness. In fact, the versatility of the school’s academic offerings is often thanks to the chairs of these departments. 

“Department Chair” is a title that many members of the DePaul Prep community are familiar with, but not many are clear on what exactly it means. Since much of this leadership work is done behind the scenes, the complexity of these roles sometimes lacks acknowledgement. “I have heard of department chairs, but I have no idea what they do,” says junior, Noreen Mayer, who ackowledges the confusion. 

The position of a department chair is an extremely demanding job with many responsibilities. At DePaul Prep, department chairs are tasked with the challenge of balancing the work of both a chair and teacher. “The biggest challenge is time when you have a lot you want to accomplish,” shared Mrs. Galvez, chair of the English Department. 

The demand of the position is recognized by members of administration as well. Assistant principal, Mr.Voss, labels department chairs as “an integral part of the school.”

However, chairs are able to get lots done on a tight schedule. Galvez adds, “All of the department chairs are on the ILT, which is the Instructional Leadership Team. It’s all of the department chairs with the principal, assistant principals, and a few other people. We discuss and make decisions regarding instruction for the whole school.” 

World Languages department chair, Ms.Parker, explains the purpose of ILT meetings. “Talking about things going on in the school, initiatives we want to put forward, upcoming events like finals,” are all points of conversation. 

Not only do department chairs have frequent meetings with each other and administration, but also with teachers in their departments. “I get to talk about curriculum with all of the English teachers, and I find that very interesting,” Galvez shares. 

This constant communication is necessary, because department chairs play an important role in the spread of information. “A unique task is being a voice for the teachers in the World Language Department in terms of administration. The administration comes to us first and then we relay information to the rest of the team,” Parker adds. 

Voss supports this idea, describing that “They’re basically the liaison between administration and their departments.”

The constant line of communication Parker refers to is what allows for productivity in curriculum planning. An understanding of the needs of all departments and students in the school overall is clear when everyone is on the same page. 

Not only do department chairs serve as a spokesperson, but also have quite a few responsibilities many aren’t aware of. Galvez explains that her role includes major components of hiring, placement, observing, and instructional coaching. “I kind of have a bird’s eye view of what a student learns from freshman year all the way through to their senior year.”

Voss adds that, “Administration kind of sets tasks in place and department chairs are the ones going off and doing the work. A lot of trust is put into them as well. They are kind of a guiding force to make sure that each department is held accountable and progressing in a way that we like to see for the school.”

There is no doubt that the department chair position is a difficult position. “As a department chair, there’s high expectations, because you know what’s expected of you as a leader and make sure you uphold yourself as such,” Parker explains. 

Since the role of department chair requires such hard work, there are multiple reasons as to why an individual would choose to take on the responsibility. 

Like many others, Galvez finds the idea of talking about curriculum as a whole interesting. “I like talking about big picture stuff in addition to teaching. I wanted to do a mix of different things.”

Others, like Parker, are interested in expressing leadership. “I’m interested in leadership in terms of not only being a voice for the department but also the students in the world language classes. I wanted to be more involved in the leadership side of the school and making decisions, just having a voice in the decisions that the school makes in general.”

No matter why an individual chooses to apply to become a department chair, Parker makes one thing clear. “All of the department chairs are such passionate educators that have taken on these roles because they care so much about this place, and we truly want the best for the students and school.”

Theology department chair, Mr. Lane, expresses a perspective similar to Parker’s. “We are just the person designated to try to help the department be the best and most authentic version of who the school and students need us to be. And I am honored to get to try and do that.”

The impact that the passion of the chairs has is also seen in the lives of teachers within the departments. Math teacher, Mr.Sisto, explains how math department chair, Ms. Dravillas, supports him in his teaching. “She has meetings with us and informs us really well. She is just an all time great person.”

The effect on teachers is what Lane feels is the most rewarding aspect of his role as a chair. “I think the most rewarding part is to watch the teachers in my department do really great work. When I go into their classrooms and see not just the work and the teaching that they’re doing, but also the relationships that they have and really great content, it makes me feel like the reason I took this job is being fulfilled.”