SNC Sophomore Blocker Grateful for NDA Experience

Madison Polack, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

NDA is blessed each year to have some sophomore education students from Saint Norbert College for five weeks to come and help in the classrooms. Mr. Owen Ward, who shadowed English teacher Jean Thillman, was one of the nine block students.

He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When he is not at Saint Norbert, he lives in Mequon, Wisconsin.

In the beginning, he wasn’t even planning on applying to Saint Norbert College. However, that all changed when he visited the campus. Once the initial tour was through, he absolutely fell in love with the English and Education programs and couldn’t possibly picture himself anywhere else.

His majors are in English and Secondary Education Certification. The way the Education department structures its programs is that the first major is whatever your content area happens to be, and the second is the certification that you are seeking.

Mr. Ward hopes to teach English because it’s essentially four subjects combined into one: Philosophy, History, Language, and Literature. His high school experience solidified his love of learning through the work of many of his inspirational teachers. He views teaching as his way to pay forward the gifts they have given him. For this reason, he has decided to become a teacher.

Also, he was an ALIVE apprentice his freshman year. The ALIVE Team at St. Norbert is a peer ministry organization that puts on spiritual exploration programs in the residence halls each week. These programs can range from anything between making pizza bagels to writing letters to college administrators. The four positions on the team are Apprentice (Freshmen living in the halls where they work), Coordinator (mentors for the Apprentices), Upper Class Coordinator (team members responsible for putting on programs for Sophomore, Junior, and Senior students), and Team Coordinator (in charge of watching over all of the Freshmen teams). He applied to be on the Team during his Senior year of high school because he saw it as a way to not only deepen his understanding of life, but also to help other students seek to do the same.

Mr. Ward said, “I had an incredible experience while on the team and I highly encourage all of next year’s seniors to apply for an Apprentice position (sorry, current seniors, the application deadline was a few months ago).”

At NDA, Mr. Ward was known for the House Cup. He came up with this idea based on the House Cup competition from the Harry Potter series in an effort to spark students’ critical thinking skills before a lesson starts. He treated each class as a separate “house,” and they competed with each other to earn points by solving logic puzzles, answering riddles, and displaying their wit in class every day. At the end of his five weeks here, the class with the most amount of points won “the Cup.” Many of the brain teasers he found were centuries-old puzzles that have withstood the test of time, but he said that he found others on This website has thousands of miniature lessons and quizzes in mathematics, science, and logic available for everyone to use.

“My experiences at NDA were overwhelmingly positive,” Mr. Ward said. “The teachers have been incredibly enthusiastic in their mentoring all of the Sophomore Block students. The students have amazed me on every step of my journey with their acceptance and eagerness to learn. I couldn’t possibly have had a better environment to begin my teaching career, and I sincerely thank everyone at NDA for their contributions to the Sophomore Block program whatever they happen to be.”

Mr. Ward had the privilege of being paired with Ms. Thillman. She was an invaluable resource in his pre-service teaching experience, demonstrating, he said, how to adapt and react to every situation that presents itself throughout the day and how to make meaningful connections with students.

“The most important thing Mrs. Thillman has taught me is how to be present in the moment while in the classroom,” Mr. Ward said. “No matter what the day’s lesson happens to be or the amount of quizzes and tests we need to grade, there’s never a dull moment with her. I may be exhausted at the end of the day, but Mrs. Thillman has shown me that all the effort I put in is well worth the results. My time with her here at NDA has left me with a debt that I cannot possibly ever repay, and for this I am truly grateful.”

After college, he hopes to get a job teaching in the Milwaukee Public Schools District.